Ecological connectivity

Black bear crossing safely under roadway through enlarged culvert underpass. Credit: WSDOT

Black bear crossing safely under roadway through enlarged culvert underpass. Credit: WSDOT

Maintaining a connected network of ecological systems, both aquatic and terrestrial, is often identified as one of the most important strategies we can often offer species to adapt to a changing climate.

Terrestrial habitat connectivity is a term used to refer to the ability of animals to move within a habitat or from one habitat to another. Different species move at different temporal and spatial scales for a wide variety of reasons. These movements can occur daily for food, seasonally as some species migrate with changing conditions, or over generations as new territory is explored. With predicted shifts in habitat due to climate change, wildlife will need the ability to move from habitat that becomes unsuitable for them to more favorable conditions.

Aquatic connectivity refers to the network created by streams, rivers and lakes as they flow into one another.  The quality of these connections is important for a variety of Cascadia’s fish species including salmon and bull trout, while also directly related to the landscapes ability to hold and release water.

Our forum is currently working with our network to synthesize existing spatial information on both terrestrial and aquatic connectivity throughout Cascadia, policies that guide implementation, and highlight projects and collaborations addressing connectivity on the ground.  As we do this, we’ll highlight findings on this website to share information we discover.

Highlights in terrestrial connectivity

  • The Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group is an open collaborative developing scientific analyses and tools to identify and prioritize important terrestrial linkages in Washington and neighboring habitats.  Completed analyses are available at the statewide and Columbia Plateau ecoregional scale for current conditions and in consideration of impacts from a changing climate.  Current work is underway in the transboundary region with British Columbia.
  • A review of key connectivity patterns (linkages and fracture zones) within the transboundary Cascadia landscape summarized from scientific analyses conducted to date, and priority landscape scale linkages that keep Cascadia connected to a larger regional network of habitats.  Report was produced at the request of our partner forum by SAH Ecologia LLC in November 2015.
  • Project highlight:  The Washington Department of Transportation’s I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project is improving 15-miles of roadway including measures to improve ecological connectivity.

Highlights in aquatic connectivity

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