When large terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are connected, they are more resilient to climate change because ecological processes important for ecosystem stability can function properly and species are able to move and shift their ranges to adapt to new, suitable habitats and climates.
During this time of rapid climate change, conservation efforts are needed to increase biological and ecosystem resilience and provide opportunities for species to adapt to the changing conditions. Key components of Kootenay Connect’s long-term conservation strategy are to protect ‘hotspots’ of biodiversity, connect high quality habitats, and maintain wildlife corridors and connectivity for both current movement and future opportunities in the face of climate disruption.
Since populations of plants, wildlife, fish, and other organisms operate over large spatial scales, taking a landscape approach to conservation within the mountainous topography of the Kootenays means looking both north-south along our valleys and east-west across our valleys and ridgelines to include varying elevational gradients. This broad scale perspective captures the spatial extent of important habitats, biodiversity, and ecological processes important for Grizzly Bears, Mountain Goats, American Badgers, Rocky Mountain Elk, and Wolverine that rely upon connected habitats and safe passage from valley bottom wetlands to the alpine.
Kootenay Connect’s approach to coordinated corridors and connectivity conservation and stewardship includes:
- Considering the entire landscape including valley bottoms and uplands since all types of wildlife need to be able to move;
- Focusing on ecological connectivity as key for ensuring the long-term ecosystem health that will lead to the maintenance or recovery of important species; and
- Incorporating climate change resilience into our project designs by predicting potential “climate adaptation corridors and refugia” that will be important for species to adapt to a changing climate.
Kootenay Connect’s mapping of valley bottom-upland connectivity and climate refugia and corridors is helping to identify new biodiversity conservation opportunities on private and Crown land in the region.