How to identify potential wildlife corridors using big data
Wildlife habitat corridors are critically important to the continued existence of many species. But determining the most viable areas for creating a wildlife corridor is a complex task, which requires data from various sources. To facilitate this process for conservation professionals, IUCN NL devised a free to use software toolkit, offering step-by-step instructions.
Restoring and protecting existing habitat and providing linkages between fragmented areas are becoming critically important to the continued existence of many species. Wildlife habitat corridors allow populations to interact, interbreed, and -as climate changes- shift their geographic range. But how to identify the most viable areas to create such corridors?
Geographic Information System (GIS) software can be used to visualize different data sets on a map in order to identify the best areas for implementing a wildlife corridor. However, GIS software can be daunting to start with; there is a jungle of software to choose from and applications may seem to require expert knowledge and a big budget.
Species Corridor Opportunities Assessment Methodology
To help conservation professionals with basic or limited knowledge of GIS skills, IUCN NL developed the Species Corridor Opportunities Assessment Methodology (SCOAM): a free to use GIS-based toolbox for making quick scans of habitat connectivity in landscapes. The SCOAM toolkit contains a manual that offers clear step-by-step instructions to install the necessary software (QGIS) and plug-ins, and features a video that shows how to implement these steps.
Identifying habitat connectivity opportunities
SCOAM can be used to make a quick scan of habitat connectivity opportunities in any given landscape for multiple or specific species. Its functionality allows users to simulate the most logic migration route for species and mask out any unsuitable habitat between two larger habitat blocks. To achieve this, SCOAM combines different (freely available) data layers of land cover, roads, waterways, protected areas and urban areas.
According to the species’ habitat preferences, these ‘input layers’ can be assigned a higher or lower importance. The combined and weighted data sets will ultimately be used to calculate the best available linear habitat corridor, visualized on a map. The calculations for this corridor may then be uploaded in other GIS software like Google Earth, to make any further spatial analysis, if so required.
Do it yourself
Do you want to make a quick scan of habitat connectivity opportunities in the landscape of your interest? Then download the SCOAM toolkit below and follow the indicated steps.