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Ty Tuff

McGill University
How to avoid traffic jams in urban biodiversity corridors

Ty Tuff and Andrew Gonzalez

It is time to be more holistic about the way we design urban conservation infrastructure. The “stepping stone” strategy of the past, where cities focused on creating or preserving islands of biodiversity within an urban sea, is quickly being replaced by a network design strategy, where cities focus on linking patches of biodiversity into large networks of interconnected communities using habitat corridors. However, the science of corridors is still young and we don’t yet have evidence-based standards for how networks of corridors should be arranged at the scale of a large metropolitan area. We argue that ideal network configurations will maintain the movement and dispersal of individuals both locally and across the entire network, and by maintaining this flow, they can make urban biodiversity more resilient, stable, and productive over time. We suggest that habitat patches be connected using river-like dendritic fractal networks rather than nearest-neighbor webs. Dendritic networks maintain high spatial flow through the entire network and preserve structural complexity at all scales, which are two of the primary ecological mechanisms maintaining resilience, stability, and productivity in urban ecological systems. In this talk, we present our rationale for favoring fractal configurations over nearest-neighbor configurations, demonstrate the flow characteristics of different designs, and compare alternative configurations for connecting habitat patches throughout Montreal. We hope to demonstrate that adopting these best practices for corridor configuration will improve ecological health within the city and give people in the city more equitable access to biodiversity.