For this report, we want to share with you two studies being conducted by ASANA related to the “connectivity” of the Path of the Tapir Biological Corridor and the Savegre watershed. As we have described in earlier reports, the most important function of any biological corridor is the connectivity it provides. Biological connectivity represents the extent to which animals and plants can move across a landscape – form place to place – without being disrupted because of physical barriers such as roads and hydroelectric dams. Connectivity, thus, greatly affects a species’s ability to disperse, multiply, and adapt – especially to climate change. Fragmentation occurs when the landscape – in our case the forest – gets cut up into smaller and smaller pieces. This erodes connectivity to the point that, eventually, we are left with tiny island patches of habit that can no longer maintain biodiversity. In addition, plants and animals cannot move among these remnant patches because the distances between them become too great.
By far, the greatest threat to the Path of the Tapir is fragmentation. Local threats – such as hunting – have been reduced to the point that they are manageable. But the construction of roads, electrical transmission line, dams, and housing continue to cut up the forest at a fast rate. To better understand fragmentation in the Corridor ASANA commissioned two studies. The first study is analyzing the effects of the Coastal Highway on the movement of animals from the mountains down to the coast. Since the road’s completion a few years ago, we have noticed a dramatic increase in “road kill” – animals killed by passing cars and trucks. We’ve seen things as small as frogs, crabs, and lizards, and animals as large as collared peccaries (forest pigs), howler monkeys, and ocelots (one of our biggest tropical cats in the region). Sadly, just last month, a full-growth tapir was killed by a truck in the Cerro La Muerte at the top of the Savegre Watershed. With the current study, we are hoping to better understand where animals cross in order to figure out ways – perhaps through rope bridges or tunnels – to decrease their mortality.
Our second study was done in collaboration with CAVU (www.cavusite.org), a non-profit that specializes in overflights and aerial photography. CAVU graciously donated its plane and staff time to photograph key fragmentation points in the Path of the Tapir and Savegre, including the narrowest part of the Corridor where much housing construction is occurring and hydroelectric dams in the Savegre Watershed. We are greatly indebted to CAVU for its support.
We are hoping this report on connectivity and fragmentation – and two studies we are undertaking to understand them – gives you a better understanding of our work in the Path of the Tapir Biological Corridor and Savegre Watershed. Thanks for your continued support!