Identifying barriers and prioritizing restoration strategies to improve wildlife connectivity in New Jersey

Neha Savant, The Nature Conservancy
Topic Area
Planning for Transportation Ecology

Restoring habitat connectivity of populations in fragmented areas is essential for the long-term viability of both wide-ranging and sensitive species. Identifying barriers to connectivity in corridors of habitat can help prioritize opportunities for restoration and inform long-term planning and infrastructure development. Through a collaborative project "Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey", The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is partnering with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to assess wildlife connectivity in Bobcat Alley, a 77, 042-acre priority conservation area in northwest New Jersey. In this study, I used resistance maps and linkage metrics created by NJDEP to map barriers across both small scales (0.5 to 5 acres) and large scales (10 to 165 acres) in Bobcat Alley. The identification process included a scenario analysis that tested how connectivity metrics would change if the barrier were removed. There were 244 small scale and 167 large scale barriers identified, mostly associated with roads and road crossings. Connectivity impacts for wildlife movement were corroborated with a hotspot analysis of collision data collected by NJ Department of Transportation and roadkill data collected by TNC. Results demonstrate that the high connectivity in Bobcat Alley may have created conditions whereby there were no large animal collision hotspots within the region. These findings and the resulting maps are valuable tools for local conservation organizations and transportation planners, allowing them to understand where protection, restoration and road-barrier mitigation can have the highest potential impact for habitat connectivity.

Abstract Keywords
barriers connectivity wildlife-collisions