National Habitat Linkage and Connectivity Initiative
Wildlife & Ecosystems
Research Idea Scope
Habitat loss and fragmentation are the two leading causes of wildlife loss and extirpation.
Degraded watersheds and fragmented wildlife habitats have a lower capability to sustain wildlife
populations and important ecological functions than intact and interconnected habitats of
sufficient size. At the same time, state transportation agencies must identify areas to mitigate
impacts to wetlands and other habitats, preferably on a multispecies basis, to comply with state
and federal regulations. Maps and protocols are needed to identify and predict areas of likely
transportation and wildlife interaction and locations for conservation areas and crossings. A
national geographic information system (GIS) with associated databases and maps of broad and
intermediate scale linkages and high-priority conservation areas would assist state transportation
agencies in developing programmatic approaches, performing advance mitigation, and
maintaining habitat connectivity. This would aid in streamlining the transportation development
process and advancing stewardship objectives. The need for this information has become even
more critical with the advent of congressionally identified high-priority corridors.
Assess and describe existing habitat and high-priority conservation area mapping efforts,
including landscape level linkages and wildlife habitat connectivity. Include existing linkage
and connectivity mapping efforts such as those in Washington and Florida. Other informational
databases and sources to be reviewed include state and USGS Gap Analysis Programs, Natural
Heritage Program data, county and regional greenway and development plans, state and federal
land management and restoration plans, TNC and NHP conservation priority areas, and nongovernmental organization and university modeling and mapping efforts.
Identify critical habitat variables and existing protocols for modeling linkages based on
best available data, including existing plans and maps, aerial photography, and remotely sensed
Show existing linkages and high-priority conservation areas that should be preserved.
Identify lost and compromised linkages important for restoration.
Create a national, state-by-state map and database for reference by state transportation
agencies in siting mitigation and conservation measures according to watershed, landscape, and
connectivity needs. Ideally this would include land ownership information, development
potential, and identification of land uses that would be compatible with continued/future
functioning as an important linkage or conservation area. This information will provide a basis
for fine-scale design and placement of wildlife crossings on a project basis to maximize their
cost-effectiveness and value to wildlife.
TERI Administrator Note (June 2007): Related Research
FHWA FY07 STEP Project: Advancing Methods, Maps, and Tools Used for Decision Support and Impact Analyses for Transportation, Wildlife, & Ecological Systems
Capitalize upon advancements in wildlife and ecosystem analysis methods, mapping, and tools and expand the use of these advancements in the transportation industry. Three specific and one broad research emphasis area will capitalize upon advancements as (1) 2005 State Wildlife Action Plans and mapping processes; (2) the NAS 2005 study and framework for “Assessing and Managing the Ecological Impacts of Paved Roads” including methods and models; (3) uses of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI); (4) as a broad research emphasis area – efforts will incorporate new needs and advancements identified as research proceeds. Results from each research emphasis area will also dovetail together to support environmental responsibilities within transportation.
Transportation Research Board 2002 Environmental Research Needs Conference Notes