Why You Should Think About Wildlife Corridors in a Garden

These areas of habitat allow animals to move easily into and through natural spaces.

looking at deer in backyard

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When we think about wildlife corridors, we are most used to thinking about them at landscape scale—covering large migration routes or passing through the entirety of cities or built-up areas. But it can also be useful to think about wildlife corridors on a much smaller scale, in our own individual gardens.

What Are Wildlife Corridors?

Wildlife corridors are areas of habitat that allow wildlife to move from point A to point B, allowing them to navigate past and through human-made barriers to natural ecological systems. These are crucial conduits that link key habitats together and allow animals to travel safely between them.

Why Are They Important?

Due to human development and encroachment, natural habitats are increasingly fragmented, which means that animals cannot move naturally anymore. This leads to a range of issues with species diversity, genetic diversity, and population numbers.

Creating or restoring small, scattered areas of habitat is not enough to halt massive biodiversity losses. We need to think holistically and ensure that we take steps to join up crucial habitat areas, on both a larger and a smaller scale. 

We need to make sure that our sprawling human development and ever-growing cities and infrastructure networks do not continue to have such a detrimental effect on the other creatures with whom we share our space.

Narrow corridors alone are not enough. We need protection for existing habitats and restoration of those that are lost on a much broader scale. But in the short term, we also need to do all we can to make it easier not just for wildlife residing in our communities, but also for wildlife passing through. 

What Gardeners Can Do

While a lot of the connectivity, protection, and restoration work obviously has to happen at a larger scale, there is a surprising amount that we can do in our own individual gardens to create and maintain corridors that allow for freer and safer movement of the wildlife around us.

Perhaps this goes without saying, but we should do all we can to encourage a broad biodiversity of life in our gardens—taking steps to create different habitats to welcome and provide for wildlife in any way we can, and gardening organically at all times.

Beyond this, we should take steps to ensure that our gardens function within broader environments, and don't block wildlife in its journeys.

Gardening Within a Wider Context

When thinking about wildlife corridors in a garden, the most important thing to remember is that this is all about looking beyond the boundaries of your own property and thinking about how it ties in with the surroundings—whether that is neighboring gardens or wider ecological systems in the area. 

Ask yourself where the wildlife in your area usually comes from and where it goes after passing through your space. For example, does your garden back onto woodland, farmland, or meadow? Are there roadside verges or hedgerows that arrive at your property? Or are you surrounded by other gardens and homes?

In permaculture design, we often talk about sectors—flows from outside a space that act upon the system. The most important of these are sunlight, wind, and water. But we should also think about other sectors that include noise and air pollution and patterns of human and wildlife movement.

By thinking about wildlife movement from the very first stages of design, we can make sure that our gardens operate well not only on their own but within wider systems.

Find Out What Wildlife Is Present

In order to create the perfect layout and determine optimal strategies and plants for a wildlife-friendly garden, we also need to think about which wildlife is present and passing through, and what is around when we're in our gardens.

Learning more about the specific species that live in and visit your garden can be important as you seek ways to make sure they can travel into, through, and out of your garden without encountering barriers along the way.

red fox on backyard deck

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Create Permeable Boundaries

For a gardener, one of the most important things we can do is make sure that we do not bar the way into, around, and out of our gardens for key species. This means giving some careful thought to how we mark and define the boundaries of our properties.

Unfortunately, many gardens are separated by or dissected/partitioned by walls or fences. These can be impenetrable for certain wildlife, blocking them as they try to travel from the natural environment into areas of habitation, from one garden to the next, or between different areas within a garden.

Where walls or fences exist already, we can make holes near the base for key species (like hedgehogs, for example) to pass through. Better still, we can use other boundaries, such as hedgerows or other planting, which are wonderful for wildlife and serve as conduits for them to enter and move around the space.

Link Habitat Zones

For those living in urban areas in particular, it's important not only to work for wildlife in your own garden, but also to cooperate with your neighbors. Creating wildlife habitats that span a couple of properties can often be far more beneficial for wildlife passing through than creating a small patch of habitat on your own property.

For example, you might have a native woodland and be able to work with a neighbor across a hedgerow to extend that habitat over a somewhat larger area. Or you could create a wildflower area that links to a neighbor's wildflower garden on the other side of the property line.

Taking a few simple steps can make a big difference not only to biodiversity in your own garden, but for wildlife trying to move through your area.