Ecological Connectivity Plan
What is it?
Ecological connectivity is the degree to which the landscape provides for the movement of plants, wildlife, and resources such as water. Connectivity is necessary to sustain healthy wildlife populations as animals need the ability to move between resources to find food and shelter, complete migrations, and find mates. Likewise, ecological functions (e.g., the water cycle) require connectivity to function and provide benefits (e.g., clean water).
An Ecological Connectivity Plan identifies a municipality’s goals for connectivity and outlines priorities and actions to be taken. Connectivity Plans also identify the information available, such as natural infrastructure mapping and biodiversity inventories, as well as the information needed to properly implement the plan. An Ecological Connectivity Plan will connect initiatives that are already occurring with connectivity goals.
How can municipalities use it?
Municipalities can develop an Ecological Connectivity Plan to coordinate the approach to conserving or mitigating for connectivity at various policy levels. For example, connectivity planning can be achieved through regional plans, area structure plans, land use bylaws, park management plans, environmental reserve, and through the development of design / best practice guidelines. Ecological Connectivity Plans can coordinate with other plans, such as sustainability plans, and can highlight initiatives already taken by the municipality.
What are the advantages?
The many advantages of an Ecological Connectivity Plan include:
Helps a municipality protect or enhance ecological connectivity, which ensures ecological function and benefits are sustained
Complements other strategies and plans, such as those for biodiversity and sustainability
Can inform where certain connectivity is not desirable, such as keeping wildlife away from roads or from areas that could cause human conflict
Provides an opportunity to educate community members on the importance of connectivity
What should you watch out for?
No tool is a silver bullet. The following should be considered when developing an Ecological Connectivity Plan:
The goals for connectivity must be identified (i.e., conserve connectivity that already exists or restore what has been degraded), including defining what specifically you are trying to maintain connectivity for (e.g., wildlife)
Ecological Connectivity Plans need to coordinate with other relevant plans and policies
Connectivity may already be compromised in some areas, requiring restoration
Ecological connectivity plans should lay out important connections before development is contemplated
Need to be conscious there are places where wildlife connectivity is NOT desirable (e.g., unmitigated road crossings)
How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?
In order for the natural infrastructure to actually function and provide benefits, its assets must be connected. A connected natural infrastructure system ensures natural processes can occur, and plant and wildlife populations can be sustained. Ecological Connectivity Plans promote a municipality’s goals and guides the action related to maintaining connectivity of natural infrastructure assets.
Planning to Connect: A Guide to Incorporating Ecological Connectivity into Municipal Planning – Developed by the Miistakis Institute, Planning to Connect provides a guide intended to support municipal planners and those who are affected by municipal plans. The guide includes a Policy Clause Catalogue, which provides example clauses, as well as a document library of cases.
Connecting the Dots: A Guide to Ecological Connectivity Modeling in Municipal Planning – A guide prepared by the Miistakis Institute that outlines how planners can acquire and use connectivity mapping to inform planning questions, working in partnership with their GIS colleagues and local biologists.
Pulling the Levers: A Guide to Modeling and Mapping Ecological Connectivity – A companion technical guide to “Connecting the Dots” that describes the process for modelling and mapping ecological connectivity.
Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, Surrey, BC – Developed in 2014, this strategy aims to preserve biodiversity in the City of Surrey, recognizing biodiversity as a key foundation of a health, livable and sustainable community. One of the key principles in this document is to enhance habitat connectivity by establishing natural corridors between habitat patches.
Human-Wildlife Coexistence: Recommendations for Improving Human-Wildlife Coexistence in the Bow Valley – This report was developed by a technical working group of local experts and stakeholders to encourage coexistence between wildlife and humans, and to maintain habitat and healthy populations of wildlife across the landscape. Habitat connectivity via wildlife corridors is an important component of human-wildlife coexistence and is discussed in this document.
Ottawa Greenspace Master Plan: Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces - The purpose of this document is to express Council’s vision for greenspace in the urban area and set policies for how this vision can be pursued. The goal is for there to be an adequate supply of high quality greenspace, linked to allow for movement through green corridors.
Our BiodiverseCity: Calgary’s 10-year biodiversity strategic plan – This plan is based on the principle of protection, development and management of Calgary Parks and ecosystems in support of biodiversity. The plan includes monitoring of ecological integrity in the City, including a focus on linkages between habitats.
Riparian Strategy: Sustaining Healthy Rivers and Communities – The City of Calgary developed this document to guide the protection, restoration and management of riparian areas in the City. One of the Plan’s goals is ensuring riparian areas are connected, which is critical to protecting riparian health.
Town of Canmore’s Open Space and Trails Plan – The guiding principles of Canmore’s open space plan aim to integrate human use and respect for (and maintenance of) wildlife habitat and corridors. Wildlife habitat connectivity (via corridors) is one of the guiding principles.
Green Bylaws Toolkit: for conserving sensitive ecosystems and green infrastructure – This document is an important resource for understanding how municipalities can safeguard the environment, from a regional to a site level. It clearly explains each tool, and provides case studies and examples of bylaws that are in use in British Columbia. This document explains the importance of mapping green spaces and their ecological connectivity.
Green Infrastructure in Calgary’s Mobility Corridors – This project report proposes design principles and a related palette of green infrastructure strategies to help Calgary maximize environmental benefits in mobility corridors. The document explains how Calgary’s green infrastructure can enhance urban biodiversity and habitat connectivity in/via its Mobility Corridors.
Biodiversity-Led Green Infrastructure in a Changing Climate – This document combines workshop input, literature review, and case studies of green infrastructure approaches as nature-based solutions to climate change. The case studies are at various scales and designed to communicate the benefits to biodiversity that can be achieved by taking an ecosystem approach to green infrastructure implementation. Connectivity for species is described and case studies in Alberta are included.
Did we miss something?
If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!