Habitat Connectivity Planning for Fish and Wildlife

Why Connectivity Is Important

A functional network of connected habitats is essential to the continued existence of California's diverse species and natural communities in the face of both human land use and climate change. Habitat is key to the conservation of fish and wildlife. Terrestrial species must navigate a habitat landscape that meets their needs for breeding, feeding and shelter. Natural and semi-natural components of the landscape must be large enough and connected enough to meet the needs of all species that use them. As habitat conditions change in the face of climate change, some species ranges are already shifting and wildlife must be provided greater opportunities for movement, migration, and changes in distribution. In addition, aquatic connectivity is critical for anadromous fish like salmon that encounter many potential barriers as they return upstream to their places of origin.

How We Ensure Connectivity

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife works closely with federal, tribal, state, and local agencies on three primary strategies to ensure habitat connectivity for wildlife.

Strategy Example
Protect connectivity while habitat is still intact, through permanent conservation and adaptive management. More than 60 federal, tribal, state and local agencies contributed to the California Essential Habitat Connectivity Project, a statewide assessment of large, intact blocks of natural habitat and a “least-cost” modeling of connections between them. Agencies use this statewide map and model to collectively build coarse-scale networks of conserved lands.
Avoid further fragmentation of habitat. Cluster urban development and site roads and other infrastructure projects where they are least likely to disrupt habitat connectivity. The Western Riverside County Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan is a Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP). Conservation planning was integrated with regional transportation and land use planning to both preserve connected habitat and allow for appropriate development.
Minimize or mediate the effects of existing barriers. Create wildlife crossings or fish passage structures. Transportation planning agencies are incorporating link opens in new windowstandard wildlife crossing designs into the planning process.

The link opens in new windowCalifornia Fish Passage Forum is a multi-agency effort with the goal of restoring connectivity of freshwater habitats throughout the historic range of anadromous fish.