Connectivity can be described as the connections of habitats in the landscape, facilitating the movement of species across the landscape and between habitats. Habitat connectivity is an important outcome of conservation. It allows species and communities to progressively adjust their ranges in response to threats such as climate change. Native species and communities may find it difficult to adapt to climate change in highly modified and fragmented agricultural or industrial landscapes and science has comprehensively demonstrated habitat fragmentation results in the decline and loss of species all over the world and is a key reason for Australia’s high extinction rate.
Connectivity doesn’t always mean conservation of a continuous band of forest, woodland or grassland. Sometimes there are natural breaks and a good outcome can be achieved by maintaining ‘stepping stones’ of natural bush, in a disturbed or partly-cleared landscape, that let species move, breed and adapt as ecosystems change.
“Isolated paddock trees function as Stepping Stones”
Connectivity Conservation is a new, socially inclusive approach to addressing conservation on a large-landscape scale, encouraging communities to come together to help create important linkages between key areas of habitat, because no single organisation or government has the resources or knowledge to independently tackle this important issue.
From social, economic, biodiversity and connectivity conservation perspectives the Hunter Valley is one of the most complex areas of the GER. The area contains a diverse range of unique and rich ecosystems.
Due to a natural gap in the Great Eastern Ranges at the head of the Hunter Valley it's one of only three areas on the eastern seaboard of Australia where inland ecosystems stretch down to the coast. The Hunter Valley represents a significant east-west linkage of natural vegetation in the Great Eastern Ranges, with the potential for north-south 'stepping stones' of vegetation to allow species movement.
However, the Hunter Valley floor has been extensively cleared. Only 18% of the original vegetation remains, much of which exists in 4,350 isolated patches of bushland on private lands. The GER Hunter Valley Stepping Stones project is supporting landholders to reconnect these patches into the backbone of the Great Eastern Ranges corridor.
“Eastern bearded dragon”