Since a small yard cannot be a big patch, this may sound like disappointing news. However, suburban yards can play a crucial role in helping surrounding patches be bigger.
How does this work? Imagine two patches – say, two stands of forest – that are relatively near each other. Some species, like birds, might be able to easily move back and forth, in order to take advantage of both patches. But this isn’t an option for other species – like small mammals, slow-moving reptiles, or birds reluctant to leave the forest interior. These less-mobile animals have to make do with the resources of just one patch.
Now, imagine there is a strip of woods connecting the two forests. The less-mobile animals can move along this strip, enabling them to use both patches. In effect, the addition of this strip makes the patch twice as big!
This kind of strip is called a wildlife corridor. For forest animals, it might be a narrow belt of forest, as described above. For fish, it could be a river between two lakes.
While some wildlife corridors are naturally occurring, some are deliberately built. A common example of this is tunnels under roads, to help small animals cross without being run over. To help larger animals move, California is considering building a bridge over the 101 Freeway – the so-called wildlife overpass.
Halfway between the natural and the artificial, property owners can landscape their yards in ways that help connect neighboring habitat patches. This could mean offering food and water for migrating birds, or cover for small animals to travel under.
By thinking outside our property lines, we can choose to make our yards vital parts of the habitat networks that surround us.