Landscape permeability is a term used by conservationists to refer to how freely animals can move through a landscape. It has replaced the term “landscape corridor” in discussions of development and natural resource management. Since many animals need lots of room to roam, this permeability is a very important environmental issue, especially for carnivores and large mammals. In many developed countries, landscape permeability must be accounted for in proposals for major development, especially in regions near the wilderness.
Initially, many conservationists believed that wildlife could be served through a series of reserves, protected areas set aside specifically for wild animals and plants. However, they began to realize that despite active reserve systems in many countries, biodiversity was beginning to suffer. Further study revealed that many animals were dying off because they lacked freedom of movement, and that many species were suffering from wilderness fragmentation. The isolated reserves were not adequate for the needs of many wild animals, especially carnivores.
As a result, environmentalists began to push for landscape corridors, protected buffer zones which allowed animals to move through different reserves. However, the application of this term seemed less than ideal, since it conjures up the image of a narrow, walled hallway. A literal corridor would not be terribly effective, so ecologists began to prefer the term “landscape permeability” to discuss this need. The term is a more accurate description of the need for a sort of fluid membrane through which animals trickle at will, rather than a restrictive corridor.
For the concept to work, animals need a large buffer zone which they feel safe in. Technically, this zone could potentially be interspersed with light development or harvest of natural resources, if it is managed well. Rewilding programs push for more landscape permeability, encouraging a reestablishment of wilderness in areas which have been developed. A greater understanding of animal needs has also led to more incorporation of landscape permeability into environmental impact reports and development proposals such as those associated with new highways and home construction.
Many ecologists agree that it is very important to balance the needs of animals with people who might want to share their environment. By accounting for animals with a landscape permeability plan, developers can also promote healthier human/animal relations, reducing hostile encounters which may end unfortunately for both parties. In areas of the world where this concept has been promoted, ecologists have noted a rise in biodiversity, leading to a healthier and more natural environment.