In biodiversity conservation, habitat corridors are assumed to increase landscape-level connectivity and to enhance the viability of otherwise isolated populations. While the role of corridors is supported by empirical evidence, studies have typically been conducted at small spatial scales. Here, we assess the quality and the functionality of a large 95-km long forest corridor connecting two large national parks (416 and 311 km2) in the southeastern escarpment of Madagascar.We analyze the occurrence of 300 species in 5 taxonomic groups in the parks and in the corridor, and combine high-resolution forest cover data with a simulation model to examine various scenarios of corridor destruction. At present, the corridor contains essentially the same communities as the national parks, reflecting its breadth which on average matches that of the parks. In the simulation model, we consider three types of dispersers: passive dispersers, which settle randomly around the source population; active dispersers, which settle only in favorable habitat; and gap-avoiding active dispersers, which avoid dispersing across non-habitat. Our results suggest that long-distance passive dispersers are most sensitive to ongoing degradation of the corridor, because increasing numbers of propagules are lost outside the forest habitat. For a wide range of dispersal parameters, the national parks are large enough to sustain stable populations until the corridor becomes severely broken, which will happen around 2065 if the current rate of forest loss continues. A significant decrease in gene flow along the corridor is expected after 2040, and this will exacerbate the adverse consequences of isolation. Our results demonstrate that simulation studies assessing the role of habitat corridors should pay close attention to the mode of dispersal and the effects of regional stochasticity.
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© 2015 Ramiadantsoa et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.