Talk Plan for Ecological Corridors: Reconnect the Baekdudaegan in South Korea

The Korean transportation network is the 11th densest network in the world, composed of over 265,000 km of roads and 3,000 km of railways. Within this highly developed transportation network, the Baekdudaegan mountain range, running through most of the Korean Peninsula, provides habitats for wildlife as well as significant ecological corridors. Despite its ecological importance, this vast mountain range is disconnected at the Chupungryeong Pass by a railway and three roads, including a highway. These railway and roads divide the landscape and pose an immense threat to wildlife movement in the heart of the Baekdudaegan mountain range. To alleviate the threat, we conducted landscape connectivity assessment as a part of a larger plan to restore ecological corridors in the Baekdudaegan mountain range. Emphasizing focal species, such as the yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula), the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), the Korean hare (Lepus coreanus) and the Siberian flying squirrel (Pteromys volans), we investigated the habitat fragmentation through camera traps and assessing road kills. Our research revealed the significant disconnection between the fragmented habitats. No focal species were found in the two middle sections located between the roads and railway. In 2015, the Korean Congress granted a plan to build wildlife crossings at the Chupungryeong Pass. According to this plan, three 50 m wide consecutive wildlife overpasses will be constructed over each road and railway to connect the fragmented areas. Multiple governmental and non-governmental organizations are committed to this grand plan to purchase land adjacent to the crossings, construct the crossings, evaluate the effectiveness of the structures. We plan to monitor the population dynamics and gene flow of species from three taxonomic groups, such as a ground beetle, forest bird, and mammal, which are vulnerable to fragmentation, pre and post of the construction. This is the first initiative in South Korea to build an ecological corridor with multisector collaborations and partnerships as well as systematic monitoring and evaluation. We expect that the plan will be the first step to help re-establish wildlife connectivity at the Baekdudaegan mountain range and provide a comprehensive example of the systematic establishment of ecological corridors.

wildlife crossing structure, camera trapping, target species