Beyond ecological success of corridors: Integrating land use history and demographic change to provide a whole landscape perspective
The performance of corridors has often been measured through ecological attributes, or the progress towards restoration of a notionally intact section of landscape. A corridor’s ability to reconnect fragmented landscapes is of critical importance for biodiversity conservation. However, what remains understudied is how these corridors within protected area systems fit into the park-people rubric. It is important to learn from older corridors to provide baseline comparisons in terms of restoration, land use and conservation policy, and park-people dynamics. We present an analysis of the landscape of Kibale National Park in western Uganda, which has maintained a corridor with Queen Elizabeth National Park to the south since 1926. The purpose and use of this corridor region has varied over time, from hunting, to biodiversity conservation, to extractive use, to farming.
We examined the history of politics and demography both in and around this corridor and used satellite imagery to describe forest cover and conversion in this corridor, prior to and after park establishment. Since 1926, this corridor was designated as a game hunting area, a no-hunting area, an extractive use permitted area, an area banned for resource extraction, gazetted as part of a sub-county and therefore settled by agricultural populations, and subsequently de-gazetted and forcibly evacuated. However, the corridor is experiencing positive restoration of forest cover, increased faunal biodiversity and increased integrity of habitat and may therefore offer useful lessons for conservation biology and ecological restoration. The methods of this corridor establishment are unacceptable, but it is deemed an ecological success. This analysis is useful not only to understand Kibale within a domesticated landscape, but also as a lens and a lesson for the future of corridors and their larger landscapes in the East African Albertine Rift.