Artificial habitat structures for animal conservation: design and implementation, risks and opportunities

Darcy J. Watchorn, Mitchell A. Cowan, Don A. Driscoll, Dale G. Nimmo, Kita R. Ashman, Mark J. Garkaklis, Barbara A. Wilson, Tim S. Doherty

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Abstract

Habitat loss and degradation, and their interaction with other threats, are driving declines in animal populations worldwide. One potential approach for mitigating these threats is to create artificial habitat structures as substitutes for lost or degraded natural structures. Here, we provide – to the best of our knowledge – the first general definition of artificial habitat structures and synthesize important considerations for their effective use. We show that such structures represent a versatile conservation tool that has been trialed in a variety of contexts globally, albeit with varying degrees of success. The design of these structures must be well informed by the drivers of natural habitat selection, and their use should be part of an experimental framework to enable evaluation and refinement. We highlight possible ecological risks associated with the use of artificial habitat structures and urge that they not be exploited as inappropriate biodiversity offsets or for greenwashing. Looking forward, cross-disciplinary collaborations will facilitate the development of sophisticated and effective structures to assist animal conservation in this era of rapid global change.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022

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