On 7 July 2020, IUCN published the Guidelines for conserving connectivity through ecological networks and corridors, a guideline document for protecting the ecological connectivity of nature. The guidelines have been made available for the public to download for free. They introduce common definitions, the use of case studies demonstrates how these guidelines can be applied in the real world, and recommend designation of ecological corridors that knit together protected and conserved areas to form ecological networks for conservation.
These Guidelines are a principal output of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group (CCSG). They are the first of its kind in the world and they are a result of more than 100 experts in 30 countries that have contributed to this innovative guidance for communities, managers, policy-makers, and practitioners around the world. They are based on the best available science and practice for maintaining, enhancing, and restoring ecological connectivity among and between protected areas, other effective areas based conservation measures (OECMs), and other intact ecosystems. These guidelines take inspiration from the great diversity of local, national, and transboundary connectivity conservation efforts already underway. The main objective of these guidelines is to provide insight into the leading tools for conserving the physical links between protected and conserved areas, and areas outside their boundaries as part of large, interconnected ecological networks.
The ideas shared are founded on the information that “promoting ecological connectivity is an important option to enable dynamic adaptation processes in ecosystems, and thus to combat the decline in biodiversity and preserve ecosystem services, especially in view of changing climatic conditions. Moreover, healthy ecosystems provide numerous goods and services that are vital to human society” (Climate Adapt, 2019).
McHugh and Thompson (2011) define ‘ecological network’ as a network composed of ecological components such as core areas, ecological corridors, and buffer zones. Such networks can provide a solution to the problems of intensified land use and fragmentation, enabling natural populations of species and threatened habitats to survive. The Guidelines seek to be a databank for connectivity conservation solutions.
Key messages of the Guidelines
- Science overwhelmingly shows that interconnected protected areas and other areas for biological diversity conservation are much more effective than disconnected areas in human-dominated systems, especially in the face of climate change;
- Although it is well understood that ecological connectivity is critical to the conservation of biodiversity, approaches to identify, retain, and enhance ecological connectivity have been scattered and inconsistent. At the same time, countries on every continent, along with regional and local governments, have advanced various forms of legislation and policy to enhance connectivity; and
- It is imperative that the world moves toward a coherent global approach for ecological connectivity conservation, and begins to measure and monitor the effectiveness of efforts to protect connectivity and thereby achieve functional ecological networks.
- These Guidelines define ecological corridors as ways to identify, maintain, enhance, and restore connectivity, summarize a large body of related science; and recommend means to formalize ecological corridors and networks.
Climate Adapt. 2019. Improve the functional connectivity of ecological networks. Date Accessed: 07 September 2020. Available online: https://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/metadata/adaptation-options/improve-the-functional-connectivity-of-ecological-networks
McHugh, S. Thompson. A rapid ecological network assessment tool and its use in locating habitat extension areas in a changing landscape. J. Nat. Conserv., 19 (2011), pp. 236-244 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1617138111000136