Review of experience with ecological networks, corridors and buffer zones

The unprecedented increase in the human use of natural resources over the last century has adversely affected ecosystems, leading to their fragmentation and loss of biological diversity. Protected areas that remain as isolated units, surrounded by a radically altered habitat, almost always face serious viability problems over the long term. The importance of strengthening ecological coherence and resilience as necessary condi-tions for both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development has been echoed in conservation and development fora for some time. One of the actions identifi ed by the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development as necessary to achieve the 2010 biodiversity target is to “promote the development of national and regional ecological networks and corridors”. The CBD programme of work on protected areas emphasizes the importance of establishing protected areas in a mosaic of land and water habitats to facilitate maintenance of ecological processes. Goal 1.2 of the programme of work specifi cally calls for in-tegrating protected areas into broader land- and seascapes and sectors to maintain the structural and functional viability of ecosystems. Specifi c activities of the programme of work refer to “linking habitats”, such as buffer zones around protected areas (where human use is allowed to the extent that it does not undermine the integ-rity of protected areas), biological corridors and ecological stepping stones. The concept of the ecological network becomes important here. Ecological networks provide an operational model for conserving biological diversity while reconciling the confl ict-ing demand of natural resource use. Ecological networks connect ecosystems and populations of species that are threatened by fragmented habi-tats, facilitating genetic exchange between differ-ent populations and thus increasing the chances of survival of threatened species. The ecological network concept also provides a tool for ecologi- cal design and physical planning that facilitates interaction with other types of land use.A large number of ecological networks have been developed around the world. However, a thorough and systematic compilation of infor-mation on ecological networks and their contri-bution to conservation and the sustainable use of biological diversity and sustainable develop-ment was, until now, not available. Against this background, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity has undertaken this ini-tiative. This review document contains detailed information on the development and implemen-tation of ecological networks in each of the fi ve UN regions. The examples and case studies pro-vide a wealth of information on ecological net-works. The study also focuses on lessons learned and on the suitability of ecological networks for biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and poverty alleviation, and on their contribution to the 2010 target. I hope this review will provide a better understanding of ecological networks and as-sist protected-area managers and policy-makers in governments, NGOs and communities to develop ecological networks when planning and implementing protected areas and to achieve the twin objectives of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.I thank the authors for undertaking such an exhaustive review and presenting the informa-tion clearly and succinctly. I am also grateful to the Government of Netherlands for providing fi nancial resources.Dr. Ahmed DjoghlafExecutive SecretaryConvention on Biological Diversity
Bennett, Graham and Mulongoy, K.
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
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