Fragmentation and destruction of natural habitats is a primary threat for many species. Isolated species populations can result in inbreeding, reducing the fitness and hence survival of a species. Ensuring that landscape connections remain and are protected, can ensure the exchange of genetic material, and also ensure adequate feeding areas, breeding grounds and allow for migration. Therefore the idea of establishing and protecting ecological corridors, buffer zones and other connections between protected areas is crucial in allowing animals, plants and ecological processes to move from one habitat to another. In practice a comprehensive understanding of species is needed to ensure the use of connecting areas. Support from local land owners and governments is also a vital factor to fully realise the benefits of well-connected ecosystems.
The Convention on Biological Diveristy’s (CBD) Programme of Work on Protected Areas adopted in 2004 calls for the integration of protected areas into the wider landscape and the use of ecological networks where suitable:
Goal 1.2: To integrate protected areas into broader land- and seascapes and sectors so as to maintain ecological structure and function
Target: By 2015, all protected areas and protected area systems are integrated into the wider land- and seascape, and relevant sectors, by applying the ecosystem approach and taking into account ecological connectivity / and the concept, where appropriate, of ecological networks. - UNEP/CBD/COP/7/21 Decision VII/28, Annex
Currently in development this project will strengthen and promote protected areas through connecting them. An ecological gap analysis will firstly be performed to identify the areas most in need of connectivity for protecting species and ecosystems. The pilot phase will develop connectivity projects in at least two regions to show the value of such measures and to promote the idea among the conservation community. Connectivity will be in the form of corridors, new protected areas, indigenous and community conserved areas, buffer zones and other areas.
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