Ecological Connectivity: An Essential Component of Ecosystem Restoration

Bonn, 13 May 2022 - With a confluence of unprecedented crises facing the world today, such as relentless environmental changes causing accelerating biodiversity loss, increasing global warming, and advancing land degradation, restoration is key to counter these trends and return nature to a healthy state.

The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) sets the goal to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems and enshrines restoration as a fundamental pathway for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Restoration is also an important element of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework currently under negotiation.

In this context, the recently published second edition of the Global Land Outlook (GLO2), the flagship publication of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), focuses on Land Restoration for Recovery and Resilience and sets pathways by which the land restoration agenda can be successfully designed and implemented at country and community levels. 

The GLO2, launched in the margin of the UNCCD Fifteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) being held in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), draws attention to the key role of ecological connectivity in effectively ensuring long-term positive impacts of interventions for restoring degraded lands and ecosystems. This is underpinned by a Working Paper titled “Ecological connectivity: An essential component of ecosystem restoration”, which was produced by UNCCD in cooperation with the Center for Large Landscape Conservation and CMS. The paper provides the scientific evidence and measures for implementing the GLO2 pathways for land restoration.

The Working Paper, to be published shortly, articulates the interrelation between connectivity and restoration through two key messages:

1. Connect to Restore:

The inclusion of ecological connectivity requirements in Integrated Land-use Planning maximizes the benefits of restoration for the entire landscape.

Increasing land-use changes drive important transformations on landscape shape and function including leading to isolated patches that have lost the functionality to support wider interconnected ecological processes. Connectivity is a vital ingredient in restoring such functionality. Restoring individual degraded areas and ecosystems without accounting for aspects of ecological connectivity risks failing to support their effectiveness in the long-term, affecting the services they provide and the people that depend on them.

2. Restore to Connect: 

Restoring Ecological Connectivity means restoring “the unimpeded movement of species and the flow of natural processes that sustain life on Earth”. 

Ecological networks are some of the tools that help strengthen the connectivity of ecosystems and landscapes and guide priorities for its restoration. Mapping and removing barriers to movement and flow are important restoration opportunities that can have broad-scale impacts and add value to other conservation and sustainable management efforts.

The Working Paper also presents a number of case studies showcasing different types of interventions.

An example illustrating the “Restore to Connect” message is linked to the Great Green Wall of Africa initiative. Through the creation of a mosaic of green restored areas and productive landscapes in sub-Sahara, ecological connectivity will increase at local and regional scales, thereby improving the performance and ecological functioning of restored areas. At a continental scale, the Great Green Wall is envisioned to be an expanse of revitalized lands that overcomes the lack of ecological connectivity between West and East Africa by fostering natural processes and ecosystem functioning at the landscape and soil levels. At the intercontinental scale, the Great Green Wall has the potential to ensure that processes that occur on a broader scale, such as bird migrations along the African-Eurasian flyway, will not be disrupted. Regreening initiatives carried out in sub-Saharan areas can offer habitats that staging birds on northbound migration can use to rest and feed. Thus, these interventions can contribute to maintaining the functional connectivity necessary for birds to complete their migratory cycles.

A case study supporting the "Connect to Restore" message relates to the establishment of the Costa Rican National Program of Biological Corridors in 2006, which has institutionalized the implementation of ecological connectivity as a strategy for the conservation and restoration of biodiversity. The process for creating and implementing ecological corridors includes design, planning, management, and monitoring phases. Corridors can be identified using spatial modelling of structural and functional connectivity that considers how permeable the landscape is to species movements and ecological processes, taking into considerations land use and progressive fragmentation and degradation. Based on this, the Areas can then be prioritized for restoration, reforestation and sustainable management.

Findings of the Working Paper will be discussed at an event being organized on the margins of UNCCD COP15 next week by the Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, WWF-International, the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, and the Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group under the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas.

The side event will explore the importance of ecological connectivity as a tool for restoration planning, practice, and implementation, including the opportunity to harness this nature-based solution to contribute toward achieving Land Degradation Neutrality.


Event “Connect for life: Ecological connectivity at the heart of healthy lands”:

Monday, 16 May 2022, @18:00hrs, Room MET-11:101/118, UNCCD COP15, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

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Last updated on 16 May 2022