Summary Global Guidelines Technical and interactive resources


Guidelines for conserving connectivity through ecological networks and corridors are based on the best available science and practice for maintaining, enhancing and restoring ecological connectivity among and between PCAs, and provide a rich resource for policy makers and practitioners. More resources are being developed to help implementers identify opportunities for advancing connectivity conservation at national and subnational levels through NBSAPs and GEF financing.

There are a wide range of area-based approaches for connectivity in use that can contribute to Target 3 and can be drawn on for inspiration and legal precedents. Bhutan, Costa Rica, Croatia, India, Kenya, Malaysia, and the Netherlands all have corridor legislation and are undertaking national connectivity measures. Marine spatial planning and marine zoning can help connectivity planning for MPAs It is likely that there are already initiatives taking place within most countries including involvement in transboundary efforts, for example, flyways, free-flowing rivers or the Cetacean migration corridor in the Mediterranean Sea. An inventory of these areas could be conducted identifying potential networks contributing to Target 3.

Most connectivity planning will occur beyond PCAs – connectivity is ultimately a supporter of conservation occurring in the remaining areas of cities, farms and shared lands. (See discussion of other targets of the GBF.) This represents both a challenge and an opportunity. Whilst ideally guided by ecological considerations, design decisions will be constrained by existing ownership or resource use rights and human activities.

Securing and improving connectivity is therefore often only achievable by a multistakeholder group including PCA managers, Indigenous peoples, local communities and government, landowners and managers, etc. International cooperation for migratory networks requires a different set of stakeholders, policies and cooperation. The same range of governance types that apply to protected areas and OECMs also apply to ecological corridors and the governance authority may or may not be the same as the landowner or rightsholder of a portion of the corridor.

Along the corridor, a mix of tenure, whether legally or customarily defined, can be present under all governance types and be represented through a variety of instruments such as formal delegation, leasing, contracts or other agreements requiring a large scope of social alliances and cooperation to handle. The corridor tenure(s) should be clear and articulated; identifying statutory and customary ownership and use rights and negotiating with all rightsholders on their respective connectivity management roles.

These approaches require actor identification, awareness raising and management, achieving scale requires planning at the landscape or seascape level. Engaging such a diverse range of rightsholders, stakeholders and other actors at a large scale will be complex but also represents an opportunity for greater community involvement in conservation and aligning goals on the 70% of areas outside of PCAs at risk of loss or reduced connectivity from the heightened human-use.

Connectivity is important for achieving many Multilateral Environment Agreements, in particular the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). Connectivity is also a qualifier of GBF Targets 2 and 12 and prominent in Goal A.

Guidelines for conserving connectivity through ecological networks and corridors


This resource provides best practices for safeguarding ecological networks that preserve, improve, and repair connectivity across both intact and human-dominated systems. The guidelines offer tools and examples to implement ecological connectivity between protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs). The resource also provides guidance on developing ecological networks for conservation, which are defined as “A system of core habitats (protected areas, OECMs and other intact natural areas), connected by ecological corridors, which is established, restored as needed and maintained to conserve biological diversity in systems that have been fragmented.”

The publication contains eight main sections: 1. Introduction: The need for connectivity; 2. The scientific basis for connectivity; 3. Towards a common language of connectivity; 4. Ecological networks for conservation; 5. Planning and implementing ecological corridors; 6. Applications and benefits of ecological corridors in different environments; 7. The emergence of connectivity conservation law and policy, and 8. Conclusion. It also includes an Annex that contains case studies from around the world on approaches to conserving ecological corridors in ecological networks. 

Overall, the aim of this resource is to compile the extensive knowledge and best practices available to help address the issue of fragmentation, and to support efforts to conserve connectivity through ecological networks and corridors.

Enabling factors and challenges

Ecological corridors are not a substitute for PCAs but should be identified and established in areas where connectivity is required, have specific ecological objectives and be managed and governed to achieve these goals. They should be differentiated from non-corridor areas by specific uses that are prohibited or allowed e.g., sustainable resource use. Systematic conservation planning and ecological modelling can identify potential ecological corridors and factor in likely obstacles. Such planning may consider specific conservation targets (e.g., focal species, KBAs, population sizes etc.), climate change modelling scenarios, and socio-economic and political filters. It is also important to consider the role of existing and planned infrastructure (e.g., roads, railways, oil pipelines, hydropower dames), where poor planning can result in fragmentation and further loss of connectivity.

It is important to consider certain species’ needs for dispersal and habitat size when assessing or improving the connectivity of a PCA. Calculations of appropriate distances between them should be made according to species’ characteristics such as dispersal range and area required for a minimum viable population. Distances should be minimized and area between core habitats managed to maintain connectivity. PCA managers can propose corridors to regional/national planners and support corridor managers to develop ecological objectives and management plans. Managers of very small PCAs (e.g., < 10 ha) in highly fragmented regions or in mountains where habitat range is limited, may play a critical role in maintaining connectivity across a region and should work with other local PCA managers to retain connectivity.

Connectivity in marine conservation planning is an emerging topic of discussion and particularly important for coral ecosystems that require connectivity for heat-adapted larvae to migrate to cooler sites under climate change. Kelp forests, hydrothermal vents and migratory routes of marine species whose life cycle needs involve movements vertically and horizontally through the ocean as well as across regional or global routes for food, breeding, calving, and other essential function, are other important examples. Disruption of marine connectivity can have wide-ranging impacts. The IUCN Conservation Corridor group is collating rules of thumb for designing MPA networks and a series of case studies of initiatives around the world working toward maintaining, enhancing, and restoring ecological connectivity of the marine environment.

Connectivity approaches are particularly important for inland water systems that have landscape-scale dependencies on their upstream catchments and connectivity with groundwater, floodplain and downstream habitats. For example, the Pärnu River was targeted under Estonia’s National Water Act as a migratory swimway to restore the free-flowing condition and important habitat of a river and manage freshwater fishes over their entire migration route.