Each week, One Earth will be featuring a webinar recap from organizations and scientists around the world that focus on important topics such as biodiversity, conservation, food justice, and the intersections of environmental and human health.
The Global Biodiversity Festival was a three day virtual event celebrating International Day for Biological Diversity. Scientists, explorers, and conservationists from around the globe came together to speak about successful conservation efforts and the work still needed to be done to preserve the diversity of life on our planet. In one such talk, Gary Tabor, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, presented the importance of ecological connectivity and how without it, all efforts of preservation will ultimately become stagnant. Ecological connectivity is the unimpeded movement of species and the flow of natural processes that sustain biodiversity on earth. With 30 years of experience working on large-scale conservation projects, Tabor knows that the key to preservation is reconnecting our natural world.
More than 50% of the planet is now human-dominated landscapes, resulting in a fragmented natural world. Since 2000, 12 million kilometers of roads have been built and that number is expected to more than double by 2050. With more roads come further fragmentation of wildlife habitats and that leads to unhealthy circumstances for us all. Disturbing the interaction of species that maintain functioning ecosystems can lead to disease. Landscape health is public health.
The fact is species need room to roam, yet our current way of conservation thinks inside a box. For example, the borders of Yellowstone Park quite literally form a square — but wildlife doesn’t pay attention to these borders. Protected areas are vital to preserving our planet and limiting global temperature rise to 1.5℃, but in order to maximize their potential, they need to be connected. As Tabor states,
If our current reserves and national parks are the organs of nature, then connectivity is the circulatory system that keeps them healthy and thriving. No longer can the goal be to just save a spot of land from development. The goal must also connect these spots of land together and consider wildlife behavior, natural disturbance regimes, fire ecology, hydrology, water catchment, migration, pollination, nutrient cycling, and resilience. This is conserving nature outside of protected areas through the 'matrix' — the multiple jurisdictions, borders, countries, and municipalities that intersect across an entire ecosystem. Ecological connectivity is also social connectivity, as we must work together to bring this solution to fruition.
The idea of ecological connectivity is starting to take off, with Costa Rica, Kenya, Bhutan, Tanzania, and Canada all now having it as part of their conservation policies. The United States legislation proposed a bill to establish a National Wildlife Corridor Act and 17 states have already established acts such as this or administrative orders in the last three years. There are also projects underway connecting Yellowstone to the Yukon, the Albertine rift in Africa, and the Great Eastern Ranges in Australia. To further expand these efforts, Tabor says that the key is to educate the people, governments, and policymakers. As countries protect more, we need to connect more both ecologically and socially. Gary says,