Dolphins

When we hear the term “ecological corridors” we tend to think of the natural pathways that land animals like elk or elephants use to move among larger natural areas to eat, drink, mate and meet other survival needs. Corridors are equally important for marine life like whales, turtles, fish, and seabirds, which depend on linkages between ocean areas for daily movement, seasonal migration, and completing their life cycles. Until recently, collaborative research and guidance on marine ecological connectivity had been lacking, but now the Center for Large Landscape Conservation is supporting coordination of work by a unique group of experts that is making the issue a top priority.

The ocean is critical for sustaining a healthy planet. Consider these facts:

As part of its efforts to conserve the interlinkages of ecosystems to stem biodiversity loss and climate change, the Center operates the Marine Connectivity Working Group (MCWG). This network of experts with diverse interests—such as coral biologists, marine spatial planners, and ocean policy advisors—is now providing connectivity conservation solutions for better managing and sustaining the marine and coastal environment. 

Considering that connectivity research for the ocean is much less advanced than for land, marine experts encouraged the creation of MCWG to be dedicated to expanding the field and its applications. Now, with over 90 expert volunteer members from more than 25 countries on six continents, the group is promoting more consistent marine connectivity policies, programs, and practices through collaboration in science, planning, management, and governance. Together, this growing community of marine experts is working to better address the unique aspects of marine ecological connectivity.

The group has generated an impressive array of resources since formation only three years ago. It includes the first-ever international guidance for marine connectivity practices and several case studies illustrating real solutions implemented around the globe, from the Great Barrier Reef to the Caribbean to the coast of South Africa. Overall, the group is advancing marine connectivity science and policy by connecting conservation practitioners to these resources—and to each other—through a global network. 

2021 was a watershed year for MCWG and the following brief list highlights some of  the activities resulting from its collaboration and leadership:

The Center thanks MCWG members for their time and efforts pioneering ways to establish marine connectivity conservation as an essential component of national, transboundary, and global policies, as well as on-the ground efforts that achieve long-term ecological integrity of marine and coastal environments.

VIDEO: Learn about one example of a marine ecological corridor and how science is helping countries to conserve it. (1 min, 45 sec)