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Study - Movebank: a tool for identifying critical conservation sites

Last fall, Movebank worked with the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) to help draft a resolution on The Role of Ecological Networks in the Conservation of Migratory Species. This resolution was adopted at the CMS Tenth Conference of the Parties in Bergen, Norway, in November 2011. The resolution recognizes that "global databases such as Movebank which make tracking data available to conservation planners and to the public…are likely to assist in the identification of critical conservation sites."

Tracking individual animals can help us to identify corridors or stopping sites that animals use when moving from one place to another. Migratory species in particular often depend on suitable habitat at several different places, and habitat destruction in just one of these places can lead to population declines. These networks of habitats that animals move through during their lives pose a special challenge for conservation—they may cross several countries, or include areas that are small or used only for a short period, making them difficult to locate and manage.

In the context of animal movement, an ecological network is a network of managed areas that typically include protected parks that are surrounded by buffer zones and connected by smaller corridor areas. Not all of the network needs to be completely "natural" or undeveloped. Instead, we identify what characteristics of the habitat—such as wetlands or certain types of vegetation—are required by species, and strive to keep those parts of the habitat intact while still allowing people to use the land for other purposes. Developing and managing ecological networks can involve many types of projects, such as acquiring land to create new parks, restoring damaged habitats, and encouraging or requiring small changes to existing land uses to prevent pollution or provide food and shelter to animals moving through the area.

To view the tracks of some animal migrations that show the use of migration corridors and multiple sites for breeding, feeding, and stopping over while travelling, browse for the studies "Turkey Vulture Acopian Center USA GPS" or "MPIO White Stork Argos" in Movebank.

Read more

Council of Europe, accessed 2012, Culture, heritage and diversity—ecological networks: www.coe.int/t/dg4/cultureheritage/nature/econetworks.

Water for Wildlife UK, 2009, What is an ecological network and how do I create one?: Sussex Otters and Rivers Project, 5 p.

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