PREVENTING THE END OF THE WORLD’S WILDLIFE MIGRATIONS THROUGH ECOLOGICAL NETWORKS
This rapid-response assessment was recently produced by GRID-Arendal, an official United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) collaborating centre, supporting informed decision making and awareness-raising through:
* Environmental information management and assessment
* Capacity building services
* Outreach and communication tools, methodologies and products
Through the air, over land and in water, over ten thousand species numbering millions of animals travel around the world in a network of migratory pathways. The very foundation of these migratory species is their connection to places and corridors across the planet. The loss of a single point in their migration can jeopardize the entire population, while their concentrations make them highly vulnerable to over harvesting and poaching.
In the northern regions of the world, the V-shaped formation of loudly honking geese in spring and in autumn symbolize that a new season is coming. In the 1900s people in northern Norway marvelled at the abundance of lesser white-fronted geese, which then numbered in the thousands. Today the Norwegian stock of these geese is so small that researchers are on first-name terms with each and every bird.
Iconic animals such as wildebeest and antelopes have declined by 35–90 per cent in a matter of decades, due to fences, roads and other infrastructure blocking their migration routes, and from overharvesting. Indeed, the current rise in poaching calls for renewed international efforts for controlling illegal hunting and creating alternative livelihoods, against the backdrop of increasing trade in endangered animals for their fur, meat, horns or tusks.
We are only just beginning to grasp the consequences that climate change is having on migratory animals and how important it is to have functional networks of habitats to allow species to adapt. A number of long-distance migrants are already declining as a result of a changing climate, including narwhals and marine turtles. In the ocean underwater noise caused by offshore energy production, naval sonars and shipping, for example, is further disrupting the lives of whales and dolphins.
In the modern world, we appreciate and fully understand the importance of communication and travel networks to society. For migratory wildlife, equivalent networks are vital to their very survival. Just as we collaborate on air traffic, roads and shipping corridors, we need a similar collaboration to ensure that migratory wildlife can also continue to travel, refuel and reach their destinations.
With 150 countries having signed one or more of the associated instruments, the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) is becoming an increasingly important basis of international collaboration, as the only treaty addressing animal migrations on land, in the sea and in the air combined.
For this effort, the commitment of all countries is needed, so that future generations can marvel at, be amazed by, and benefit from these nomads connecting our planet.
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