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What are ecological networks?

Ecological networks connect ecosystems and populations of species that are threatened by fragmented habitats, facilitating exchange between different populations and thus increasing the chances of survival of endangered species (CBD, 2006). Mi- gratory species represent perhaps the most vulnerable ecologi- cal elements on the planet as they depend entirely on a network of well-functioning ecosystems to refuel, reproduce and survive in every “station” they visit and upon unrestricted travel. Much as our own modern transport system of airports, harbours, and roads cannot exist without international agreements and with- out refueling capacity in different countries, neither can these species persist without such agreements.

Habitat transformation is a primary cause of changes in biodiversity and the breakdown of ecosystem function and services. As ecosystems are inherently complex with innu-

merable interactions, the perception of ecological networks is a more powerful approach to understanding the impacts of both habitat loss and fragmentation (Gonzalez et al., 2011). Indeed, understanding effects at the landscape scale provides a perhaps simpler, yet more holistic way of under- standing and perceiving the threats of fragmentation. Ac- knowledging ecological networks and how their disruption may have an impact on populations of migratory species is essential for the survival of these species and for fostering international collaboration.

In the following, an overview of the global pressure on biodi- versity is given, along with a description of a series of critical examples of how international collaboration is crucial to some migratory species, and how failure to achieve it can jeopardize these populations (Fig. 3a-c).

Figure 2: A spatial configuration of an Ecological Network, show- ing how various resources are connected in the landscape.

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