Protected Area connectivity: an assessment for Aichi target 11

Aichi Target 11 commits CBD Parties to conserving 17% of the terrestrial surface of the earth, especially “areas of particular importance for biodiversity” through “well-connected” systems of protected areas or “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECMs). This project will assess the degree of connectivity existing currently, with a focus on one taxon (birds) and one region (Africa), and by so doing, enabling better assessment of the feasibility of extending globally. For bird species, this project will assess connectivity between protected areas (PAs), Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), as the largest systematically identified network of areas of particular importance for biodiversity, and Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs), as one type of OECM. Developing this connectivity measure has strong relevance to ecological science: although we know that many species can persist in fragmented landscapes, other species are less tolerant (i.e. species with low dispersal abilities) and tend to decline in fragmented and degraded landscape areas.

This project will identify both protected and unprotected habitat patches that are of particular importance to the maintenance of populations of assemblages of forest-dependent birds and that are also under severe threat from recent and potential future land-use changes. This project will also highlight species for which improved connectivity of habitat patches is a priority for their conservation.

This project is funded by the CCI Collaborative Fund for Conservation.

Project Aims

Aichi Target 11 commits the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Parties to conserving 17% of the terrestrial surface of the earth, especially “areas of particular importance for biodiversity” through “well-connected” systems of protected areas. This project aims to assess the degree of connectivity of protected and unprotected habitat patches for forest dependent birds in Africa, highlighting species and locations for which connectivity is a priority for their conservation. Project developments and findings will highlight the potential to expand this approach globally, to extend to other taxa and to contribute to measurement of progress against Aichi Target 11.

Key Activities

  • Derive habitat maps for African forest-dependent bird species based on species ranges, current land-cover, habitat and altitudinal preferences.
  • Apply these habitat maps, together with estimates of natal dispersal distances and graph theory approaches to estimate habitat connectivity for each species, making use of the Cambridge University High Performance Computing (HPC) Cluster.
  • Synthesise results to highlight species and areas for which current connectivity is low and where improved connectivity would be most beneficial. 
  • Use recent forest loss datasets to further highlight additional areas and species that may also be at risk in the near-future based on proximity to areas of high forest loss.

Conservation Impact

  • Methodology developed and published in a peer-reviewed journal to show how habitat extent, fragmentation and connectivity can be assessed for bird species and sites.
  • Connectivity results used as a metric for measuring connectedness of protected areas under Aichi Target 11, and incorporated into the 2016 WCMC Protected Planet Report.

In the longer-term:

  • Protected area connectivity index included in Global Biodiversity Outlook-5 (2017)
  • Forest connectivity indicator developed for the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (BIP)
  • Incorporation of results in development of a Forest Status Index for Global Forest Watch
  • Methodology developed able to be applied to other taxon groups and at regional and global scales


  • Open access Extent of Suitable Habitat (ESH) maps, calculations of habitat area, connectivity indices and rankings for protected areas and Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) for forest-dependent bird species.
  • Submitted scientific papers in peer reviewed journals, describing novel methodology and providing estimates of forest habitat connectivity that contribute to measurement of progress against Aichi Targets 5 and 11.
  • Tailored outputs for IBA coordinators in BirdLife Partner countries, providing data on IBAs in greatest need of improved connectivity.
  • Presentation of ideas for a follow-on project to apply methods and lessons learned to begin to assess the rest of the world, including additional taxa.

CCI partners Involved

The UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) is the specialist biodiversity assessment arm of the United Nations Environment Programme, the world’s foremost intergovernmental...
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. It is the largest wildlife conservation organisation in...
The Department of Geography's research clusters focus on society and environment, development and political ecology, culture and demography, environmental processes, landscape modelling and climate...
The Department of Plant Sciences' research spans plant and microbial sciences. Conservation-related work in the department includes forest ecology and conservation, tropical ecology, mathematical...
BirdLife International is a strategic global partnership of conservation organisations in over 100 countries, working to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, and to promote...

Other Organisations Involved

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

Department of Natural Systems and Resources, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

Sapienza University of Rome

Related Resources

Resource Title Description Type
Connectivity Conservation and Modelling Connectivity Conservation and Modelling: A framework for assessing functional connectivity at a global scale using a representative sample of species. Master’s Thesis by Konstantina Spiliopoulou,... Other documents
Towards modelling functional connectivity at the global scale Presentation by Andy Arnell and Konstantina Spiliopoulou at the Cambridge Conservation Forum symposium, regarding the CCI Collaborative Funded project 'Protected Area connectivity: an assessment for... Talks and presentations

Project blog posts

8 Apr 2016
Aichi Target 11 commits the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Parties to conserving 17% of the terrestrial surface of the earth, especially “areas of particular importance for biodiversity”...