Beyond Site-Specific Criteria: Conservation of Migratory Birds and Their Habitats from a Network Perspective

Yanjie Xu*, Andy J. Green, Taej Mundkur, Ward Hagemeijer, Haitham Mossad, Herbert H.T. Prins, Willem F. de Boer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Many populations of birds depend on networks of sites to survive. Sufficient connectivity that allows movement between the sites throughout the year is a critical requirement. We found that existing international frameworks and policies for identifying sites important for bird conservation focus more at the level of the individual site than on the site network and its connectivity. Only 21% of site criteria acknowledge the importance of movement networks for birds, and such network criteria were mostly (67%) qualitative. We suggest a three-step quantitative approach for informing conservation about the connectivity of bird movements (especially when migrating) from a network perspective, by reviewing current scientific knowledge. The first step is to construct a bird movement network by identifying sites frequently used by birds as ‘nodes’, and then define ‘edges’ from the probability of non-stop flight between each pair of nodes. The second step is to quantify network connectivity, i.e., the extent to which the site network facilitates bird movements. The last step is to assess the importance of each site from its contribution to network connectivity. This approach can serve as a tool for comprehensive and dynamic monitoring of the robustness of site networks during global change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number353
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2022


  • bird movement
  • conservation
  • habitat
  • migration
  • site network
  • wetland


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