Building Global Alliances for Biodiversity Protection - Backgrounder


An Action Plan


A strong network of global alliances, rigorous science and financial flexibility will raise international biodiversity conservation to a level never before attainable. Based on 15 years of field work and partnership building, CI is meeting this challenge by advancing three key areas of action:



Whether in New Guinea's remote forests or Brazil's densely populated east coast, multifaceted alliances are necessary to stop the threats to biodiversity posed by misguided economic policies, predatory logging and poverty-induced slash-and-burn farming.

CI is establishing Centers for Biodiversity Conservation (CBCs) in key regions of biological importance to support such alliances. The first four Centers are being created in the Andes, Brazil and the Guianas, Madagascar and Melanesia. At least one-third of the funds allocated for the CBCs in-country will be used to fund the work of alliance partners.

The CBCs' objectives are to:

  • help local, regional and international organizations coordinate as partners, with clear objectives and a shared action plan. CI will work with governments, businesses, communities, universities, citizen groups and others to make the best use of their experience, knowledge and resources;

  • provide training and technical support to partners and help them develop and implement conservation strategies. The CBCs also will disseminate new information and share proven approaches;

  • mobilize the scientific community to compile a biodiversity knowledge base for planning, and coordinate the development and implementation of scientific and economic-based conservation strategies;

  • build public support. With long-term investments in conservation professionals and educational outreach, CBCs will integrate conservation into daily decisionmaking for all sectors of society.



Biodiversity conservation must be based on science - a bedrock principle for Conservation International. The global conservation community needs the most up-to-date information. Data must be collected in a standardized format over a period of years in order to distinguish the effects of human disturbance from the natural ebb and flow of biological processes. Despite decades of conservation action, there has never been a comprehensive effort to track large-scale changes in tropical forest ecosystems. This severely limits the ability to develop successful interventions.

TEAM data-gathering methods will range from high-tech remote satellite imaging to on-the-ground field observation. To implement these methods over the next 10 years, CI will establish a network of approximately 50 field stations in the hotspots and tropical wilderness areas. The TEAM network will:

  • provide the first standardized set of biodiversity data collected on-the-ground in key sites across tropical forest ecosystems. This will be the first global system to track biodiversity over time, in both disturbed and undisturbed situations;

  • assist the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) at CI identify emerging threats, as well as changes in ecosystems, before key areas for biodiversity are severely altered;

  • provide vital information to CI�s field programs, the CBCs, the Global Conservation Fund and partner organizations to ensure that solid science is the basis for conservation strategies;

  • provide policymakers with clear analyses of trends for tropical forest biodiversity on a regular basis, generating public debate about issues that need to be tackled before they become too serious or costly to remedy;

  • provide direct benefits to protected areas that are home to field research stations. Researchers deter illegal activities in the field, not only by their physical presence and ability to report them, but also by gaining support and a local constituency for conservation.



The Global Conservation Fund (GCF) is a permanent, well-capitalized pool of money that allows CI to offer innovative economic approaches to achieve conservation in globally significant ecosystems. The first philanthropic investment fund of its kind, the GCF provides a direct financial incentive to governments to protect important forest and marine areas.

The Fund gives CI the flexibility to negotiate with governments for the establishment of new protected areas, expansion of existing protected areas, purchase of land and creation of "conservation concessions." A conservation concession is a free-market mechanism that allows conservationists to compete directly with extractive industries for the rights to natural resources. Conservation concessions directly compensate resource owners for any revenue or employment that might have occurred as a result of exploiting a given area.

The Fund targets priority lands within the hotspots and wilderness areas mostly covered by the regional network of Centers for Biodiversity Conservation (CBCs). In this way, protected areas will receive ongoing support from the alliances developed by the CBCs. Initial investment in the GCF will be used to leverage significant additional private and public financial support.

The GCF emphasizes partnerships and collaboration. The creation and expansion of new protected areas will be done in coordination with partners. In some instances, CI will manage activities on the ground. In others, the Fund will be the catalyst, providing support to other groups in the field.


Preliminary investments by the GCF have enabled CI to assist in the creation or expansion of more than 20 new protected areas, and the preservation of more than 80 million acres of rain forest and marine resources worldwide. Examples include:

  • Central Suriname Nature Reserve: In 1998, 4 million acres of pristine forest were protected when CI advocated economic development options, while foreign-owned extractive industries sought to deplete these natural resources with modest financial benefits to the country.

  • Madidi National Park, Bolivia: In September 1999, more than 700,000 acres of rain forest were set aside in Bolivia's Tropical Andes, one of the world's most biologically rich regions.

  • Conservation Concession, Guyana: In September 2000, CI, working with the government of Guyana, obtained a three-year exploratory lease of 200,000 acres of pristine forest in Guyana as the world's first "conservation concession" on public lands. Under the terms of the deal, CI will lease the area at market rates and will protect the area rather than use it to extract timber. CI-Guyana is now negotiating for a 25-year, 1-million-acre lease.

  • Cordillera Azul National Park, Peru: In early 2001, CI and its partners convinced the Peruvian government to allow private sector funding and management of conservation initiatives in Peru, opening the door to direct private conservation investments in more than 100 million acres of tropical forest. This resulted in new regulations that enabled the government to establish Cordillera Azul National Park, a 3-million-acre privately managed protected forest in the Tropical Andes biodiversity hotspot.


The Earth's 25 biodiversity hotspots cover just 1.4 percent of the land surface yet claim more than 60 percent of the planet's terrestrial species diversity. The major wilderness areas include Amazonia, the Congo Forest and New Guinea.

An international group of scientists who gathered at a groundbreaking conference called Defying Nature's End in August 2000 concluded that, to conserve global biodiversity, 1.2 million sq km (463,322 sq mi) of the remaining unprotected hotspots, and at least 4 million sq. km (1.5 million sq mi) of tropical wilderness areas need permanent protection.

With the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation grant, Conservation International and its partners are embarking on the first stage of accomplishing the agenda set forth at Defying Nature's End.

This action will focus on securing some of the top priorities within the hotspots, and demonstrate the value of investments in the major tropical wilderness areas. The principal outcomes will be prevention of species extinctions and permanent protection of large areas of pristine habitat.



Experts from the world over representing academia, government and the private sector, gathered to determine the best course of action to protect global biodiversity during a ground-breaking conference called "Defying Nature's End (DNE), A Practical Agenda for Saving Life on the Planet."

Organized by the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) at CI, in collaboration with the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the conference was co-chaired by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and Harvard professor Edward O. Wilson, and held at the California Institute of Technology in August 2001.

One of the first questions posed at the DNE conference was whether, considering population growth, consumption rates, habitat loss and species extinctions, there could be any realistic hope of turning the tide. The conclusion was yes, and the blueprint was formulated.

The DNE blueprint is the basis for CI's new initiative to dramatically increase strong, local alliances in the places at highest risk to put in place solutions based on thorough science and innovative economic tools

An account of the findings and recommendations from the conference was reported in Science magazine's September 21, 2001 issue, in an article entitled, "Can We Defy Nature's End?" The article concludes that the conference found protection of biodiversity to be a "clear and achievable goal, one potentially attainable using funds raised in the private sector and leveraged through governments."

For more information about the Defying Nature's End conference, visit


Biodiversity Hotspots*

Tropical Andes, Sundaland, Mediterranean Basin, Madagascar & Indian Ocean Islands, Indo-Burma, Caribbean, Atlantic Forest Region, Philippines, Cape Floristic Province, Mesoamerica, Brazilian Cerrado, Southwest Australia

Mountains of South-Central China, Polynesia/Micronesia, New Caledonia, Choc�-Dari�n-Western Ecuador,

Guinean Forests of West Africa, Western Ghats & Sri Lanka, California Floristic Province, Succulent Karoo,

New Zealand, Central Chile, Caucasus, Wallacea, Eastern Arc Mountains & Coastal, Forests of Tanzania & Kenya

*Hotspots are ranked according to the number of unique plant species they contain, from highest to lowest.

Major Tropical Wilderness Areas

Amazonia, Congo Forest, New Guinea

Select Major Wetlands

Pantanal, Okavango Delta

Key Marine Sites

Abrolhos Bank, Brazil, Gulf of California, Mexico, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea, Palawan Province, Philippines,Togians-Banggai Corridor, Indonesia

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