Innovations in Science
Conservation International’s cutting-edge research generates insights that transform conservation policy and practice.
Through science, we are discovering and promoting smarter and more effective solutions to some of the most urgent challenges humanity faces.
Our research, tools and solutions help meet ambitious global goals — from protecting critical ecosystems that absorb climate-warming carbon, to securing marine fisheries that sustain us, to promoting conservation-based economies in the areas that matter most for people and nature.
Our science sets conservation priorities, develops solutions that work and mobilizes long-term investments in proven, cost-effective approaches.
Transforming conservation on a global scale
Protecting nature for climate. Conserving oceans on an unprecedented scale. Ensuring that people and nature thrive together. Science is at the heart of Conservation International’s work to protect nature for the benefit of humanity. Our research guides each of our institutional priorities.
Tropical forests, mangroves and other critical ecosystems could account for at least 30 percent of global action needed to avoid the worst climate scenarios. Conservation International’s research identifies the nature that must be protected and restored to avoid a climate catastrophe.
With our partners, Conservation International seeks to double the world’s ocean area under conservation by 2025. We use science to create financial and policy incentives for marine conservation. Our research identifies the ocean areas that are most important to protect and helps ensure that conservation efforts are resilient in the face of climate change.
Using policy-relevant science, Conservation International promotes conservation models to protect nature and improve human well-being in critical ecosystems around the world. Our research insights and tools catalyze conservation initiatives by a wide range of partners — from governments and corporations to local communities.
We have a plan
Where is the nature that people need – and how can we best protect it?
Science drives our priorities to where needs are most urgent and opportunities are greatest.
Our scientists develop new strategies and rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of our global programs and projects.
Our groundbreaking research and tools empower governments, corporations, local communities and other key decision-makers to develop tailored strategies that protect nature for people.
Our Research Initiatives
Stabilize our climate by protecting and restoring nature
Protecting ‘irrecoverable carbon’: Conservation International researchers have identified ecosystems that contain vast reserves of carbon equivalent to 15 years’ worth of fossil fuel emissions. If lost, these carbon reserves — known as “irrecoverable carbon” — could not be restored by 2050, hastening a climate catastrophe. Using our data, we are undertaking an ambitious global effort to protect these ecosystems.
Restoring the health of our land: Agriculture, the expansion of cities, deforestation and climate change have degraded our lands – affecting more than 1 billion people and costing the world up to $10.6 trillion per year by making agriculture less productive, increasing risk of floods and severe impacts from drought, and diminishing the benefits that nature provides. Conservation International researchers are developing interactive mapping platforms and analytical tools needed to enable transformative investments that will protect and restore critical ecosystems for the benefit of nature and people.
Climate-positive supply chains: Conservation International researchers are working with companies to source commodities such as soy, coffee, palm oil, leather and cotton in a more sustainable way and to set science-based targets for mitigating the environmental impacts of their production. This means protecting high carbon ecosystems, adapting farming practices to reduce emissions and restoring degraded habitats that are no longer productive. These approaches could remove 1 gigaton of CO2 emissions annually from agricultural commodity supply chains by 2025.
Double ocean protection
High seas corals: Beneath the waves, vast expanses of the seafloor have yet to be explored. Combing through historical data and half a million records on coral distribution worldwide, our scientists identified more than 116 previously unknown reefs on the high seas. Largely isolated from human impacts, these remote deep-sea corals offer a ray of hope for the world’s reefs: They could provide critical refuge for marine life that depend on these ecosystems, while helping to “reseed” degraded near-shore coral populations.
Climate-responsive marine conservation: Our team is leading research to discover where marine species are migrating, now and in future, due to climate change. This information is vital for identifying which areas of the ocean are critical for establishing climate-smart marine protected areas — giving marine species refuge in a rapidly changing environment.
Expand nature-positive economies
Mapping and valuing critical natural assets: The natural resources that provide benefits to people — known as “natural capital” — are often undervalued by individuals, companies and governments that rely on them. We are leading efforts to help countries locate and quantify these benefits in order to promote their conservation and sustainable use. Created using remote-sensing data generated by NASA’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites, “Ecosystem Extent Maps” are helping to quantify the economic benefits of countries' natural resources and the services they provide to people — an important step towards including nature in national accounting systems, alongside other measures of economic activity.
Measuring Freshwater Health: To address the growing issue of water insecurity around the world, Conservation International developed an innovative, science-based tool for gauging the health of freshwater ecosystems. The Freshwater Health Index offers a framework for water managers and decision-makers to analyze the health of their basins, understand the trade-offs and consequences of their actions, and discuss approaches to creating healthy, sustainable watersheds into the future.
Technology to protect wildlife: Camera-trap images are the backbone of much wildlife research. The data they provide is critical for crafting smart conservation policies. Wildlife Insights, our breakthrough AI-driven platform, is the world’s largest camera-trap database, currently hosting more than 16 million images. Led by Conservation International — in partnership with Google, the Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund, Smithsonian and others — Wildlife Insights provides reliable, up-to-date information on myriad species that are largely invisible to science and conservation practitioners.
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Our peer-reviewed research