For centuries, development has come at the expense of nature.

What if nature and people could thrive in the same place, forever? What if communities could become resilient to climate change and protect their livelihoods and food security without destroying nature’s life-support systems?

Conservation International aims to create self-sustaining, scalable conservation models that can be adapted from one country to another by focusing on large ecological systems that we call landscapes and seascapes. From the Galápagos Islands to the rangelands of South Africa, this integrated “Sustainable Landscapes and Seascapes” approach is offering lessons for how humanity can protect nature while weathering — and even abating — climate breakdown and wildlife extinction.

 

The facts

In 2015, 193 countries signed onto the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to end poverty, fight inequality, prevent environmental degradation, improve public health and tackle climate change by 2030.

One essential element underlies nearly all of these goals: nature. In fact, most of the goals cannot be met if we don’t have healthy, functioning ecosystems. And we are failing in our protection of nature: Businesses, governments and communities are not yet working together in the right ways and in the right places to sufficiently protect nature so that it can help deliver sustainable development for all.

Recognizing that conservation works best when it takes into account the many uses and functions of an area of land or sea — and the people who rely on it — Conservation International has selected 16 places on the planet to deploy our Sustainable Landscapes and Seascapes approach.

 

 

 

Planetary goals

Where humanity needs to be by 2030

We must adopt a model of sustainable nature-based and climate-resilient development that supports the Sustainable Development Goals in some of the world’s most ecologically important places by 2030.

 

 

 

Here's what we are doing

 

 

Conservation International supports nature-based development approaches in the world’s most important places for nature by:

  • Working with partners in a number of landscapes and seascapes to demonstrate that when nature is conserved and restored, human well-being improves.
  • Developing innovative ways to combine government, corporate, donor and investor funding to help places transition to nature-based development.
  • Creating and demonstrating viable production models for commodities that link public demand, sustainable production, protection of essential resources and local benefits.

 

By 2025, Conservation International aims to:

Transition at least three large-scale landscapes or seascapes to a nature-based development model that improves human well-being, enhances nature and can sustain long-term progress without depending on external intervention.

 

Deploy more than US$ 30 million in innovative financing to build nature-based development models across our portfolio of landscapes and seascapes.

 

Build at least five models that provide blueprints for companies to implement sustainable production; for governments to build financial and regulatory systems that incentivize nature-based development; and that prove to people, companies and governments the essential roles nature plays in helping them meet their goals.

 

On the ground

Conservation International is hard at work around the world

© Conservation International/photo by John Martin
Bird’s Head Seascape

The Bird’s Head region in West Papua, Indonesia, is the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity, boasting phenomenally high concentrations of marine species. But a little over a decade ago, this underwater paradise was decimated by unregulated commercial fishing, poaching and damaging practices such as dynamite fishing.

The Bird’s Head Seascape Initiative was launched in 2004 and is among the world’s most ambitious community-based conservation programs. Together with over 30 partners, Conservation International created a network of 12 marine protected areas (MPAs) covering more than 3.6 million hectares (8.89 million acres). These MPAs employ local people to survey and protect coasts, reefs and fish, supporting communities to protect and sustainably manage their resources and their livelihoods. Since the initiative’s inception, fish populations have rebounded; sharks, whales and rays have returned; poaching by outside fishers is down 90 percent; coral is recovering; and ecotourism has flourished.

© Cristina Mittermeier
Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape

Spanning nearly 2 million square kilometers (770,000 square miles), the Eastern Tropical Pacific Seascape (ETPS) covers the waters, coasts and islands off the shores of Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Ecuador. Known as the “Serengeti of the seas” because of its large concentration of iconic marine species — including sharks, turtles, whales and seabirds — these coastal and marine ecosystems underpin food, employment and climate security for local communities.

But the area is at risk — threatened by overfishing, illegal fishing methods and poorly planned urban and agricultural expansion. Since 2004, Conservation International has worked with national governments and many partners to restore and protect the ETPS. Today, there are more than 20 MPAs covering 8 million hectares, demonstrating the recovery of mangrove ecosystems and fisheries and showing the powerful impact of regional cooperation to protect nature.

© Andres Rueda
Bogotá, Colombia

The capital city of Colombia draws its water from the largest intact high Andean grasslands ecosystem in the world. But the area, known as the Páramos Conservation Corridor, is at risk from intensive cattle grazing and cultivation, a rapid increase in urban growth rates and climate change. This threatens the ecosystem’s capacity to deliver fresh water to Bogotá and its surrounding municipalities — including some 8 million people.

In 2006, Conservation International, in partnership with the Colombian government, started the country’s first climate change adaptation project. Currently, we are implementing climate change adaptation projects around Bogotá to protect its residents’ water supply. Over the past decade, much of the sensitive high grasslands have come under protective management. Loss of the critical forests connecting these spongelike areas to urban populations has practically ceased, and local communities have benefited from thriving community agriculture.

© Trond Larsen
South Africa

Conservation International is working with communal farmers in high-biodiversity rural areas of South Africa to help degraded rangelands recover and become more resilient to climate change, while improving cattle health and providing access to new markets for farmers. The Herding 4 Health program, an ambitious partnership between Conservation International and the Peace Parks Foundation, aims to expand this work to cover more than 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) of rangeland under improved management across at least five countries over the next five years.

Herding 4 Health uses a community-driven approach to address challenges faced by farmers living within and next to protected areas. In southern Africa, the integrated program will incorporate lessons learned from the South Africa Rangeland Program, while also focusing on human-wildlife conflict and novel approaches to animal disease control, as well as market access in partnership with the local organization Meat Naturally.

Related conservation news from the field

Climate change puts the squeeze on wine production

Jan 4, 2021, 09:33 AM by User Not Found
The first global map of future land suitability for vineyards could change everything we think we know about wine.
True or false? Wine grapes may soon be growing around Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Wines from New Jersey are statistically indistinguishable from French wines. A little over a century ago, Algeria was the world’s largest wine exporter. China is the world’s fastest growing wine-producing country.
 
As it turns out, all of these statements are true — and each has an important lesson for conservation.
 
I recently led a research team of scientists from six universities and conservation groups in a study looking at the impacts of climate change on wine and what they might mean for conservation. Our paper, “Climate Change, Wine and Conservation,” was just published in the latest issue of the journal PNAS. The results surprised even us, as did a number of things we found out along the way.
 
Our study produced the first global map of future suitability for wine production. Here are four factors that might change where the world’s wine is grown:
 
1. Rising temperatures
 
The area north of Yellowstone will be one of the areas with the greatest increase in suitability for growing wine grapes in the next 50 years. The reason is climate change. Temperatures are warming, and suitable lands for wine grape growing are moving north.
 
This shift may have a big conservation impact on the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), an innovative attempt to connect wildlife habitats between Yellowstone and Canada’s Yukon Territory. Vineyards would be a major impediment to this connectivity. They provide poor habitat for wildlife, and would probably have to be fenced to avoid bears snacking on the grapes.
 
These changes in North America are symbolic of changes happening across the globe. Wine suitability is moving toward the poles. In South Africa, Chile and Australia, there is little land left in the direction of the South Pole, and suitable area for vineyards is declining. In the north, there is a lot of high-latitude land, and area suitable for vineyards is expanding. This will result in a global redistribution of wine-producing regions, with some serious consequences for ecosystems and wildlife habitat.
 
2. Public perception of wine-growing regions
 
Wine from Montana doesn’t sound so wild when you consider the results of a blind wine tasting organized by the Journal of Wine Economics. The test pitted New Jersey wines (yes, these exist!) against French wines. Judged by French wine experts, the scores for the New Jersey wines were statistically indistinguishable from the French wines; the French judges couldn’t tell them apart.
 
If experts can’t reliably tell them apart, most consumers won’t be able to either, and wine from anywhere — even Montana — could become competitive in the global market. This result swings the doors wide open to wines from everywhere — and our study shows that lots of new places, some in very good wildlife habitat, will become suitable for wine.
 
3. Shifting market forces
 
But people have their preferences, and won’t switch easily — or will they? In your great-grandfather’s time (or great-great-grandfather, depending on your age), the world’s largest exporter of wines was actually Algeria, a country that today produces almost no wine. What changed? The swing came because of market forces; French production recovered from a fungal blight, and Algeria’s markets dried up.
 
Are the forces that drove that dramatic shift so different from climate change? What happens when wine-growing regions in the Southern Hemisphere lose suitability and large areas of suitability open close to major markets in North America and Europe? In North America, that change may come on lands that are currently important habitat for grizzly bears, mountain lions, pronghorn, elk and many other species that need large natural landscapes to survive.
 
4. China’s growing love of wine
 
Believe it or not, China is the fastest growing wine-producing region in the world. By aggressively buying both wine and vineyards, the country’s upper classes are driving up the price of both. As this upper-class fervor for wine reaches the middle class in China, demand will explode.
 
Much of that demand will be met by imports, but China has suitable areas for growing wine grapes, and production will start there as well. Those areas happen to be in the same mountains that are habitat for giant pandas, so wine expansion in China may have repercussions for what is arguably the world’s most iconic animal.
 
Lions and pandas and bears, oh my — are they really wrapped up in the future of wine? Do we have to choose between a nice red and nice wildlife habitat? Not necessarily.
 
Consumer awareness and sustainable industry practices are already a potent combination in wine marketing. However, wine industry eco-initiatives currently focus largely on land management and pesticides and little on where the vineyard is located or the impact on wildlife. But this can change, particularly if vineyards and conservationists work together — and if consumers make it known that wildlife-friendly wine production is important to them.
 
What we’ve learned about wine has important implications for agriculture, climate change and conservation in general. Just as it’s moving wine-producing regions, climate change will be moving other agricultural areas, which may displace wildlife habitat. An important lesson for the future of conservation is that we need to consider not just direct climate change impacts on species (like polar bears) but also the indirect impacts: moving agriculture into areas that are currently providing important services for people and wildlife alike.
 
Lee Hannah is senior scientist for climate change biology in CI’s Moore Center for Science.
Load more comments
comment-avatar

 

 

 

Our Priorities