7 Big Reasons for Hope

Famed for its pristine beaches and coral reefs, Bora Bora in French Polynesia is an international tourist destination. Critically impacted by climate change, many Pacific Island nations are leading the charge for marine conservation, as their waters play a critical role in stabilizing the planet’s atmosphere. (© Art Wolfe/ www.artwolfe.com)

In an age of 7 billion people on Earth and unprecedented environmental challenges, CI knows that while local, small-scale projects are critical for conservation success, they’re also not enough. We need to ramp up these efforts to have the global impact we need — and we need to do it now.

In no particular order, here are seven of 2011’s achievements that have done just that — projects we’re not only proud to have been a part of, but which have only been possible with the support of generous donors like you.

1. Largest-ever Camera Trap Study Documents Elusive Mammals

Led by the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network of which CI is one of the main core partners, a team of scientists has captured stunning images of 105 mammal species in seven protected areas across the Americas, Africa and Asia.

Most of the world’s mammals live in tropical forests, where they play key roles dispersing seeds, pollinating trees and keeping other species’ populations in check. By analyzing nearly 52,000 images, researchers have found that larger forest areas are home to a greater diversity of mammal species, range of body sizes and diet variation.

Around 25 percent of all mammal species are under threat, yet there is limited global quantitative information available. This study fills an important gap in scientific knowledge of how mammals are being affected by threats such as overhunting, conversion of land to agriculture and climate change, allowing ecologists to anticipate extinctions before it’s too late. Learn more.

2. Aquaculture Report Assesses Costs and Benefits of Fish Farming

Half of all the seafood consumed in the world today comes from aquaculture — and with global fisheries reaching unprecedented levels of depletion, demand for cultivated seafood will only increase.

CI and the WorldFish Center recently produced the first-ever assessment of the environmental costs of 75 types of aquaculture species-production systems across 18 countries. This analysis found that while the ecological impact of aquaculture can be high, it is more efficient and less environmentally costly than beef or pork production. However, there is much room for improved efficiency in aquaculture practices, especially for species requiring large inputs such as eel, salmon and shrimp farming.

As human populations continue to grow, aquaculture is likely to be among the most important sources of animal protein in much of the developing world, making sustainable practices even more critical. Learn more.

3. New Indigenous Fellowship Supports Traditional Knowledge

Indigenous and traditional peoples are highly reliant on natural resources, which makes them especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. At the same time, traditional knowledge — such as where to find water during extreme droughts — can teach us all valuable lessons about how to adapt to these impacts.

In order to share this knowledge and support local communities, CI and the Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity have created the Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Conservation Fellowship. The program’s first group of fellows — indigenous people from Fiji, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala and Chad — are working to incorporate traditional knowledge into issues ranging from adaptation to climate change in semi-arid ecosystems to commercial fishing. Learn more.

(© CI/Photo by John Martin)

4. 20 Years of Species Discovery

This year marked the 20th anniversary of CI’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP), which sends groups of field scientists into some of the planet’s most remote jungles, rivers and coral reefs for four to six weeks to study what lives there — including species new to science. In the words of CI CEO Peter Seligmann, RAP was created to be “an ecological SWAT team that could accurately assess the health of an ecosystem in a fraction of the time it would normally take.”

The knowledge generated by RAP surveys is used to guide the establishment of protected areas, reduce the harmful ecological impacts of development and maintain sustainable livelihoods and people’s dependence upon nature.

Over the years, CI has led expeditions in 27 countries, and participating researchers have found more than 1,300 species never before documented — including a “walking” shark, a frog with a nose like Pinocchio and an “ET salamander.” Among other successes, RAP surveys have led to the creation, expansion or improved management of nearly 210,000 square kilometers (more than 81,000 square miles) of protected areas and the training of more than 400 students and scientists in developing countries. Learn more.

5. Coastal Ecosystems Can Help Us Fight Climate Change

Blue Carbon is emerging as an important component of mitigating global climate change, and CI is at the forefront of this new approach. The term “Blue Carbon” refers to coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrasses that remove carbon from the atmosphere and oceans and store it in plants and the sediment below.

Preserving and restoring coastal ecosystems is an essential component of climate change mitigation; research indicates that coastal ecosystems can store up to five times more carbon than many temperate and tropical forests, yet these vital environments are being destroyed and degraded at a rapid pace.

This year CI, in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the International Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO convened the first Blue Carbon scientific and policy working groups to expand scientific understanding, incorporate Blue Carbon into international climate policy discussions and begin implementing some of the first projects for mitigating climate change by conserving coastal ecosystems. Learn more (PDF – 553.09 KB).

6. Expanded Ocean Protection in the Pacific Islands

The island nations of Oceania have a miniscule carbon footprint, yet they are the most critically impacted by climate change. These islands are also leading the way when it comes to marine conservation, as their waters play a critical role in modulating the planet’s atmosphere.

Building on last year’s creation of the Pacific Oceanscape, island leaders made bold new commitments at September’s Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Auckland, New Zealand. The Cook Islands declared half of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) — an area the size of Egypt — as a marine park. Similarly, the islands of Tokelau designated their waters — which cover an area larger than the U.K. — as a sanctuary for marine mammals, turtles and sharks.

First introduced by President Anote Tong of Kiribati, the Pacific Oceanscape is a collaborative agreement between 15 island nations to sustainably manage 38.5 million square kilometers (nearly 24 million square miles) of ocean — an area larger than the land size of Canada, the United States and Mexico combined. In total, the EEZs of those nations cover approximately 10 percent of the global ocean.

CI is supporting these national governments as they work to implement the Pacific Oceanscape framework, which includes plans to improve ocean governance, sustainably manage resources and maintain ocean health. Learn more.

7. Reducing Emissions Through Sustainable Landscapes

Global challenges — such as the changing climate, competition for agricultural lands and declining access to clean water — are motivating companies, governments and NGOs to work together on solutions that benefit the economy, the environment and local communities. With the launch of the Sustainable Landscapes Partnership (SLP) — whose founding members are CI, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Walton Family Foundation — we aim to identify, develop and test new solutions to avoid deforestation and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Each landscape will be anchored by a REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) project, and will also include low-emission business opportunities for local people and biodiversity conservation efforts.

The first pilot program will be launched in sites of high-conservation value in Indonesia. The country is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the majority of which comes from burning peatlands and from deforestation and forest degradation caused by large-scale land conversion to commodities like oil palm, pulp and paper. In response to this growing concern, the Indonesian government has announced its intent to commit to significant emissions reductions over the next decade — by 26 percent by 2020 — while still growing the economy at 7 percent per year.

Success of the SLP in Indonesia will lead to its expansion into other regions, bringing the world closer to a true low-carbon economy. Learn more.

Molly Bergen is managing editor on CI’s communications team. Help support CI projects like these around the world.


  1. Uwe E. Ahlgrimm says

    Great Effort thanks !

    I am the first Publisher of over 1001 Eco Lodges, still have 1200 identified, this project will be my contribution to publicize what can be done by a few!

    Thanks for your contribution, UA

  2. Pingback: 7 Little Reasons for Hope | Human Nature - Conservation International Blog

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