As a businessman, I was attracted to The Nature Conservancy for many of the same reasons members invest in this organization — its pragmatic approach, its focus on measurable, lasting results and, of course, its science base. Those things go hand in hand: You need reliable science on which to base pragmatic conservation decisions that will yield tangible results.
But what if the science is incomplete or the data is scattered about countless locations and in disparate formats? How do you make a practical conservation decision about one spot on the map without understanding the whole in which that spot exists and the natural forces that influence it, whether local, regional or global? And how can you take quick and nimble action, when the very act of finding and consolidating the scientific knowledge is slow and laborious?
Now The Nature Conservancy, with the University of California Press, is publishing The Atlas of Global Conservation, which is a breakthrough in many regards. It is the first time that such comprehensive data on the status of our planet has been collected and integrated in one place, with graphic representation, for the benefit of conservation practitioners and a segment of the general public we call “the conservation concerned.”
Collecting and integrating this data was no small feat. While The Nature Conservancy was a catalyst, the product was actually a collaboration of some 70 institutions around the world and the work — sometimes the lifework — of hundreds of scientists, some crunching numbers in offices and many others collecting on-the-ground data in the far reaches of our planet. This book is testament to those institutions and the people who have been collecting this information for decades.
Conservation scientists, by necessity, are usually focused specialists, and they often operate in isolation and obscurity. Collecting and consolidating such dispersed and specialized data required some investigative sleuthing, and I commend The Nature Conservancy’s science team for its dedication and tenacity to see this project through.
While this book is itself a landmark accomplishment, it is the data behind the publication’s maps that truly has the power to transform. That data is now being made available online at nature.org/atlas to all who can use it to make better-informed decisions about conservation, land and water use, resource allocation, and a wealth of other planning and activities that impact our natural world.
There is undoubtedly some significant bad news contained in this atlas — diminished habitats, declining species and overdeveloped landscapes that threaten not only our planet’s rich web of life but also, ultimately, our own well-being. It is sobering to examine the maps here and realize that there is not a habitat on Earth that has not been affected by our single species.
The Nature Conservancy, however, has never been about doom and gloom; we are an organization of hope, and this atlas graphically documents the significant efforts under way to prevent degradation, stem loss and mount recovery. Furthermore, the data on which this book is based has tremendous prescriptive value. This data has the power to jump-start conservation blueprints on a scope and scale never before imagined.
Adapted from Mark Tercek’s foreword, “A New Vision of Our Home,” The Atlas of Global Conservation, by Jonathan Hoekstra, et al., University of California Press, 2010.
President and CEO
The Nature Conservancy