For more than 400 million years, natural forces have made the Appalachians one of the world's most resilient, diverse and carbon-rich landscapes. This ancient landscape spans roughly 2,000 miles from Alabama to the Canadian Maritimes and represents a vast, nearly unbroken chain of forested mountains, valleys, wetlands and rivers.
But pressure from human activities such as urban development, mining, pollution, industrial forestry and extensive fragmentation caused by dams and roads—all of which are exacerbated by climate change—threaten the health of the Appalachians; thereby threatening public and economic health as well. Currently, just 26% of the Appalachian landscape is protected.
- 64 high-priority bird species use the Appalachians as a critical migration corridor.
- 80,000 occurrences of rare species can be found in the Appalachians.
- Bobcat, black bear, moose, elk and other wide-ranging iconic mammals move through the Appalachians following natural corridors.
- 250 tree species found in the Appalachians occur nowhere else in the world.
By protecting and restoring the Appalachians, we can safeguard biodiversity, help limit warming, improve human well-being, and even find protection from the consequences of climate change, like intensified flooding and storms. Conserving the great Appalachian range is key to sustaining the Eastern U.S.
As one of the most globally significant landscapes for tackling climate change and conserving biodiversity, the Appalachians represent a place of hope for people and nature. With a long history of working in this geography and as the only conservation organization operating across the entire Appalachians region, The Nature Conservancy is uniquely positioned to ensure the Appalachains remain healthy, connected and resilient.
Appalachians by the Numbers
Oxygen for 1.8 billion people
of all above-ground carbon
Generates approximately $25 billion in recreation spending
Mitigates 1.3 million tons of pollution
The Promise of the Appalachians
Evidence of the Appalachians’ role as a buffer against climate change goes back to the Pleistocene—the age of woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats—when the Appalachians acted as a refuge for many species during the most recent Ice Age. This landscape was first occupied and stewarded by Indigenous People and in large part, it is due to generations of Indigenous stewardship that the Appalachians remain resilient and intact.
Now because of climate change, nature is on the move and it’s heading for the Appalachians. As the climate changes, rising temperatures, extreme weather events and other related impacts are altering and destroying habitats. In response, plant and animal species are shifting their ranges northward and to higher elevation in search of refuge. In fact, our studies show that plants and animals are moving 11 miles north and 36 feet higher in elevation each decade.
The Appalachians provide natural solutions for combating the climate crisis. The verdant forests have a remarkable ability to absorb and store excess carbon—an estimated 56% of the region’s above-ground carbon—while the ancient mountains provide refuge from warming temperatures for a multitude of rare and iconic species. The Appalachains are the lungs and lifeblood of the East, providing oxygen, clean drinking water, jobs and recreational opportunities to millions of people.
Imagine a healthy, resilient and connected Appalachians landscape that supports the co-prosperity of people and nature for generations to come. To achieve this vision, The Nature Conservancy is working across geographical and political boundaries to implement bold solutions.
Using innovative mapping and the best-available science to guide our work, we’re working from North to South across the entire Appalachians with the help of partners, supporters, friends and allies.
Our Key Strategies for the Appalachians
We've identified three key strategies to mitigate climate change, sustain biodiversity and conserve the Appalachians as a place where nature and people thrive:
Bold Vision, Bold Action
Bold visions require bold action, and the time to act is now. Until now, the story of this landscape has been authored by the most powerful forces on Earth. Now, we’re the authors. The decisions we make over the next decade will change the future of the Appalachians for millions of years.
Conserving the Appalachians will demand a strong, collaborative movement of diverse stakeholders. Together, we have an unprecedented opportunity to preserve one of the world’s most resilient, connected and biologically rich landscapes for future generations—and in doing so, leave our own legacy. The impacts of our shared success will be written in the future of life itself across North America. Will you join us?
Places We Protect
Cove Mountain Preserve
New land acquisition creates a 14-mile stretch of protected land critical for species adaptation to climate change.
Appalachian Climate Escape Route
As the climate warms, how will North America's plants and animals adapt? The forests of Appalachia have the resilience to provide a stronghold for species.