Our Science

2021 Geospatial Conservation Annual Report

How we’re using geospatial technology to find and address critical conservation gaps to meet our conservation goals for 2030.

Topographical map of East Kalimantan, Indonesia on the island of Borneo.
Topographical This topographical map of East Kalimantan, Indonesia on the island of Borneo, is part of TNC's geospatial work. © Chris Bruce/TNC

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These maps illustrate the range in which geospatial technology is used in priority areas.

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People and nature are facing the biggest, most complex environmental and social challenges of our times. We have years, not decades, to take on the interconnected crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. Geospatial technology plays an integral role in confronting these challenges with urgency, community and equity, for the health of our planet and all people.

The Nature Conservancy has ambitious goals to reach by 2030. These goals, which will inform and guide our work in the coming years, are to:

  • Remove or sequester 3 gigatons of CO2 each year
  • Protect 4 billion hectares of ocean
  • Protect 650 million hectares of land
  • Protect 1 million kilometers of rivers
  • Protect 30 million hectares of lakes and wetlands
  • Benefit 100 million people

Our 2030 Goals

  • Icon of carbon.

    3 B

    3 billion tons of carbon removed or sequestered each year

  • Icon of turtle.

    4 B

    4 billion hectares of ocean conserved

  • Icon of trees.

    650 M

    650 million hectares of land conserved

  • Icon of a river and trees.

    30 M

    30 million hectares of lakes and wetlands conserved

The Geospatial Annual Report & Map Book provides a snapshot of TNC’s geospatial conservation science work in four key geographies: the U.S. Appalachians, Kalimantan in Indonesia, the Brazilian Amazon, and Kenya. In each of these geographies, we use geospatial science to find and address critical conservation gaps and track progress.

We are harnessing best-in-class cloud & data technologies to advance the oldest of technologies—nature—to solve today's most pressing challenges.

Chief Conservation Officer

With data visualization, we create compelling conservation stories to communicate the relationship between current and desired conditions.

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Focal application: Kalimantan, Indonesia (Borneo)

Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, represents 1% of the world’s land. Despite this tiny footprint, it’s home to over 6% of the world’s terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity. Its tropical marine ecosystem is one of the richest and most diverse in the world, housing 23% of all mangroves.

A person stands in the water next to a small boat on the shore of the Sagah River among dense tropical forest in Indonesia's East Kalimantan region of Borneo.
Kalimantan Natural climate solutions can get Indonesia 40% of the way to their climate goals through avoiding forest and peatland conversion, improving fisheries, and encouraging community-centered approaches to sustainable forest management. © Megan Webb & Charlotte Stanley/TNC

Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara (YKAN), TNC’s affiliate in Indonesia, works in the Kalimantan region. YKAN engages a local coalition of communities, companies and governments in their climate goal of absorbing 1.4 gigatons of CO2e from the atmosphere, storing it in forests and wetlands. Natural climate solutions can get them 40% of the way there through avoiding forest and peatland conversion, improving fisheries, and encouraging community-centered approaches to sustainable forest management.

Map of Kalimantan, Indonesia, showing forest cover, intact forest landscape, protected areas, and coral reefs.
Mapping HCV Using remotely sensed imagery, YKAN maps the status of current land cover types, models habitat areas for sensitive species, and identifies conflicts with development.

Challenge: Balance economic growth with natural resource protection

Deforestation is a part of Indonesia’s past and present, making the country a top contributor to carbon emissions but also helping reduce poverty in local communities. Indonesia is on a mission to balance sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction with natural resource protection.

Protecting High Conservation Value (HCV) forests is critical to Indonesia’s goal, yet only 20% of these forests are protected. In marine ecosystems, less than 7% of remaining mangrove forests are protected. Shrimp farms, driven by global demand, have replaced many mangrove forests. However, intensive shrimp production in previously forested areas has led to a decline in shrimp farm productivity. Farmers are seeing less than ¼ of their usual yields. As farmers look for ways to make up for the declining yields, remaining mangroves are at increased risk.

Solution: Map HCV areas to improve livelihoods and build on past success

Geospatial analysis has helped identify conservation actions that can protect mangroves near existing shrimp farms. Using remotely sensed imagery, YKAN maps the status of current land cover types, models habitat areas for sensitive species, and identifies conflicts with development. Province-wide, spatial land use data targets key places to protect so we can chip away at these ambitious ecological and community goals.

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Our work in 4 priority geographies illustrate our global geospatial conservation work.

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YKAN builds on previous successes in this area. Collaborative landscape management in the Wehea-Kelay Orangutan habitat spurred a decision to identify twelve more HCV areas. These areas will be managed for endangered species, karst, mangroves, and critical ecosystem services.

This work compliments the HCV conservation goals to reduce shrimp aquaculture expansion into mangrove forests and restore converted areas. TNC is working to protect the second largest intact mangrove forest in the East Kalimantan Province through sustainable fishing and aquaculture knowledge sharing.

Young orangutan among the leaves of trees in Indonesia.
Conservation Goals Improve forest management, avoiding deforestation, and protecting land in Indonesia will have economic and ecological benefits. © Jez O'Hare

Several projects will be used as a model to inform mangrove protection and restoration in Kalimantan:

  • Use rare, threatened and endemic/native mangrove species for restoration.
  • Implement national policy that guides greenhouse gas mitigation through an aquaculture improvement plan.
  • Establish a government taskforce for mangrove management.

By 2030, YKAN’s goal is to improve forest management for 15.7 million hectares, avoid deforestation across 1.5 million hectares, and protect 1.75 million hectares of land. These conservation actions will improve shrimp farm productivity and restore mangrove forests, providing economic and ecological benefits.

Vinicius Uchoa, un plantador de árboles local, está ayudando a reforestar la Cordillera Mantiqueria del muy agotado Bosque Atlántico de Brasil.
Compensation for Restoration A pilot project in Brazil’s Mantiqueria mountains is compensating landowners for forest restoration. The team is expanding payments to even more acres. © Robert Clark

Looking ahead

We need to have a better understanding of where we’re working to achieve results in meeting our ambitious 2030 goals. Like the story from Indonesia's Kalimantan region, other focal applications in the report highlight how geospatial data are being leveraged to calculate our progress in achieving our 2030 organizational goals. A more comprehensive foundation of spatial data can help us get there by introducing additional transparency and efficiency in reporting on our conservation progress.

Trees in an agricultural field in 2017 after a landowner was paid for restoration efforts.
An agricultural field with cattle in Brazil's Mantiqueria mountains before forest restoration activities.
Forest Restoration Progress A pilot project in Brazil’s Mantiqueria mountains is compensating landowners for forest restoration. This summer, the team is expanding payments to even more acres. © City Hall of Extrema

In another case study in Brazil’s Mantiqueria mountains, landowners are compensated for converting pasture lands through restoration. Calculating acres of restored forest land is helping TNC build a scalable geospatial reporting system that can be integrated with the organization's financial-based accounting system. A future outcome of this work will be a dynamic “where we work” map, with the purpose of more effectively communicating and tracking our progress.

Thanks to our advanced collaborations principally with Esri, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft, we are able to address the needs of our conservation community with appropriate, timely, and innovative technology. TNC is harnessing the power of data and cloud technology to build geospatial science solutions that measure the success of our conservation efforts and align with our 2030 goals.

The spatially explicit conservation stories in this annual report support the integral role of geospatial technology as we set our sights on accomplishing these lofty ambitions for the health of our planet and all people.

Director of Conservation Programs

Download the report and visit our Geospatial Conservation Atlas for more information. The full 2021 Geospatial Annual Report & Map Book includes:

  • Four key geographics for achieving our 2030 goals: the U.S. Appalachians, Kalimantan in Indonesia, the Brazilian Amazon, and Kenya.
  • A first global analysis that summarizes development threats to Indigenous lands and opportunities for conservation actors to respond.
  • A global spatial analysis on the warming impact of methane emissions.
  • A look to future work in conservation accounting and geospatial reporting in tracking our goals.
  • Results from our annual survey that reached over 1,500 staff.
  • Maps that follow our emerging cartographic guidelines to define our "conservation map brand".
Get your 2021 Geospatial Annual Report & Map Book

The maps and use cases illustrate the range with which geospatial technology is used among four priority geographies around the world.

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Zach Ferdana
Zach Ferdana Director, Conservation & Geospatial Systems © Hannah Letinich/TNC

Media Contact

Zach Ferdaña
Director, Conservation & Geospatial Systems
The Nature Conservancy
Phone: 206-409-0041
Email: zferdana@tnc.org