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2022 Geospatial Annual Report

Mapping image with squiggly, colorful lines representing freshwater systems.

How we’re using geospatial technology and data to support The Nature Conservancy's 2030 goals for freshwater

Amazon Basin With more than 1.45 million kilometers of rivers and streams, the Amazon basin is the world's largest river system network. © TNC

Headshot of Jonathan Higgins with red rock formations in the background.
Jonathan Higgins This year’s Geospatial Annual Report is dedicated to freshwater and the influence of one extraordinary and determined thought leader at The Nature Conservancy. © TNC

Inspiration From a Beloved Freshwater Ecologist

Jonathan Higgins

This year’s Geospatial Annual Report is dedicated to freshwater and the influence of one extraordinary and determined thought leader at The Nature Conservancy, Jonathan Higgins.

Free-flowing rivers and other naturally functioning freshwater ecosystems sustain biodiversity, the food supply chain, drinking water, economies and cultures for billions of people worldwide. Therefore, their protection is critical to sustain these values.

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This edition focuses on how technology and data support TNC’s 2030 goals for freshwater.

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 Person holding up a fishing net with boaters and fishermen in the background.
Corraling Artisanal fishermen cast their nets on the Llanito swamp using a traditional fishing technique known as the "corral", whereby several fishing canoes corral the fish, Colombia. The method is sustainable as the fishermen catch the fish live and can return fish that are too small or that are species which they cannot consume or sell to local markets. At nearly 1,000 miles long, the Magdalena River covers 24% of the national territory and is an economic life-force for the more than 30 million Colombians that live throughout the basin. With the help of the Ministry of Environment and the river’s environmental authority, Cormagdalena, the Conservancy is implementing conservation strategies throughout the basin. © Paul Smith

TNC’s 2030 Freshwater Conservation Goals

Our rivers, lakes, wetlands and floodplains are essential to all life—ours and the various species that call these places home. To respond to today’s dual crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, The Nature Conservancy has set forth audacious 2030 goals—to conserve 1 million kilometers of rivers and 30 million hectares of lakes and wetlands, delivering benefits to 45 million people. However, our current portfolio of projects is likely to carry us approximately halfway toward these goals. Therefore, during the next seven years, we will double the impact of our investments by advancing both traditional and novel strategies that deliver freshwater outcomes and direct this work toward places that offer the greatest opportunity for conservation at scale with lasting impacts.

A man paddles a small boat on the Amazon river.
Brazilian Amazon Tekakro Xikrin fishing on Rio Bacaja near the village of Pot-Kro, in the Brazilian Amazon. © Kevin Arnold

Protecting Freshwater Ecosystems in the Amazon


With an area of 6.9 million square kilometers, the Amazon River Basin is the largest in the world and has a profound impact on global and local biodiversity, climate and people. The Amazon is the most biodiverse region on earth for freshwater fauna and boasts more fish and aquatic megafauna species than anywhere else on Earth. For the Amazon’s freshwater biodiversity to thrive, it must be sustained by an extensive network of healthy, free-flowing rivers connected with floodplains and wetlands. However, to maintain its health and biodiversity, quick action is required as these unique aquatic ecosystems are being altered due to hydroelectric dams, mining, oil extraction, deforestation, conversion to agriculture and other pressures facing the integrity of the Amazon River. These threats are projected to grow in number and intensity in the near future.

In addition to its amazing biodiversity, the Amazon River is a lifeline for more than 47 million people living on its riverbanks and throughout its basin. Notably, the Amazon Basin is home to nearly 2.7 million Indigenous People from more than 400 diverse ethnic groups.

Considering the global importance of the Amazon River Basin for freshwater biodiversity conservation and the people who rely on it, TNC has placed this area at the forefront of our conservation vision for 2030. Our work aims to maintain a connected and resilient basin for biodiversity and freshwater ecosystems by helping societies to prosper, supporting Indigenous Peoples and local communities in sustaining their livelihoods and cultures and contributing to global climate regulation.

As part of our conservation planning process, we developed a prioritization plan across the sub-watersheds of the basin. The spatial analysis for prioritization included eight biodiversity and one cultural dataset and six threat-based data layers. We identified priority areas in places where high biodiversity and high threat values coincided. We also accounted for low connectivity due to existing dams.

Map of South America with the Amazon River featured.

Mapping Conservation Goals

Based on the conservation planning principles of sustaining viable ecosystem structure and function to support Amazon biodiversity, we set high-level, long-term conservation goals. This spatial analysis of sub-watershed priorities provides us with the right blueprint to track and meet these ambitious goals. The most critical component of this plan is the maintenance of connected corridors in free-flowing rivers and headwaters that remain connected to the main stems. 

Amazon Basin Diversity Goals

To maintain diversity, our goals for the Amazon Basin include*:

  • graphic of a river running through forest.


    of main-river connected corridors remain functional/healthy

  • graphic depicting wetlands.


    of wetland areas and flood pulses remain functional/healthy

  • Graphic with two fishes.


    of headwaters are connected to main stems

*All of these include the preservation of livelihood values for communities and Indigenous Peoples.

As TNC moves toward implementation, we are developing explicit conservation strategies to carry out in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil where we, and a variety of partners, are promoting a system-based approach. These strategies will both help us achieve our conservation goals in the Amazon Basin by 2030 and realize our long-term vision beyond 2030 of protecting 23,180 kilometers of free-flowing large and very large rivers, 535,454 kilometers of free-flowing and connected small and medium-sized rivers and more than 66 million hectares of wetlands.

  • The Amazon presents a significant opportunity for durable freshwater protection of areas, including Indigenous territories, that encompass 55% of the Amazon Basin. With the initiation of the recent Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, countries in the Amazon Basin have committed to protecting 30% of ecosystems inclusive of inland waters. Many current protected areas fail to address key ecological factors necessary to maintain freshwater biodiversity, often lacking specific management interventions for critical issues such as pollution and connectivity loss. TNC is working to increase freshwater protection and strengthen the territorial and resource use rights of Indigenous and local communities, ensuring the durability of species movement within the Amazon River network.

  • Contributing to water and food security through the implementation of nature-based solutions and community-based fisheries management is of significant focus for TNC in the Amazon. Building on more than 20 years of successful experience in promoting long-term mechanisms for water source protection in the region (i.e., several mature water funds protect water sources in the Amazon Basin), TNC is conducting spatial mapping of water security assets to guide nature-based investments with donors and investors, supporting the creation and management of new water reserves in Ecuador to guarantee water provision to local populations and leveraging policies to improve these solutions.

  • In areas with high flows, hydropower is one of the fastest-growing sectors due to soaring energy needs and a shift from carbon-based energies. There are already plans for many more hydropower dams in the future, which would cause significant ecological impacts, threatening the connectivity of free-flowing rivers. The nuances around hydropower as a viable alternative to carbon-based energy illustrates why a shared strategic framework is needed across stakeholder groups. As a science-based organization, TNC is leading a case study in the Marañon watershed in Peru to strengthen decision-making around dam construction to reduce impacts on people and nature in energy planning. TNC is committed to supporting countries as they transition to low-carbon economies, avoiding projects that can have negative impacts on the environmental and socio-economic landscape.

Aerial view of the Amazon River.
Amazon Amazonía © TNC

Advancing these conservation strategies will amount to 15 million hectares of wetlands and 200,000 kilometers of rivers under protection, thereby providing meaningful progress toward our 2030 conservation goals.

Download the report and visit our Geospatial Conservation Atlas for more information. The full 2022 Geospatial Annual Report & Map Book includes:

  • A tribute to Jonathan Higgins, our beloved freshwater ecologist who passed away last year.
  • A strategic focus on our 2030 goals for freshwater.
  • Results from our annual survey that reached more than 1,500 staff.
  • TNC’s geospatial conservation science in action with a feature story in the Amazon Basin.
  • A river ecosystem global analysis that summarizes rivers in crisis and those that are free-flowing with opportunities for conservation actors to respond.
  • Lake Tanganyika Basin map spotlight.
  • Further advancing our work in conservation accounting with geospatial systems.


Get your 2022 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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Headshot of 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

Cartographic map of Amazon basin.
Geospatial Conservation at TNC 2022 ANNUAL REPORT © TNC