As humans alter Earth’s surface, global biodiversity faces unprecedented extinctions threatening the future of both nature and people. Protecting land is the best way to save species and it remains central to The Nature Conservancy’s mission. Last Chance Ecosystems, a new mapping tool, provides a global, science-based picture to help TNC and partners identify the most important places for protection.
Last Chance Ecosystems bring together multiple, state-of-the-art global assessments developed by TNC and collaborators. The tool can identify the places which, if conserved, will reduce extinction rates and protect the best representations of the least-protected global habitat types, ensuring we move the needle on our goal to conserve the diversity of life on Earth. You can view the mapping platform here. (Guidance on how to use the mapping platform and more details about the information it contains can be found here.)
What is a Last Chance Ecosystem?
- Places that are the last opportunities to protect intact habitat within Crisis Ecosystems. In a Crisis Ecosystem, much of the original habitat has been converted, and what remains is not well protected.
Why are these places important? Where entire ecosystems are lost, we not only lose its unique biodiversity but the functions and services that nature provides for our own species. Some ecosystems on the planet are well protected, but Crisis Ecosystems face the double threat of massive conversion and little protection – and deserve special attention. TNC considers protecting representative examples of all ecosystems on Earth to be a critical objective of our protection work.
- Places whose protection is disproportionately important for reducing mammal extinction. In other words, places that provide the last chance for survival of many of these species.
Why are these places important? Terrestrial mammals are one of the most imperiled groups of species, and the biggest threat to them remains habitat loss through land conversion. Risk of terrestrial mammal species loss is also a good indicator of the status of other biodiversity – and signals where the conservation movement must double-down. Reducing extinction risk is a core goal of biodiversity conservation and an important driver for TNC and our partners.
A Guide for Our Strategy
Together, these Last Chance Ecosystems provide a global guide of where TNC must urgently ensure the success of our global terrestrial protection efforts – be they creation of national parks or reserves, securing land tenure and capacities for indigenous peoples, or acquisitions and easements. TNC will take action to secure these places using this cutting-edge science, coupled with careful evaluations of opportunity, cost, and social and political conditions.
These maps are dynamic: the amount of land protected and land converted in a region, for example, will continue to change. Our scientists around the world continue to monitor the status of these Last Chance Ecosystems and the efficacy of our protection efforts to ensure every protection dollar is one well spent.
A Resilient and Connected Network for the United States
TNC has a long history and extensive presence in the US, and our land protection work there is guided by complementary analyses that have identified a network of important sites for protection across the contiguous 48 states. The Resilience and Connected Network are places and corridors that, if conserved, could sustain North America's natural diversity by allowing species to adapt to climate impacts. Currently, 44 percent of this network is already secured against conversion to development. The Resilient and Connected Network map can also be viewed on the Last Chance Ecosystems mapping platform, and more details about the assessments that contribute to it can be found in the associated guidance document.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.