It has been a challenging year for the environment. Our planet faces many threats, from a growing loss of habitat to the constantly-unfolding danger of a changing climate. But as we look back on the year and look ahead to the next horizon, there is a lot of reason to be hopeful.
Humanity has a quality of finding creative solutions to challenges. At The Nature Conservancy, we’re bringing together innovative minds and technologies to protect the forests, rivers and oceans we all depend on. These vital wins to protect nature are only possible because of your generous support.
Here are 9 reasons to be hopeful:
A large swath of ocean and a unique archipelago are now protected
81,000 square miles of the Indian Ocean (the size of Great Britain) are now protected off of Seychelles in the form of 2 marine protected areas. These protected areas are the results of a first-of-its-kind deal that TNC brokered that catalyzes the island nation to conserve its precious natural resources. The smaller area, a modest 29,000 square miles, protects the isolated Aldabra archipelago, home to an ecosystem with evolutionary diversity as inspiring as that of the Galapagos. It’s home to the endangered dugong and 100,000 rare tortoises that breed only there. The other 52,000 square miles include a stretch of deep ocean important to the country’s fishing and tourism industries.
Elephants and people can both thrive in Botswana
Every year, Botswana’s Okavango Basin floods to become a desert oasis that supports Africa’s single-largest elephant population and other wildlife. TNC is partnering with National Geographic, WWF and local governments to make sure this natural wonder can survive present and future challenges, such as proposed dams and irrigation projects. TNC is bringing its expertise in managing watersheds and in innovative finance to the partnership, which aims to ensure that this breathtaking wilderness has the flow of water it needs to thrive.
The major city that almost ran out of water is now saving months of it
The notion of a major city running out of freshwater may have been hard to imagine until last year, when the South African capital of Cape Town very nearly reached “Day Zero.” To prevent Cape Town from depleting its water supply, TNC is partnering with a team of local women to recover up to two months of water by removing the invasive plants around the city that are soaking up rainwater before it can enter into the city’s water table.
We can protect the world’s largest temperate grassland
Mongolia’s Eastern Steppe, at 10 times the size of Africa’s Serengeti, is the world’s largest intact temperate grassland. It’s a rare refuge for gazelles, snow leopards, and critically endangered saiga antelope that’s threatened by global demand for gold, coal and copper mined in the region. We used our science to identify the areas of the country most critical for conservation and helped the government designate 26 million acres – an area the size of Kentucky, as protected areas. This is a monumental step forward for the protection of grasslands, the planet’s least protected land habitat. This year, TNC hosted Mongolian herders and community members at our Zumwalt Prairie Preserve in Oregon to learn from one another how to take even better care of grasslands. TNC’s 10 years of conservation work in the country is producing results.
We can preserve the integrity of Europe’s last free-flowing rivers
In Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and other parts of the Balkans, pristine aqua-blue rivers give the region a fantastical quality. The region’s rivers, remarkably undisturbed and home to a wealth of different species, have earned the distinction of the “blue heart of Europe.” But now, the Balkan region is at the brink of a hydropower development boom of global proportions, with hundreds, if not thousands, of new dams planned and under construction. TNC is advocating for smart renewable energy use in the Balkans without sacrificing habitat. We’re sharing our expertise in river planning, including most recently convening decision-makers from the Balkans with our conservation team in Wyoming who have first-hand experience keeping scenic rivers as untouched by dams as possible.
Planting the seeds for a forest rebound in India
The Narmada River supports an area of high biodiversity in the highlands of Central India. Mouse deer and sloth bears live here, as do 30% of India’s tigers. 25 million people also rely on the river for food and drinking water. But the health of the river has been threatened by deforestation in recent times. TNC is working to bring back forests along the entire length of the river. As a start, the Conservancy scientifically identified locations along the Narmada where reforestation would have the highest benefit for wildlife and people, and selected a critical 3 mile portion to start bringing forest back. That 3 mile stretch will be used as a model for reforesting elsewhere on the river.
Ensuring a future for Brazil’s vast savanna by sharing data
Soy is seemingly everywhere in the products people use daily. Increased soy farming in Brazil has driven losses to threatened ecosystems like the Amazon and the Cerrado, a unique, biologically-rich savanna three times the size of Texas. To ensure the best possible future for the Cerrado, TNC released a tool that helps soy companies drive their agriculture into previously-cleared areas instead of disturbing more natural habitat. The tool arms these companies with the environmental and economic data they need to avoid cutting down more of the Cerrado, a habitat important for its biodiversity and its ability to store carbon.
Unprecedented levels of detail are leading to smarter coral conservation
Coral reefs are an iconic and essential part of the Caribbean. And though they’ve been declining in the region for decades due to overfishing, pollution and the effects of climate change, there is hope. By combining TNC expertise with the latest technology in satellite imagery, we’re creating the first-ever high-resolution maps of reefs in the Caribbean. With this kind of never-before-seen detail captured by plane and satellite, we can support better, smarter conservation for these critical ecosystems.
Passing a much-needed fix for how we fight wildfires is in place
Wildfire seasons around the globe are becoming longer and more catastrophic than ever. For decades in the United States, federal funding for urgently fighting wildfires was taken from the budget of critical forest restoration that could prevent or lessen these fires. A policy fix was needed, and you stepped up to make your voice heard. TNC, along with our trustees and members, led a four-year campaign to change this funding structure in a way that allocates up to an additional $2.95 billion each year to pay for major fires. This policy win strengthens the government’s ability to proactively make forests less fire-prone without sacrificing its ability to reactively fight wildfires.
Like rings on a tree, every year is an opportunity to build upon and grow stronger. The scale of our work is constantly growing and we’re embracing it head-on. Like any of the work we’ve accomplished over the past 67 years, we could not do it alone.