Whole Systems

How the Conservancy's approach to conservation has changed over time.

For the past 26 years, The Nature Conservancy has worked to protect the plants, animals and lands of Louisiana.  We've had great success - protecting 285,989 acres through purchases, conservation easements and cooperative projects with other state-wide organizations.  Yet as with most things in life, our focus has evolved over time.   Historically, TNC's work focused on maintaining only one attribute of whole systems - species composition - however ecosystem structure, function and processes, are also important.  Currently, we are organizing our work at a larger scale - the scale of whole systems.  Because viability of plant and animal species, and natural plant communities is often dictated by complex ecological factors, such as hydrology, fire, dispersal, and minimum population size, the scale of TNC's work has, by necessity, greatly increased in recent years.

Working in whole systems is not about abandoning past efforts and successes or moving away from species or ecological community conservation.  It is about working towards a more resilient and long-term strategy for their conservation.  We envision a future where people and nature are better connected, and conservation becomes part of the larger social awareness.

Louisiana's history and culture are deeply tied to the land and waters that surround us, and to the natural resources they provide.

With over 125,000 miles of rivers, bayous, and streams and abundant rainfall, water has been and will continue to be important and inextricably linked to Louisiana's fish and wildlife resources, economy and culture.

Forests of many varieties once covered over 70% of the land mass of Louisiana, and currently cover nearly 50% of the state, making them among the most significant features in Louisiana.  They provided critically important pant and wildlife habitat, protect sources of freshwater and support forest based economies.

Louisiana's coast provides not only the backbone of the state's economy; it is also the foundation for all life in the area.  Coastal habitats help absorb the constant wind and wave energy along the coast, acting as a natural buffer to storms.  Astonishingly, almost half of our coastal habitats have vanished in the last 100 years.

For these reasons, TNC Louisiana has chosen to focus our work on Freshwater, Forests and the Coast.  As we plan for the next five years, we are identifying science-based conservation strategies designed to consider both local and whole systems at scales sufficient enough to maintain them through time.  Success will require the design and execution of strategies across landscapes to ensure that a whole system can self-maintain its key ecological functions, and continue to provide important ecological services to people in the future.