Conservation Science in Action

We can create a world in which people and nature thrive – as long as we follow the science.

Can we truly advance human development and protect nature at the same time? As the world’s population grows to 9 billion, this is a key question – one that most certainly impacts our work at The Nature Conservancy. 

Because science is at the root of everything we do, we analyzed whether the outcome of our vision – creating a world in which people and nature thrive – is truly achievable. The answer? Yes. But only if we work together—and across the aisle—to deploy science-based conservation methods like increasing sustainable energy development, mitigating the impacts of the infrastructure we build, and growing crops in a sustainable way. As our CEO writes in a recent blog, this approach is especially important during times of political change.

Keep reading to see our science-based approach in action.

Agricultural Revolution

9 billion people – that’s a lot of mouths to feed with the same—or less—acreage on which to do grow crops. We must get smarter about how we grow and raise the food on which we depend – so that nature can thrive, and so that we use the world’s dwindling supply of fresh water sustainably. We’re working with the agricultural sector to create methods that will help us accomplish the best of both worlds.

 

Science Breakthrough 

The West’s sagebrush landscape is disappearing, and the iconic sage grouse along with it. Traditional restoration efforts are costly and have a very low success rate. Using a pasta machine from Italy, The Nature Conservancy and its partners have discovered an innovative way to restore sagebrush habitat. The pasta machine is used to create "ravioli" filled with sagebrush seeds. These "ravioli" provide a microclimate for the seeds that improves germination rates and gives them "power in numbers" to push through dry, hard soil.

Protecting Turtles with Technology

If you’re a turtle, the latest smartphone or computer is likely the last thing on your mind. But if you’re a scientist trying to help turtles, technology is an invaluable tool. In Nevada, Conservancy researchers are fitting Western pond turtles with telemetry transmitters to track their movements so we can do a better job of protecting them and their habitat in the future.

Nature is a Solution

Natural solutions, like oyster reefs, marshes and living shorelines, can play an important role for both the coastal communities and wildlife that are dealing with the impacts of storm-related erosion and flooding. Along the Jersey shore, the Conservancy has installed 3,000 feet of oyster reef, constructed from a combination of materials, including “oyster castles,” stackable, interlocking blocks of concrete blocks that encourage oyster larvae to settle. This project serves as a model for governments, land owners and residents to see the value of a renewed living shoreline in action.

Follow That Bird

In Illinois, the Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve provides crucial breeding habitat for waterfowl such as black-necked stilts, a species that hasn’t nested in the region for decades. Researchers from the Forbes Biological Station have spent the last four years collecting data that will help the Conservancy and other natural resources organizations and agencies best manage waterfowl habitat in the Illinois River Valley.

Fanning the Flames

When South Carolina’s Pinnacle Mountain caught fire in Fall 2016, state agencies stayed ahead of the flames by setting controlled burns in the fire’s path. Their efforts were successful, starving the wildfire of the dry, dead ground cover it needed to spread. The Nature Conservancy is working to bring more safe, effective, controlled burns to the mountains, both to reduce future wildfire fuel and to increase food and habitat for wildlife.

 

Mapping Marine Migration

A new report from The Nature Conservancy reveals previously undiscovered migratory highways, or “blueways” used by marine species in the Gulf of Mexico. The report confirms that the Gulf is one of the most important—yet vastly unprotected—migration areas on earth. Understanding the migratory pathways of fish, sea turtles, marine mammals, and birds is critical not only to species survival, but also to the overall health of the Gulf of Mexico Large Marine Ecosystem.

Tackling Climate Change

It’s well-established that healthy forests absorb the atmospheric carbon that contributes to climate change. Conventional wisdom tells us the more trees in a forest, the more carbon gets absorbed. It turns out that the size and health of those trees may be more important than numbers, according to a new study by Conservancy staff. This research will allow the Conservancy to help reduce the impacts of climate change while restoring our forests.

Nature and Cities

In the D.C. metro area, The Nature Conservancy is unleashing the power of nature to help make cities more resilient places for people and nature. In 2015, the Conservancy worked with the First United Methodist Church in Hyattsville, Maryland, to install natural stormwater filters—like trees and rain gardens—in their three-acre parking lot. The project helps to remove nearly 3 million gallons of annual stormwater runoff and provides a prototype for expanding the Conservancy’s stormwater partnerships in D.C.

Rock the Reef

The Nature Conservancy recently teamed up with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Central Michigan University to restore a key limestone reef near Elk Rapids, Michigan. The reef is part of a complex that is the only place in Lake Michigan where three important native fish species—lake herring, lake whitefish and lake trout—are all known to spawn. The project involved lowering 450 tons of limestone rock into the Grand Traverse Bay with scientists working under water to rebuild the reef.

 

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