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REVIEW: The evolving linkage between conservation science and practice at The Nature Conservancy

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      Abstract

      The Nature Conservancy (TNC) was founded by ecologists as a United States land trust to purchase parcels of habitat for the purpose of scientific study. It has evolved into a global organization working in 35 countries ‘to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends’. TNC is now the world 's largest conservation non-governmental organization (NGO), an early adopter of advances in ecological theory and a producer of new science as a result of practising conservation.The Nature Conservancy 's initial scientific innovation was the use of distributional data for rare species and ecological communities to systematically target lands for conservation. This innovation later evolved into a more rigorous approach known as ‘Conservation by Design’ that contained elements of systematic conservation planning, strategic planning and monitoring and evaluation.The next scientific transition at TNC was a move to landscape-scale projects, motivated by ideas from landscape ecology. Because the scale at which land could be set aside in areas untouched by humans fell far short of the spatial scale demanded by conservation, TNC became involved with best management practices for forestry, grazing, agriculture, hydropower and other land uses.A third scientific innovation at TNC came with the pursuit of multiobjective planning that accounts for economic and resource needs in the same plans that seek to protect biodiversity.The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment prompted TNC to become increasingly concerned with ecosystem services and the material risk to people posed by ecosystem deterioration.Finally, because conservation depends heavily upon negotiation, TNC has recently recruited social scientists, economists and communication experts. One aspect still missing, however, is a solid scientific understanding of thresholds that should be averted.Synthesis and applications. Over its 60-plus year history, scientific advances have informed The Nature Conservancy (TNC) 's actions and strategies, and in turn the evolving practice of conservation has altered the type of science sought by TNC in order to maximize its conservation effectiveness.

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      Systematic conservation planning.

      The realization of conservation goals requires strategies for managing whole landscapes including areas allocated to both production and protection. Reserves alone are not adequate for nature conservation but they are the cornerstone on which regional strategies are built. Reserves have two main roles. They should sample or represent the biodiversity of each region and they should separate this biodiversity from processes that threaten its persistence. Existing reserve systems throughout the world contain a biased sample of biodiversity, usually that of remote places and other areas that are unsuitable for commercial activities. A more systematic approach to locating and designing reserves has been evolving and this approach will need to be implemented if a large proportion of today's biodiversity is to exist in a future of increasing numbers of people and their demands on natural resources.
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        Anticipating critical transitions.

        Tipping points in complex systems may imply risks of unwanted collapse, but also opportunities for positive change. Our capacity to navigate such risks and opportunities can be boosted by combining emerging insights from two unconnected fields of research. One line of work is revealing fundamental architectural features that may cause ecological networks, financial markets, and other complex systems to have tipping points. Another field of research is uncovering generic empirical indicators of the proximity to such critical thresholds. Although sudden shifts in complex systems will inevitably continue to surprise us, work at the crossroads of these emerging fields offers new approaches for anticipating critical transitions.
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          Oyster Reefs at Risk and Recommendations for Conservation, Restoration, and Management

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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]The Nature Conservancy 4722 Latona Avenue NE, Seattle, WA, 91805, USA
            [2 ]The Nature Conservancy 40 E. Main Street, Suite 200, Bozeman, MT, 59715, USA
            [3 ]Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA, 95053, USA
            Author notes
            *Correspondence author. E-mail: pkareiva@ 123456tnc.org

            Handling Editor: Philip Hulme

            Journal
            J Appl Ecol
            J Appl Ecol
            jpe
            The Journal of Applied Ecology
            BlackWell Publishing Ltd (Oxford, UK )
            0021-8901
            1365-2664
            October 2014
            19 May 2014
            : 51
            : 5
            : 1137-1147
            4301179
            10.1111/1365-2664.12259
            © 2014 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society.

            This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

            Categories
            Special Profile: Putting Applied Ecology Into Practice

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