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Coalition Forms to Solve World's Most Urgent Conservation Challenges

The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) today announced the launch of Science for Nature and People (SNAP), a groundbreaking collaboration aimed at solving the world’s most pressing conservation and human development challenges. The announcement was made at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).

SNAP is designed to find practical, knowledge-based ways in which the conservation of nature can help provide food, water, energy and security to Earth's fast-growing population. SNAP will tackle high-profile problems where the solution has a clear pathway to implementation.

SNAP was announced at the CGI underway in New York City. CGI's 2013 theme, Mobilizing for Impact, explores ways that CGI members and member organizations can be more effective in leveraging individuals, partner organizations and key resources in their commitment efforts.

This unprecedented collaboration will harness the expertise of many organizations, scientists, policymakers and practitioners—breaking down the traditional walls between disciplines, institutions and sectors.

SNAP will utilize working groups to research, analyze and develop solutions to these challenges. The program is inviting scientists and specialists from around the globe to submit proposals for other working groups. In each case the goal is to fill knowledge gaps and advance solutions to urgent problems at the intersection of nature and human well-being.

The first working group is already underway, addressing how to balance the development of infrastructure like dams with conservation in the western Amazon.

“As the world’s population pushes past 7 billion, the correlation between nature and the food, water, energy, and security needs of people becomes increasingly clear,” said Peter Kareiva, TNC's chief scientist and the acting director of SNAP. “SNAP endeavors to illustrate and explore this link between modern conservation and economic development in ways that will benefit all humankind, especially the planet’s poorest and most marginalized citizens. This collaboration will have immediate appeal and relevance to industry, politicians and average people.”

“SNAP will become the go-to place for practitioners and policymakers from around the world to seek and find solutions to their most pressing problems around human well-being and the conservation of nature,"said WCS Executive Vice President for Conservation and Science and member of SNAP’s governing board, John Robinson. "To announce this collaboration at the Clinton Global Initiative speaks to the far-reaching impact that SNAP’s results could have on future policy applications.”

Frank Davis, NCEAS director and a member of SNAP’s governing board, added: "The complex ecological and social issues that SNAP will be tackling will need the concerted effort of decision makers, scientists and information engineers. These types of collaborations are challenging, but our experience at NCEAS is that they can also be personally and professionally rewarding and can identify productive pathways to implementation."

SNAP’s founding organizations will tap the expertise and local knowledge of thousands of staff members in more than 65 countries, providing the capacity to actively test strategies that conserve nature and benefit people. These organizations have a proven track record of assembling multidisciplinary teams to find answers to the planet's greatest challenges. The collaboration will also soon be adding partners from the humanitarian sector to extend its expertise and reach.

SNAP’s Initial Projects Underway:


1. Integrating Natural Defenses into Coastal Disaster Risk Reduction

The recent tsunami in Japan showed how even monumental built capital (levees, sea walls and artificial barrier islands) can be overcome by just one severe environmental event. Similarly, research and observations in the wake of recent hurricanes that have affected the Caribbean islands and the U.S. have demonstrated that natural systems can play critical roles in buffering people against coastal storm impacts. SNAP will focus on exploring how conserving existing coastal habitat and restoring what has been lost can help protect coastal communities and livelihoods from the impacts that result from storms—such as hydro-meteorological hazards like Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina and other extreme environmental events.

2. Western Amazonia: Balancing Infrastructure Development and Conservation of Waters, Wetlands and Fisheries

The Amazon Basin is the largest river system in the world, and the Western Amazon contains the largest areas of flooded forests, and wetlands in the basin—areas critical to food provision and drinking water for tens of millions of people as well as to subsistence and commercial fisheries.

How might conservation of waters and wetlands and local food security and economies dependent on them be balanced with the large-scale infrastructure development already underway, such as roads and expanding agricultural frontiers and hydrocarbon exploitation, as well as planned dams needed to support the growing urban populations? The SNAP Western Amazonia Working Group will promote integrated river basin management and planning informed by science and “translated” into a language and format usable by decision-makers.

“We aim to generate knowledge that is science-based and practical," added Robinson. "When filtered through key institutions ready to use it, the findings will lead to better policies, more effective field practices and durable economies that value nature’s services and secure the livelihoods of families at risk.”

Working groups will convene periodically over two years to address these challenges, generating reports, publications and materials to support decision-makers throughout that time period.

SNAP has been generously supported by Shirley and Harry Hagey, Steve and Roberta Denning, Seth Neiman, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

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