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Connectivity Across Large Landscapes with Our Mosaic Model


Strategic Area: Species - Wild Places -
Content Type: Blog
Country: Bolivia - Colombia - Ecuador - Mexico - Peru -

Our Mosaic Model is part of our conservation strategy to connect protected areas.

Although protecting each individual ecosystem is important, whether it be the habitat of an endangered species or an ecosystem that stores large quantities of carbon, our Mosaic Model emphasizes connecting and protecting larger eco-regions which we call “mosaics.” This strategy considers the connectivity and dynamic processes across ecosystems and large landscapes. Helping to improve ecological flows and species movement in more dynamic conserved areas makes long-term protection more likely.

So, what exactly are mosaics? 

In what is traditionally considered an “art mosaic,” an individual tile may be beautiful on its own, but when integrated with other tiles, working with varying colors, shapes and patterns a striking image emerges.

In the field of conservation ecology, “landscape mosaics” work similarly in that they combine varying ecosystems, or patches of land, ultimately coming together to form a networking, functioning landscape. While incredibly wonderful on its own, each ecosystem still relies on surrounding ecosystems to maintain full health.

Why are mosaics important? And what do they have to do with connectivity?

By combining ecosystems together in these landscape mosaics, networks of wildlife movement are formed. This helps maintain whole species’ survival. The movement of individuals is important for genetic flow, which allows for more adaptation to a changing climate and building resistance to degrading ecosystems. Some wildlife travel long distances to migrate seasonally, others need to disperse away from their natal groups to find new home ranges to prevent inbreeding and competition. For many animals, their movement across landscapes also pollinates or disperses seeds, which increases biodiversity.

Unfortunately, deforestation, development, and other extractive activities, are causing ecosystems or small areas of land to be isolated from surrounding ecosystems, thus making it harder for wildlife to roam. These ecological islands isolate wildlife, reducing landscape biodiversity and species’ genetic pools. Overall, the disruption of connectivity stifles ecological processes essential to the well-being of our planet – including clean air and water, nutrient cycling, food security, and climate regulation.

It is therefore vital to keep ecosystems interconnected and interacting, rather than just protecting individual ecosystems or small isolated habitats.

Our Mosaic Model

Our approach is unique in that we not only consider the dynamic web of nature across ecosystems but also work alongside communities and Indigenous groups, as well as national and subnational governments, to define and achieve conservation goals.

This model allows us to approach each new protected area with a number of factors in mind, including: connectivity, intact forest, jurisdictional boundaries, shared cultural values, and/or economic similarities, just to name a few.

Partnering with local communities, Indigenous nationalities and local governments for long-term management of our protected areas.

Gaining protection for these areas is just half the battle; our work is ongoing, and we must continue to ensure these areas maintain their protected status. In our 22 years, our strategy of partnering and building relationships with Indigenous communities and local governments has paid off, as we have not had a single protected area reversed. By working with Indigenous communities directly, we have a better chance of conserving these important landscapes for the long term. By protecting ancestral culture and the land they live on we are also helping mitigate climate change since millions of tons of carbon is stored in these ecosystems. 

Monitoring our Mosaics by examining “Vital Signs”

Forest Waterfall
Gonzalo Pizarro Municipal Reserve in Northern Ecuador

Nature and Culture has developed long-term strategies for the continued protection of our landscape mosaics. After an area is officially protected, it requires continuous monitoring and evaluation. In order to maintain healthy mosaics, we provide ongoing supervision, planning, and funding. We assess all our mosaics for “Vital Signs,” in the same way a doctor would for her patient. If the Vital Signs are in good health, we can protect the mosaic for the long haul. 

To demonstrate that the mosaic is healthy, the Vital Signs it must have are: 

  1. An official recognition of the mosaic by a state entity or international body. 
  2. A clear and recognized legal status of conservation areas by the corresponding state, through its different levels of government. 
  3. A governance mechanism and natural resource plans ensures that there is an entity responsible for the management of the conservation areas, those entities could be public, community, Indigenous and /or private. 
  4. A multi-year action plan aimed at guaranteeing conservation of the mosaic’s reserve areas. 
  5. A financial mechanism, such as conservation funds or water funds, that guarantees economic resources for the conservation and management of its protected areas. 
  6. A monitoring and control mechanism tracks the conservation status of natural ecosystems and assesses the effectiveness of the conservation measures that are implemented. 

By evaluating these Vital Signs, we can make sure that the work we do has maximum impact and that your donations go to the most valuable causes, to protect important landscapes and the communities that rely on them. You can assist with our ongoing work and help our continued protection of these extraordinary landscape mosaics by giving now using the link below.

Nature and Culture’s 13 Large-Scale, Eco-Regional Mosaics

Nature and Culture International understands the importance of protecting these large landscape mosaics and we work hard to protect combinations of ecosystems to conserve the world’s most amazing wildlife and safeguard the communities that rely on them.

We currently concentrate our efforts on 13 large-scale eco-regional landscape mosaics, encompassing about 30 million acres across Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Columbia, and Bolivia. We work to protect these amazing landscape mosaics for the long term, making sure that the policies put in place to protect them are enforced, which is why your support for our ongoing work in these areas is so important. Below are some highlights from the 13 mosaics that we currently protect across Latin America.

Our Conservation Mosaics


Podocarpus – El Cóndor Mosaic 

  • Spans the paramo grasslands, montane forests, and cloud forest ecosystems.
  • The eastern end of the mosaic is very rich in plant diversity. Forty percent of its plant species are only found in this region.
  • It is home to Indigenous populations, principally the Shuar and Saraguro nationalities, who help protect the landscape.

Dry Forest Mosaic 

  • This mosaic encompasses part of Ecuador’s remaining tropical dry forest.
  • It is home to 59 endemic bird species (found nowhere else on the planet), and almost 20% of plant species found in this region are also endemic.

Corredor Sangay – Podocarpus Mosaic  

  • This mosaic is the country’s first connectivity corridor.
  • Extending 1.4 million acres, this mosaic is home to 101 mammal species, 580 bird species, 182 amphibian species, 45 reptile species, and 31 fish species, with new species still being discovered.
  • Contains important water resources for populations and contributes to climate change mitigation by storing 125 million tons of carbon.

Morona Santiago Mosaic 

  • Contains the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sangay National Park, and contains everything from tropical forests to glaciers.
  • Encompasses more than 30 ecosystems, including tropical lowland evergreen forest, which stores large amounts of carbon.
  • Holds cultural significance and resources that indigenous populations rely on.

Pastaza Mosaic 

  • Spans nearly 5 million acres including parts of the Amazon rainforest.
  • Considered one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth, and is home to multiple Indigenous nationalities, including Achuar, Shuar, and Andwa.
  • Captures 946 million tons of carbon, so assists in mitigating climate change.


North Andes Mosaic

  • Encompasses some of the most diverse, fragile, and complex cloud forests on Earth. Connectivity between its ecosystems is important for species, such as the mountain tapir and the spectacled bear.
  • An important water source for 2 million people and over 1.2 million acres of agricultural land.
  • Much is unexplored so additional expeditions for research, which NCI aims to support, are planned.

Carpish – Rio Abiseo Mosaic 

  • Spanning 3.6 million acres, and encompassing forest and paramo ecosystems, this mosaic is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. 
  • Contains a vast array of endemic bird species, including black-bellied tanager and endangered golden-backed mountain tanager. 
  • Creates atmospheric moisture and rainfall and stores carbon, which helps with climate change mitigation. 
  • Local communities rely on this area for freshwater and plants for medicinal purposes. 

Dry Forest of the Marañon Mosaic 

  • About one million acres of dry forest, savannah grassland, and montane forest located along the Marañon River between the Andean peaks.  
  • Contains the most biodiverse area within the Tropical Andes Hotspot, known as the Grand Canyon of South America.  
  • Home to hundreds of threatened and endemic species due to its unique microclimate and landscape. 

Nanay – Tigre Mosaic  

  • Comprises of large forest areas with 1.2 billion tons of Carbon stored and contains incredible biological and ethnic diversity. 
  • Located in Loreto, which has the second-highest deforestation rate in Peru. 
  • Habitat to endangered species, such as the Giant River Otter and the Harpy Eagle. 
  • NCI is assisting indigenous people with creating a sustainable fruit harvesting business, which increases the value of standing forest. 


Southern Sonora Mosaic 

  • Spans 1.7 million acres and contains a unique combination of arid and tropical ecosystems, including one of the last remaining Pitayal forests.
  • Creates a wildlife corridor that is used by a variety of endangered species, such as the jaguar.
  • Provides important water stores for several communities, cities, and agricultural land.


Southern Chocó Mosaic  

  • Includes the world’s wettest rainforest, mangroves, rocky cliffs, and coastal plains.
  • One of the most biologically rich areas in the world. Many species here cannot be found anywhere else on Earth, such as the golden poison frog from the Chocó rainforests.


Guaraní Mosaic 

  • This 18-million-acre mosaic encompasses the Chaco dry forest, Pantanal forest, and Andean Yungas forest, which the Guaraní people rely on for resources. 
  • 80% of the mosaic is forest, storing large amounts of Carbon, and is important for species like jaguars (potentially 1000!), peccaries, and lowland tapirs. 
  • Under the constant threat of deforestation from agriculture and cattle ranching.

IñaoTariquia Water Corridor Mosaic 

  • An important biodiversity corridor for species, such as the military macaw, ocelot and spectacled bear.  
  • Secures water for nearly half a million people, protected under the Reciprocal Agreements for Water. 
  • Contains endemic plant species found nowhere else on Earth, such as the cactus Cleistocactus candelilla and the Guabiyu fruit tree.