Our commitment to safeguarding the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage of this remarkable region remains unwavering, and it is thanks to supporters like you that our projects continue to thrive. Thank you for joining us on this journey!
Real Stories. Real Impact.
The Laderas Norte Community, the NATIVA Foundation, and Nature and Culture International established the first rural municipal protected area in Bolivia’s Southeastern Tarija Province that will protect important nesting ground for the emblematic condor.
On August 24, 2023, the City Council unanimously approved the law establishing the Quebracho and Condor Nature Reserve, covering 8,144.57 acres. The reserve is particularly special because of its role in the preservation of the Andean condor (Vultur Gryphus) and the rare white Quebracho tree (Aspidosperma quebracho blanco).
A tragic background
In February 2021, a devastating incident struck the Laderas Norte community in Bolivia. Thirty-four majestic condors perished after consuming poisoned meat. This incident had a profound impact on both the local area and the entire nation.
The condor is a symbol of South America and holds a special place as Bolivia’s national bird. Beyond its symbolic importance, this majestic bird serves as a crucial component of ecosystems. As a scavenger, it plays a vital role in preventing the spread of harmful bacteria that can pose health risks to humans. Additionally, it aids in regulating the populations of various species, contributing to the overall balance and harmony of local ecosystems.
However, its population has experienced a rapid decline, going from being listed as “Near Threatened” to “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List in December 2020.
The community of Laderas Norte, known for its commitment to conservation, donated 141 acres to the municipality a decade ago to protect the condor and the only white quebracho forest in the Central Valley of Tarija. It was in this very place that the lifeless condors were found, worrying the local population, and prompting them to take action.
A turning point toward conservation
The community, in its eagerness to avoid future tragedies and protect its environment, requested support from the authorities and social organizations to improve their quality of life through conservation and sustainable development projects. In addition, they expressed their concern about the illegal exploitation of timber in the area, a threat to valuable species such as cedar (Cedrela lilloi), red quina (Myroxylon peruiferum), walnut (Junglas australis), tipa (Tipuana tipu), among others.
Thus began the collaboration between the community of Laderas Norte, the NATIVA Foundation, our implementing partner in Bolivia, and Nature and Culture. Despite the challenges, such as border conflicts and misinformation, the creation of the Quebracho and Condor Nature Reserve was achieved.
The reserve is notable for several key reasons: it plays a critical role in preserving the Andean condor, protecting the white quebracho tree, conserving vital ecosystems spanning from the Central Valley of Tarija to the Bolivian Tucuman Jungle, safeguarding water sources, and ensuring the safety of endangered species like the quirusilla plant (Gunnera apiculata). Furthermore, it serves as a picturesque destination, making it an excellent choice for adventure tourism.
This achievement is a testament to the commitment and determination of the Laderas Norte community. By declaring their territory a “municipal protected area in perpetuity,” they have taken a bold step toward conservation.
This milestone has been made possible thanks to more than two years of collaboration between the community of Laderas del Norte, the NATIVA Foundation, the Municipal Government of Tarija, the Ministry of Environment, the Directorate of Tourism and the Municipal Council, with the Environment and Tourism commissions, backed by the financial support of Nature and Culture International and Andes Amazon Fund.
Congratulations to the community of Laderas del Norte and all the organizations that made it possible!
For World Rainforest Day, will you join our community of monthly donors who have pledged to protect South America’s rainforests year-round?
Over the course of a year, you’ll care for 12 acres – the size of 6 professional soccer fields!
Defends wild places from deforestation, mining, and other unsustainable activities
Connects irreplaceable habitat for threatened plants and animals
Supports Indigenous and local communities in mapping, monitoring, and managing forests for the long-term
Preserves the services these ecosystems provide to us all, including clean water and a stable climate
Not all rainforests are alike
Rainforests are ecosystems that experience a large amount of annual rainfall. They support an incredible number of plants, animals, and other life forms. Although they occur in different parts of the planet, tropical rainforests are found on and around the equator where sunlight is consistent throughout the year.
Nature and Culture International has projects and protected areas in rainforest ecosystems in many types of rainforest in South America. Our work occurs in the lowland Amazon rainforest, cloud forests in the Andes, and the Chocó forest of coastal Colombia and northern Ecuador.
Andean Cloud Forest: Highland rainforest
The extraordinary cloud forests of the Andes are a type of mid-altitude tropical rainforest. When humid air, transpired from the billions of trees in the lowland Amazon, moves west and up the mountain slopes of the Andes, some of it condenses and falls as rain. Some remain in the form of low clouds and mist, which condenses directly onto the foliage of cloud forest trees.
Cloud forests extend from about 3,000 feet in elevation up to about 8,000 feet, so temperatures tend to be cooler than in lowland rainforests. The terrain is often on steep slopes, with more open canopy, leading to more vegetation on the forest floor.
These higher-elevation forests are characterized by waterfalls and quick-moving, shallow rivers.
Cloud forest trees are often covered in plants called epiphytes, which capture much of the moisture found in cloud forests. Clouds and mist condense on the epiphytes’ leaves and pool at the bases of epiphytes (providing habitat for insects and some types of frogs). Trees here are generally shorter than in lowland rainforest, hence the cloud forest tree canopy is lower.
Nature and Culture is currently working with local communities and authorities in our North Andes Mosaic to protect highland forest in Peru which is essential for providing water resources to over two million people who live in the region.
Amazon: Tropical rainforest east of the Andes
The Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical forest on Earth, with the highest density of plant and animal species anywhere.
This region provides essential ecological services, stabilizing the world’s rainfall patterns and storing massive amounts of carbon that mitigate climate change.
This lowland rainforest is east of the Andes mountain range and spans eight South American countries. The Amazon is impressively large, more than double the size of the next two largest rainforests combined. It is also well known for its mighty Amazon River which is made up of 1,100 tributaries, including the Marañón River which is considered the source of the Amazon in Peru.
The province of Loreto, Peru, is facing the second-highest rate of deforestation in Peru. Nature and Culture is currently partnering with Indigenous communities and local authorities through sustainable livelihood projects in our Nanay-Tigre Mosaic.
Chóco: Coastal rainforest west of the Andes
On a strip of forest in western Colombia and Northwestern Ecuador, between the Pacific Ocean and the Andean mountain range is the Chocó forest.
It is a dense and diverse tropical rainforest that blends with adjoining mangrove forests, rocky cliffs, and coastal plains.
It is one of the world’s wettest rainforests and 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 (one of the three most poisonous vertebrates in the world).
Between two to three percent of this ecosystem is left, making it one of the most threatened and lesser-known forests in the world. With Nature and Culture International’s support, the Bajo Baudó protected area was established in 2018. This is the largest regional protected area ever created in Colombia. We are currently working in our Southern Chocó Mosaic to declare two new protected areas and establish sustainable management plans.
Why we protect rainforests
Although rainforests only cover 6 percent of our planet, an estimated 80 percent of terrestrial animals, plants, and fungi species worldwide live within them. Many species have not yet even been described by science. Rainforests contain a huge amount of biodiversity, which has major implications for our health, including improving mental well-being, preventing zoonotic diseases (diseases transmitted from animals to humans – e.g. West Nile virus, Lyme Disease, and some types of coronaviruses, among many others) from entering human populations, and providing fresh water, clean air, and vital medicines. Indigenous peoples have lived in and sustainably managed tropical rainforests for centuries, if not millennia. Many Indigenous communities are reliant upon the natural resources that the rainforest provides, particularly clean water.
By destroying rainforests, humans are exacerbating the climate crisis by releasing additional CO2 into the atmosphere. All rainforests have a huge volume of carbon stored in the vast amount of vegetation they house. There is so much carbon stored in these ecosystems that, if released, it would not be able to be restored by the 2050 global goal of reaching net-zero emissions; this is known as “Irrecoverable Carbon”.
For World Rainforest Day
and every day, it is important to support rainforest conservation and raise awareness of the threats they face.
The 6th Assessment Synthesis Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that despite progress in climate mitigation efforts, the current pace of action is insufficient to keep global temperatures below the threshold of 1.5°C. That is the threshold beyond which scientists say climate impacts increase significantly and damage becomes rapidly irreversible. Below is a summary of the report’s findings.
Action needs to happen now, this is the decisive decade
To ensure temperatures do not exceed the threshold of 1.5°C, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will need to peak within this decade, decline by 43% by 2030, and 60% by 2035. Adverse climate impacts are already far more extreme than initial reports anticipated. The current global surface temperature has already warmed 1.1°C above preindustrial levels. With this alone, there has been an increase in biodiversity loss, drought, extreme heat, and flooding, among other impacts. Despite a decrease in the cost of green energy, improved technologies, and national commitments to reduce GHG emissions. These measures have continued to increase and will fall short. Unsustainable energy use, land use, lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production all contribute to the GHG emissions. A rapid scaling of policy and increased funding to climate is needed to achieve climate stabilization.
Even small increases in overall temperature matter
The report defines the risks, adverse impacts, and related losses and damages from climate change at varying degrees of temperature rises. At each tier, the loss of biodiversity increases, access to clean water and food decreases, and sea levels rise. There is no question that any positive changes to keep global warming in check will help to avoid further loss of life and encourage ecosystem health. At a certain point, it is no longer reversible. As certain losses and damage occur, reversal and adaptation options are far less feasible, if even effective at all. It is important to take every action possible at this very moment. Hope lies in the prevention of further tipping the warming scales.
Biggest impacts threaten those who have historically contributed the least to climate change
According to the IPCC, nearly half of the global population lives in areas where their lives or livelihoods are under threat of climate change. It is said that between 3.3 billion and 3.6 billion people live in countries that are highly vulnerable to climate impacts, including those within Central and South America where Nature and Culture operates. In addition, many of these areas face extreme poverty, governance challenges, and limited access to financial resources or technical support. In this 6th Assessment Report, the IPCC also notes that climate adaptation challenges are often “exacerbated by inequity and marginalization linked to gender, ethnicity, low income or combinations thereof, especially for many Indigenous Peoples and local communities.”
Data on the global inequalities of CO2 emissions reveals that higher-earning countries as well as higher-earning individuals produce more of the world’s GHGs and yet it is those who are producing the least who are most heavily impacted. The highest income-earning households contribute around 45% of the world’s consumption-based CO2 emissions, while the bottom 50% account for only around 15%.
The threats of climate change weigh more heavily on regions that are not historically responsible for the production of GHGs; however, the world is looking to many of these areas for quick adaptation efforts or asking for limitation on development that could provide an immediate higher standard of living. That is why it is important to allow these most vulnerable groups or regions inclusive governance, and transparent and participatory decision-making for mitigation and adaptation efforts.
What is Nature and Culture’s role?
Protecting Earth’s remaining oceans, plants, animals, and soils is the most cost-effective climate adaptation option. The most potential exists in preventing deforestation in tropical regions. For Nature and Culture that means maintaining tropical forests in the Amazon and Andes. Long-term management of our protected areas supports biodiversity resilience in the region and supports ecosystem services at a global scale, including the sequestration of billions of tons of carbon. Beyond the protection and management of these threatened forests, reforestation and agroforestry (or sustainably cultivating native crops) also contribute to climate mitigation. All these efforts can positively affect local communities if they are done in coordination with the people who live in these areas. Reforestation can improve air quality, access to clean water and food, and agroforestry techniques include economic benefits that have potential to reduce poverty and improve local livelihoods.
Many climate adaptation solutions already exist and positively impact global well-being
According to the report, there are feasible, effective, low-cost, low-trade-off options already available, and many include wider societal benefits. A major conclusion of the synthesis is the need to prioritize equity, climate justice, social justice, and inclusion in the near-term actions to mitigate climate change.
Focusing on societal enhancements like education, hunger, poverty, gender, and energy access can support regions and people with the highest climate change vulnerabilities. It not only supports overall societal well-being, but it can also scaffold climate adaptation development programs. Recognition of the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples is also crucial to successful adaptation across forests and other ecosystems, according to the report. This has always been a cornerstone of Nature and Culture’s work, prioritizing the needs of the local communities we work with.
Looking to communities, governments and businesses for leadership
Cooperative climate mitigation is essential. This means including climate adaptation practices that are informed by Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Truly effective climate action will involve coordination among many stakeholders. A prime example of this in action is in our work on the Amazonian Platform, This is a agreement between 7 Indigenous nationalities and local governments to manage 11 million acres of the Amazon rainforest. Nature and Culture supports projects that require buy-in from varying levels of government and marketplaces and include frameworks that hear a multitude of voices, including Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
The climate adaptation measures we implement are done in close collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and local communities and in partnership with local government. These types of projects put people at the heart of the outcome and provide access to finance and technology that would otherwise be unavailable. They often also provide other economic benefits, such as food and water security and improve the overall health of the human populations while safeguarding biodiversity and promoting carbon sequestration.
Please join us in safeguarding our climate future by making a donation today!
As a supporter of Nature and Culture, take a moment to review our impact in 2022!
Our 2022 Annual Impact Report is a testament to our commitment to community-based conservation. As trailblazers in this field, the well-being of local communities is as important as protecting and conserving natural resources. For us, those go hand in hand.
Our work is organized into 5 key strategy areas: wild places, climate, water, people, and species. As you read through this report, you’ll see how our team approaches our projects through these lenses, ensuring the long term overall health of the areas we protect.
Please remember that none of this would be possible without the generous support we’ve received from so many of you!
Climate change adaptation, species discovery, and newly declared protected areas in Nature and Culture’s latest round-up of news from 2022.
Our strength as an organization lies within the passion of people around the globe who share our same dream. As part of the Nature and Culture community, you help us achieve so much — diverse vibrant cultures; wild places alive with plants and animals, and clean water and other ecosystem services for communities throughout Latin America. Thank you!
The best defenders of nature, Indigenous nationalities live sustainably within the most biodiverse places on the planet.
That is why Nature and Culture prioritizes people in our conservation efforts. We provide extensive technical and legal support for communities to define and achieve their own conservation goals. From land protection and sustainable use of the land to the documentation of Indigenous culture, our conservation process examines all components of a potential project.
New protected areas, bioeconomy projects, environmental education, and some of our largest conservation efforts to date in Nature and Culture’s first round of highlights from 2022.
Nature and Culture International’s strength is in people who share the same dreams: of diverse vibrant cultures; of forests and savannas alive with plants and animals; of clean water and air and a livable climate.
The importance of biodiversity and the threats it faces
Biodiversity describes the “biological diversity” of life, whether that be throughout the entire planet or for an individual ecosystem.
It encompasses everything from variations in genetics to all the species in that area, including plants, animals, fungi, and even bacteria. The biodiversity that we know today is the result of billions of years of evolution and it dictates how life interacts with its environment.
Why is biodiversity so important?
We are much more reliant on the ecosystem services that biodiversity provides than it may appear. Biodiversity provides us with many services including clean air and freshwater. Biodiversity also acts as a barrier between us and zoonotic diseases and can also provide us with valuable medicines. There is also a great deal of evidence to show that there’s a positive link between increased biodiversity and our mental health. This makes maintaining biodiversity incredibly important for our survival, as well as all life on the planet.
Global biodiversity is so rich that we haven’t come close to discovering the number of species there currently is across our planet. There is so much we still don’t know about how these unknown species contribute to their ecosystem. We may lose essential parts of our world before it has even been discovered.
This is particularly true for forests, which contain the largest amount of biodiversity on the planet. According to the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) more than 80% of terrestrial animals, plants and fungi species are found in tropical forests. Nature and Culture emphasizes the importance of saving large areas of rainforest to protect these valuable ecosystems. We partner with Indigenous and local communities who live in the areas we work to protect and are best equipped to manage their territory. This leads to more successful biodiversity conservation.
What is threatening biodiversity?
Human activity is having an extremely negative impact on biodiversity. WWF’s 2018 Living Planet Report estimated that there has been a 60% reduction in global populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians in last 50 years. When this report was published, it was a major shock to the world and highlighted our fears of how critical the situation is. This loss of life has put many species on the brink of extinction and whole ecosystems are suffering.
Major threats to biodiversity and individual species include habitat degradation, climate change, invasive species, over-exploitation and increased pollution, most of which are a direct result of human activities. In the Amazon rainforest, deforestation is occurring at an unprecedented rate for agriculture (e.g. soy bean and palm oil plantations and cattle ranching), mining, unsustainable logging and development (e.g. roads and infrastructure). This degradation is also exacerbating climate change since the Amazon retains a large proportion of the world’s carbon, which would otherwise be in the atmosphere.
To make matters worse, fires have been increasing across major forested habitat. Even though fires naturally occur in many areas, degraded forests are particularly susceptible. By reshaping the biodiversity in an area, we are restructuring the whole ecosystem and making them less resilient to natural disasters.
Other risks to biodiversity include the wildlife trade, which pulls large numbers of animals from their natural environment for pets, bushmeat or traditional medicines. These include keystone species that are critically important to the structure of the ecosystem. This trade has dragged animals such as pangolins, multiple primate species, elephants and rhinos to the brink of extinction. Causing the elimination of one species is a tragedy on its own, but it also threatens the biodiversity of the area.
What can you do to help to conserve it?
It may seem as if we are on an unavoidable slope toward disaster, but there is still plenty that you can do to help reduce biodiversity loss. Making more sustainable choices is key since most deforestation, over-exploitation, and other destructive activities are driven by demand. Switching to local and in-season foods or checking for sustainable materials on packaging is a first step in helping to reduce the demand for unsustainable goods.
You can also help by supporting efforts to return land to Indigenous peoples. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Indigenous communities are better stewards of their land and protect vital ecosystems. Donating to organizations like Nature and Culture will increase resources to help with this transition. By supporting our work, and the work of similar organizations, you can be part of the change to protect our remaining crucial biodiversity, and hence, securing our future.
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”
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:
An official recognition of the mosaic by a state entity or international body.
A clear and recognized legal status of conservation areasby the corresponding state, through its different levels of government.
A governance mechanism and natural resource plansensures that there is an entity responsible for the management of the conservation areas, those entities could be public, community, Indigenous and /or private.
A multi-year action planaimed at guaranteeing conservation of the mosaic’s reserve areas.
A financial mechanism, such as conservation funds or water funds, that guarantees economic resources for the conservation and management of its protected areas.
A monitoring and control mechanismtracks 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.
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.
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.
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.
Iñao – Tariquia 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.
When we think about the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, we often associate it with the burning of fossil fuels and not much else. When we see cars’ exhausts releasing black smoke or power stations puffing clouds into the sky, it’s as though we can see the CO2 accumulating in the air. However, there is another major contributor to CO2 emissions that is less often discussed — the destruction of ecosystems with irrecoverable carbon stores.
What is ‘Irrecoverable Carbon’?
Natural landscapes hold on to carbon in their ecosystems like air trapped in a balloon. When ecosystems are destroyed, it’s like popping that balloon. Just as the air in a balloon escapes, the carbon sequestered in an ecosystem will be released when the landscape is destroyed.
As vegetation such as trees grow, CO2 from the atmosphere is absorbed by the plant through the process of photosynthesis. This is then converted into carbon which is used by the plant like building blocks. Carbon helps them grow and build biomass like trunks, roots, and leaves.
When plants, which naturally store carbon are destroyed, CO2 is released. This is the plant’s biomass decomposing, or in some cases burning when mass areas are cleared. As we see more ecosystems destroyed to make way for agriculture, development, or mining, among other human activities, we see more of this carbon escape and a huge CO2 increase in the atmosphere.
Certain ecosystems such as peatlands and rainforests become an even bigger climate threat when destroyed because of the vast amount of carbon they store.
The increase in CO2 emissions from activities like deforestation in ecosystems where large amounts of carbon are stored would not be reversible in time to reach the 2050 net-zero emissions goal and prevent the significant impacts of climate change. In this case, we call the carbon stored in these ecosystems “irrecoverable carbon.” Meaning, it is vital to protect the ecosystems that hold large amounts of carbon to avoid irreversible damage to our world.
The Amazon rainforest is one of the most iconic rainforests in the world and is well known for being the “lungs of the planet.” With the amount of irrecoverable carbon trapped in its trees, vegetation, and soil, it doesn’t just have the potential for removing CO2 from the atmosphere, but also must be protected to prevent huge amounts of carbon from being released.
What does this mean for our world?
The whole planet is facing threats from human expansion and destructive activities, so it is difficult to know where to start with conservation. Forests are incredibly important to life on this planet. They provide habitat for plants, animals, and humans. They secure fresh water, release oxygen, and — of course — store carbon.
Threatened ecosystems that hold irrecoverable carbon stores include peatlands, mangroves, old-growth forests, and marshes. The protection of these ecosystems must be a priority in order to prevent major impacts from climate change.
It is estimated that fifteen billion trees are cut down each year globally and this deforestation is adding to the impact we are seeing from climate change. As we mentioned earlier, this puts irrecoverable carbon trapped in ecosystems at risk of being released. This is particularly true for old-growth forests, which are difficult to replenish. Simply planting trees will not recover the lost carbon from deforestation.
What makes the situation worse is the fact that the Amazon rainforest is now showing reduced resilience. In other words, it has a decreased ability to replenish lost areas of forest due to deforestation and extractive activities. As the rainforest loses resilience, we see more, larger-scale disasters, such as uncontrollable forest fires, causing further forest dieback.
With so much forest destruction, particularly in the Amazon, we are continuously seeing increases in CO2 levels in our atmosphere. This needs to stop if we are going to be able to reverse the effects of climate change and prevent the resulting disasters caused by changing weather patterns, famine and loss of biodiversity.
At Nature and Culture, we strive to safeguard large areas of forest, particularly in the Amazon.
We work tirelessly with local communities and governments to establish protected areas to help retain irrecoverable carbon storage, so it doesn’t make it into the atmosphere. We also partner with Indigenous communities to help protect their land and their ancestral sustainability practices. The best protectors of forests and other threatened ecosystems are the Indigenous communities that live within them. By protecting the rights of Indigenous communities, we can also defend natural areas threatened by human activities. This in turn will help prevent future climate change impacts through preserving irrecoverable carbon storage in these ecosystems.
There are many things you can do to help stop the destruction of irrecoverable carbon-storing ecosystems.
You can begin by buying sustainably and not purchasing products produced in threatened areas like the Amazon. Check labels and research companies to be sure that they are working towards more sustainable goals. Don’t buy from companies that encourage logging and clearance of land in these vital ecosystems.
You can donate to our work to protect important ecosystems holding irrecoverable carbon, which helps prevent the potential for uncontrollable consequences of climate change in our future. Find out more about our previous projects and the 22 million acres we have successfully protected so far here. By contributing to our cause, you will be helping ecosystems, people, and the planet.
Defining wildlife and ecosystems and how they’re linked
The term, “Wildlife” refers to alllife in the wild. It encompasses all living things, including mammals, fish, reptiles, and birds, collectively known as fauna, and sometimes includes plants or flora.These are the components of habitat and play animportantrole within them.
In contrast, ecosystems are more like a network that includes all wildlife and living parts of the system (biotic factors), but also non-living parts of the environment (abiotic factors), including weather and landscape. Everything in this network is interlinked and is interacting with one another. Ecosystems can be either very small, such as a singular tide pool, or very large, such as a forest. The world is made up of many interlinking ecosystems and, in a few cases, the world itself is referred to as a singular ecosystem.
Why is wildlife so important to its ecosystem?
So far, we’ve established that wildlife lives within an ecosystem, but why is it so important to the ecosystem, and why is there a push to protect individual species when whole ecosystems are threatened?
Imagine a simple food chain. In Picture 1, we have a fox as the predator, the rabbits as the prey, and the grass as the rabbits’ food source, also known as the primary producer. Each of these levels (more scientifically known as trophic levels) have a role to play in the chain. The grazing of the rabbits on the grass prevents too much vegetation growth, but the rabbit population is kept in check by the foxes who predate upon them.
Now, if we take one of these levels out, you end up with an interruption, which ripples through the rest of the food chain. For example, in Picture 2a, the grass has been removed. This could happen as a result of drought, or potentially habitat loss through human development. The result of this is that the rabbits do not have enough food and so many may die. This of course will pass on further up the chain and cause issues for the foxes since their food source is low, and it may result in the foxes dying.
Another example, in Picture 2b, is from the top-down, whereby the foxes may be removed or reduced from the chain. This is often seen in the wild when predators are hunted to near extinction or a fatal disease passes through the species. For this example, the rabbits have less predatory pressure and so their numbers increase dramatically. This may be good for the rabbits in the short-term, but if left to their own devices they could overgraze the area. Over time the grass would suffer since it would not be able to regenerate quick enough. Once the rabbits have overgrazed their food source, they then would not have enough food, would compete with one another, and many would be at risk of starvation.
The ecosystem network: Yellowstone National Park and the reintroduction of gray wolves
The food chain example is incredibly simple and does not consider the vast array of other wildlife and non-living parts of the ecosystem that could be affected by the loss of a single species like the fox. To truly understand how an ecosystem works, and why wildlife is so important to it, we need to expand further.
The most notorious case of how an entire ecosystem was altered by a singular species is the reintroduction of gray wolves into Yellowstone National Park. In the 1930s, the wolves in this world-renowned location were eliminated from the park through over-hunting, mostly due to the fear of them attacking people or killing livestock. Once wolves were gone, the elk, which had been important prey for the wolves, were able to thrive. With the elk under much less predatory pressure, their numbers increased dramatically and the changes in the ecosystem began.
In Picture 3, you can see a simple idea of what the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem looked like, with the elk at the center of the network. The elks’ increase in number caused a series of indirect consequences for the ecosystem (otherwise known as a trophic cascade) because they were over-grazing and over-browsing the land, including many of the berries that also fed the songbirds and grizzly bears. The elk’s browsing on young plant shoots prevented the growth of shrubs resulting in prey species, such as rabbits, having fewer areas to hide from their own predators. If you think back to the example of the food chain with the fox and rabbit, you should now understand how that would affect all the levels.
The elk were not afraid of staying for long periods at the riverbanks, where previously they could have been attacked by the wolves. They overgrazed young vegetation along the rivers, which weakened the banks and caused riverbank erosion, resulting in the rivers widening. The water also became warmer since the lack of trees and vegetation at the bank meant that there were fewer shaded areas cooling the water down. These changes to the river caused a biodiversity shift in the fish populations. Beavers were also suffering because willow trees on the riverbanks could not grow past shoots. Willows provide beavers with food as well as being the resource that beavers use to create their dams. Without larger willow trees, the beavers were unable to survive winters and so in Yellowstone the population reduced to just one beaver colony.
In 1995, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. As expected, the wolves started to predate on the elk, which kept the elk on the move and so reduced the pressure the elk were putting on riverbanks and other young plants. Suddenly, things began to change and there were berries for the birds and bears, and shrubs for the rabbits and other prey species. Riverbanks were stronger as they held more vegetation, this prevented bank erosion and created more shaded areas, which provided cooler water for fish. However, by far the most remarkable change was due to the growth of willows allowing beavers to use them to create dams to survive the winter. The beavers began to return to Yellowstone and the dams they built raised the water table, so water was available more consistently throughout the year to surrounding vegetation. Since 1995, beaver colonies have been increasing and their dams have changed the course of rivers in Yellowstone National Park.
The whole ecosystem has benefitted from the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone because the wolves are what is known as a keystone species, which is an important species, without which, can cause the collapse of their ecosystem. Without the wolves, the elk were not controlled, and the network was falling apart. Now with the wolves returned to the park, the course of the rivers has been altered.
Protecting wildlife at Nature and Culture International
At Nature and Culture International, we believe in protecting wildlife and ecosystems. We are currently working on multiple conservation projects to protect endangered species, such as the spectacled bear in Peru and the Jaguar in Bolivia. Like the gray wolf in Yellowstone, these species are important to their ecosystems so, who’s to say what the consequences of their loss to the habitat would be? You can check out more of our ongoing work here.
All wildlife is vital to keep the scales of life balanced. The IUCN estimates approximately 40,000 species globally are threatened with extinction: including mammals, amphibians, sharks and rays, birds, and plants. Our global biodiversity is declining so we all need to come together to prevent our ecosystems from collapsing by protecting every last species.
Indigenous communities are the best defenders of carbon rich ancestral territories in the face of extractive activities such as mining and deforestation.
Indigenous people remain in small numbers all over the world. According to the FAO, although indigenous groups only make up 5% of the world’s population, their territories contain more than 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Understanding that indigenous territories encompass such a large amount of the earth’s remaining biodiversity, is the first step to realizing how these frontline communities can be a part of the management plan for the earth.
What is climate change?
Climate change has been a topic of interest for several decades, but at the end of October 2021, the COP26 (Conference of the Parties) in Glasgow propelled this issue back to center stage. Climate change is the result of Greenhouse Gases emitted into the atmosphere, most notably Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Methane (CH4). These gases are produced when burning fossil fuels, through large-scale livestock farming, and other big industrial processes. When these gases remain in the atmosphere, they prevent heat from escaping the earth and so cause a “Greenhouse effect,” causing the planet to warm. This increase may only be a few degrees, but these changes have disastrous consequences for the earth as weather patterns become unstable and wildlife struggles to keep up with rapid changes to their environment.
It would be easy to believe that significant climate change mitigation can only come from behavioral and policy change from large industries and national governments. However, including indigenous people in the decision-making is crucial.
Indigenous Peoples and climate change
So, how does such a small population have such a dramatic impact on climate change? It’s actually really simple. Much of indigenous territory, especially the Amazon rainforest, is considered a major carbon sink. This means that these areas absorb carbon and reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, hence reducing the warming of the planet.
Indigenous cultures and traditions are built around sharing nature’s resources rather than exploiting them. These communities depend on their natural environment, and protect their territories to secure their own survival. Indigenous Peoples work to maintain a symbiotic relationship by only taking what they need. This allows the ecosystem to replenish itself, and resources remain secure. Therefore, these vital territories are much more likely to be protected from extractive activities, such as deforestation and mining.
We have a lot to learn from Indigenous Peoples and we will need to, if we are to have a chance at combatting climate change. In the Amazon rainforest, an area the size of a football-pitch is destroyed every minute, meaning less CO2 will be stored and removed from the atmosphere. By protecting forests and other ecosystems, indigenous communities are also protecting the world. This is the reason why having the unique and valuable insight of indigenous community leaders in the decision-making process is so important to secure the earth’s future.
Outcomes of COP26
COP26 was the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, which aimed to address and to produce answers to slow, and even reverse climate change. Key outcomes from the COP26 for mitigating climate change included:
These were steps forward, but the conference was attended by many hoping for immediate action for a better future, and they left dissatisfied. A major criticism of the COP26 was the lack of presence from indigenous community leaders at the conference, who arguably know a lot more about the natural areas many countries are pledging to protect.
Why are Indigenous Leaders a focus of COP26?
Indigenous communities continue to fight for full ownership of ancestral territories, and policies that protect their rights. These rights have proven to decrease destructive practices such as deforestation. Indigenous Peoples can protect their land more effectively than anyone else, however, most funding goes to parks or conventional protected areas. Conflicting laws and policies still allow indigenous territories to be exploited.
Indigenous Peoples will need a lot more support if they are going to be able to conserve the earth’s most valuable territories. By sending indigenous leaders to COP26, there was hope that finally indigenous voices would be heard, and they could help protect their critical land and, in turn, the planet.
The President of the COP26, Alok Sharma, encouraged indigenous leaders to attend the conference and be included in discussions, raising hopes that this conference would be more productive than previous ones. Indigenous leaders who were able to attend COP26 were, for the first time, in the zones where discussions took place instead of the general public areas. This meant they could talk to world leaders and be part of the conversation about climate change rather than watch from the sidelines. Leaders from the Arctic, the Americas and Caribbean were more represented than other groups, however, this was still not enough. Many indigenous leaders were not able to participate due to COVID-19 restrictions, visa complications and lack of funding to travel to the conference, meaning it was not a fully representative event.
For the future of our planet, much more needs to be done to ensure that indigenous communities have their place at the table. There is so much ancestral knowledge and insight yet to be learned. If we can open opportunities for this small percentage of the population to show us how they have thrived for thousands of years, our planet may just have a chance.
Thanks to dedicated supporters like you, there is a new protected area in southern Bolivia.
The Bolivian Andes contains incredible wildlife and essential water sources, but deforestation is rapidly destroying its ecosystems. Recent data reveal Bolivia is currently experiencing one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world.
New protected areas, species discoveries, and more in Nature and Culture’s latest donor impact report.
Nature and Culture International’s strength is in people who share the same dreams: of diverse vibrant cultures; of forests and savannas alive with birds, plants, and frogs; of clean water and air and a livable climate. Our strength is in 66 local staff and the 275 rural and indigenous communities we collaborate with in Latin America.
Today – on International Women’s Day – we celebrate extraordinary women who are working to protect our planet.
Every day, women across the globe take on tasks both small and large to help the environment. At Nature and Culture International, we partner with communities and local women in Latin America to support their involvement in conservation, sustainable development, and decision-making.
Today we are glad to share how you made the world a better place in 2020.
As we look back on 2020, what stands out is the extraordinary outpouring of care and community in response to unprecedented challenges. This year highlighted the resilience of the Nature and Culture Community and our shared values of innovation, adaptability, and perseverance. In 2020, that made all the difference!
The Amazon rainforest is suffering the worst fires in a decade.
In July and August of last year, forest fires caught international headlines as flames blazed across the Amazon rainforest. While our attention has understandably shifted to other events, the problem hasn’t diminished. In fact, the fires this year could be even more devastating than in 2019.