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Conservation of Biological Diversity in the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem:  Issues and Opportunities

Afterword: The Role of The Nature Conservancy back to top

The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to preserve plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. The Conservancy has a long history of protecting areas of ecological significance to the Great Lakes. Over the past 43 years, Conservancy state chapters have acquired for conservation purposes some 98 thousand acres throughout the Great Lakes basin, at a cost of over 41 million dollars.

It is becoming increasingly clear, as illustrated by the analysis in this document, that even broader and more ambitious action will be necessary to protect biological resources over the long term. Not only are key areas too numerous to be secured through purchase, but species and communities depend upon ecological processes that operate over large landscapes subject to multiple human uses. These processes must be safeguarded in order for biological diversity to be truly protected. This will involve assisting local communities in finding sustainable ways of living within natural ecosystems.

In the Great Lakes basin, The Nature Conservancy's primary emphasis will continue to be on-the-ground protection activities. Over the next two years, the Conservancy will undertake a series of large-scale, sustainable, locally driven protection initiatives. These initiatives will protect globally significant biodiversity that depends on the Great Lakes ecosystem, and will address strategically important threats to that biological diversity. Ways will be sought to help local communities live compatibly with natural ecological systems. Through this work, much will be learned about how key threats can be addressed throughout the basin.

Because the basin's biodiversity resources are so vast and are sustained by processes that operate on such large scales, no one organization acting alone can hope to have a meaningful impact. In its work, the Conservancy will continue to seek and build local and regional partnerships that contribute directly to conserving biological diversity in key places.

The Conservancy will continue to work with the network of state and provincial Natural Heritage programs to monitor the status of biological diversity and address information gaps. Over the next two years, a framework for the systematic identification of aquatic biological diversity will be designed and piloted in the basin. The Conservancy will also assist Heritage programs in sharing biodiversity information widely and effectively for the design of conservation activities within the basin. The Conservancy will work with partners in the scientific community to develop a better understanding of how key ecosystems function and to better evaluate the principle threats to Great Lakes biodiversity.

Sharing of information and experience will be critical to the success of biodiversity conservation in the basin. As managers of the world's largest system of privately owned natural areas, the Conservancy is specially positioned to provide information on the management of lands for the conservation of natural diversity. The Conservancy will share this knowledge and learn from the experience of others through an electronic bulletin board service. This system will allow workers throughout the basin to access and contribute information, sharing it over great distances.

The Conservancy will also support efforts to foster a broad understanding among the basin's residents of the unique biological diversity of the Great Lakes ecosystem and the ecological processes which sustain it. The Conservancy will continue to focus our activities at the local level, sharing information with landowners and communities on important biodiversity features and how they can best be protected.

The Conservancy welcomes input to these intended actions and invites others to work with us in the protection of the outstanding biological diversity of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

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Appendix 1 back to top
References

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