Human Benefits of Protected Areas

“Research from around the globe suggests that parks can successfully balance conservation and development and are one of the most important mechanisms for permanent protection of natural resources,” said Katharine Sims, an economics and environmental professor at Amherst College. Her comments appeared in a recent article titled “Chile Establishes 10 Million Acres of National Parks in ‘Gigantic’ Move for Conservation,” which appeared in the Huffington Post.

The article goes on to say that not only can protected areas be good for national economies, they can also boost local economies and mitigate poverty – if managed well.

Each acre conserved provides valuable natural resources and community development opportunities, the article states. Communities surrounding national parks typically benefit from economic perks of tourism, increased infrastructure, and ecosystem services when compared to similar communities further away.


2048px-TorredDelPaine2016-640w.jpg

The benefits of protected areas planned and developed in this way can be seen around the globe. From Thailand to Costa Rica, and from the Czech Republic to Chile where Half-Earth Project partner Tompkins Conservation is doing incredible work, nations that have invested in their natural biological heritage have been rewarded with many tangible economic gains.

Half-Earth Project partner Gorongosa Restoration Project in Mozambique is a living example of the multitude of benefits provided by well planned and managed protected areas. Sustainable development—the principle of meeting human needs while also ensuring the sustainability of the environment for future generations—sits at the heart of Gorongosa National Park’s mission. The park is a 21st century model for protected areas, showing how protecting biodiversity inside the park can economically benefit the surrounding communities with increased employment, education, and healthcare.

The Half-Earth Project has science at its core and our transcendent moral obligation to the rest of life at its heart. In collaboration with our partners like the Gorongosa Restoration Project and Tompkins Conservation, we are working to power one of the grandest conservation efforts of our time, and provide the urgently needed research, leadership and knowledge necessary to conserve half the planet for all of life.

Species at the Core

I will argue that every scrap of biological diversity is priceless, to be learned and cherished, and never to be surrendered without a struggle.
— E.O. Wilson

This week, our Half-Earth Project partner Tompkins Conservation completed the last of their historic 10 million acre national park expansion in Chile, creating Pumalín National Park and Patagonia National Park Chile. These parks will protect countless huemuls, guanacos, condors and other species, establishing a major contribution to the goal of Half-Earth.

Tompkins Conservation’s phenomenal achievement joins other conservation successes over the past year, including the protection of 2 million acres of rainforest in Yagua National Park in Peru, the creation of the largest marine protected area in North America at Revillagigedo Islands Marine Protected Area in Mexico, and the establishment of wetland Lufira Basin Protected Area in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an area that is roughly the size of Switzerland.


Guanaco_de_San_Carlos-640w-cr2.jpg

The expansiveness of these areas gets headlines, but conservation areas derive their true greatness from the biodiversity they contain and the species that call these places home. By conserving habitat we protect the delicate interaction of species that are fundamental to ecosystem stability and strengthen the resilience of our planet.

“Each species is a wonder to behold, a long, brilliant history in itself to read, a champion emerged in our time after a long struggle of thousands or millions of years, best of the best, an expert specialist in the niche of the natural environment in which it lives,” says E.O. Wilson.

Yagua is the size of Yellowstone, yet contains 10 times the biodiversity, including birds, monkeys, and fish. Revillegigedo is a “super highway” for rays, sharks, whale sharks, and humpback whales, and supports a coral reef ecosystem with 36 species of endemic fish. Lufira supports numerous endemic species of fish, amphibians and reptiles, and is important to much of Africa’s water supply.

“Species aren’t just names, or points on an evolutionary tree, or abstract sequences of DNA,” Wilson says. “They encode countless millennia of complex interactions between plant and animal, soil and air.” 

Around the world, the places that have magnificent species diversity are threatened by human pressures. These places are losing their sharks and rays, their endemic fish, their amphibians and reptiles, and more. As those species disappear, ecosystems decline, and the health of our planet as a whole is impacted. Each species lost threatens the collapse of the whole.

That’s why getting to Half-Earth starts with protecting the lands and seas that contain the most biodiversity. The Half-Earth Project is mapping the fine distribution of species around the world to identify the places where we have the opportunity to protect the highest number of species. Protecting identified species-rich areas will safeguard the bulk of biodiversity, and ensure the long-term health of our planet.

A Change of Perspective

The impact of climate change — the scars that it’s leaving on our planet — is visible from above, too.
— Captain Mark Kelly

We can learn a lot about Earth from an astronaut’s perspective. Captain Mark Kelly has gone to space many times, and he’s looked at Earth first-hand in a way few of us have. What does he see? The rapid changes humans are imposing on the planet in just the short timespan of his career, leaving huge marks all over the world that are visible from space.

“When I first looked down upon the Amazon rainforest in 2001, I saw vast areas of jungle and a wide and winding copper colored river that went on and on and on. A river that was impossible to miss and like no other on the planet,” Kelly wrote in an article for CNN on January 10, 2018. “By 2011, however, the part that was most noticeable wasn’t the river or the jungle but the large swaths of empty land.”


Deforestation in the Amazon, 2001 and 2011. Images courtesy NASA.

Deforestation in the Amazon, 2001 and 2011. Images courtesy NASA.


Kelly notes that the destruction he sees from space indicates a parallel story of devastation on the ground to the species and ecosystems in those areas.

“We see the loss of an incredibly diverse ecosystem that once held endless possibilities for new medicines and other discoveries,” Kelly writes. “We see the loss of a home for so many species that will now have to learn to adapt and survive somewhere else — or not.”

Whether viewed from outer space or through a microscope, the loss of great swaths of forests and individual species are significant to the entire planet. Even if a landscape or seascape can be restored, some species will be gone forever. “Look closely at nature,” E.O. Wilson says in his book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. “Every species is a masterpiece, exquisitely adapted to the particular environment in which it has survived. Who are we to destroy or even diminish biodiversity?”

The Half-Earth Project, in collaboration with our partners, is working to save half the Earth for all of life, including ourselves.


The Giant Otter is one of a long list of endangered species in the Amazon rainforest. Photo by www.Araguaia.org.

The Giant Otter is one of a long list of endangered species in the Amazon rainforest. Photo by www.Araguaia.org.


“As an astronaut,” Kelly writes, “I’m often asked about the climate, our environment, and how we are destroying the Earth. My response often surprises people. ‘Don’t worry about the planet, the Earth will be just fine,’ I tell them. ‘What you need to worry about is us — all of us.’ ”

Wilson says it this way: “It is reckless to suppose that biodiversity can be diminished indefinitely without threatening humanity itself.”

As we expand deeply our scientific understanding and respond to our moral obligation to all living things, the work to protect global biodiversity and secure a healthy planet for future generations continues to gain momentum. From astronauts to field scientists to people everywhere, we all have a role in reaching Half-Earth.

Half-Earth on EcoJustice Radio

Paula Ehrlich, President and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, shares the Half-Earth Project vision and goals with the listeners and followers of EcoJustice Radio. The program is a product of SoCal 350 Climate Action, an organization that envisions a healthy climate through the joining of environmental, social, and economic justice.



Carry Kim: Aloha, you’re listening to EcoJustice radio on 90.7 KPFK. My name is Carry Kim and today we’re grateful to be joined by Paula Ehrlich, President and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, which helps foster stewardship of the Earth’s biodiversity, research and education initiatives and protection of biodiversity worldwide. Dr. Ehrlich leads the Half-Earth Project, a project which proposes the goal of conserving half the Earth in order to protect 85 percent or more of species, including human beings.

Welcome, Paula.

Paula Ehrlich: Hello. Very nice to be with you.

CK: Thank you for joining us today on the show. For listeners, first of all I want to introduce for listeners unfamiliar with E.O. Wilson himself. He is an American biologist, researcher, naturalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, is one of his most recent books. He was named one of the centuries leading environmentalists by both Time and Audubon magazines. He’s one of the preeminent scientists living today, and is recognized for his pioneering efforts to preserve and protect biodiversity on Earth.

So, Paula, I wanted to first ask you—well, I’ll quote something from E.O. Wilson. He has said, “Humanity is currently faced with a momentous moral decision regarding the worldwide extinction of species and natural ecosystems. If we fail to act now, half of all known species will be gone by the end of the century.” So, could you explain to us what is the Half-Earth Project?

ehrlich-grab-01-640w.jpg

PE: Oh, absolutely. Well the Half-Earth Project is trying to bring E.O. Wilson’s grand vision for Half-Earth to life. You spoke about Half-Earth as a call to protect half our land and our seas in order to safeguard the bulk of biodiversity. We know that if we protect sufficient habitat, we can provide sufficient home for most of the species on our planet and currently they’re really threatened by an extinction crisis. The rate of extinction is about a thousand times higher now than it was before people came on the scene. That extinction rate, as you quoted, it is going to—if it continues at its current rate—we will lose, as you quoted, half the species of our planet by the end of the century.  Now that’s bad for a lot of reasons. Species have evolved exquisitely over the last three-and-a-half billion years in balance with ourselves, and support our lives and our resilience as much of each others. As species go extinct they can have profound effects not only on the environments in which they live and those ecosystems, but also our own. And so it’s with great humility that we need to work to protect what we have until we learn a lot more about it and know how to best care for the species of our planet.


As species go extinct they can have profound effects not only on the environments in which they live and those ecosystems, but also our own. And so it’s with great humility that we need to work to protect what we have until we learn a lot more about it and know how to best care for the species of our planet.

The reason that Ed Wilson calls this a moral dilemma is really because—of the 10 million species that inhabit our planet—we’re the one really that has the capacity to understand this and also the power to take care of it. We uniquely can decide the fate of the other species that share this planet with us and have the responsibility of course to care really for the only planet that we’ll ever have. Our home for ourselves and our children.

CK: He had an interesting quote where he was speaking about human beings that are choosing to be master rather than steward. Maybe that’s not applying to everybody, but we largely see that. And he also said that we do still have time to set aside half the earth. I don’t know how much time you believe that we really have but what are some of the actual spots where Earth’s biodiversity can still be reclaimed?

PE: There are extraordinary places. If you do a biogeographic scan of the globe, there are still some extraordinary places that are rich with biodiversity and unique endemism—species that don’t exist anywhere in the world—that we still have the opportunity to protect. Really it’s just that simple, right? We do have the ability to do that if we understand where those species are and can highlight them as places that need to be managed for conservation. That’s a big project right now. That’s a big effort now of the Half-Earth Project as we work to try to provide that scientific information that can help guide what places we need to protect. And that inevitably is driven by our understanding of where species are all living, what their distribution is at a fine scale, that allows us to guide conservation efforts.


That’s a big effort now of the Half-Earth Project as we work to try to provide that scientific information that can help guide what places we need to protect. And that inevitably is driven by our understanding of where species are all living, what their distribution is at a fine scale, that allows us to guide those conservation efforts.

CK: Are there any places in the U.S that that applies?

PE: There’s an amazing place in the southeastern United States, in and around the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta. It may be one of the places that has the richest biodiversity in the United States. And yet right now it’s not protected under any sort national park unit or comprehensive conservation plan. It happens to be Ed’s boyhood home. He has a very personal interest in it, but as a nation, as part of our national natural heritage, it would be an extraordinary place for us to prioritize for conservation.

CK: Well do you find it disheartening you know with the recent news of the Trump administration and what’s happened with Bears Ears or what’s going on currently with Bears Ears and Escalante and sort of this encroachment back into public lands and our monuments to scale them back and changing land use management practices or that potentiality existing? What do you have to say about that? At a time when we should be doing more conservation in the US, we are moving in the wrong direction?

PE: Well possibly.

CK: Maybe not everywhere.

PE: It’s interesting that you asked if it was disheartening. I think that as we all become more fully aware of the risks or the potential risks for environments, I think it’s also activating a lot of people to more fully understand the importance of these places. Certainly the Trump administration may be looking at these places as national natural resources that we should be managing in various ways that drive value to a local area, but those kinds of places also are part of our national natural heritage and they have values that we inherently cherish above and beyond potential economic value. Pride-of-place and biophilia are sort of essential parts of our sense of the special places in our country. And in some cases as we highlight these places that are at risk, we can also begin then to have a conversation about maybe the values of those places that we don’t yet fully understand. But more broadly I think that overall the message needs to be that we need to have great humility about the potential loss of places that we don’t really fully understand yet and that we need to protect until we do.

CK: Would you say that there’s greater threat to living species on land or in marine environments or is it sort of equally at threat? Is there some differential between the two?

PE: It’s hard to say because in every place and every locality there’s going to be different kinds of threats to different species that we know about and a lot of species that we don’t know about yet. We know probably about two million of the ten million species out there and that’s why the message really has to be one of humility. That until we understand more about all the species that are there we should we should act with with great caution. On the flip side of that, we know in a hopeful sense that if we do protect at least half the habitat of terrestrial and marine species, that we’ll have a pretty good chance of safeguarding the bulk of the biodiversity that lives on land and sea.

CK: And you had said, I think it has been stated, that this would be preserved in perpetuity, forever basically. I mean as long as human beings on this planet, that once that it is set aside, that is the goal: it remains such.


With species, once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.

PE: Well imagine how wonderful that would be that instead of just incremental progress and addressing individual endangered species that we all kind of elevated or aspired to a goal that we could work towards together. That having reached that solution, that having reached that goal, we would have solved the problem and can relax. And you know also recognize that as we think about what places that we need to protect, in many cases that these are just solutions to how we best manage places to best protect the biodiversity there. It could include places where indigenous people are living sustainably on the land and we need to focus on supporting that. Or where ranchers are ranching land in such a way that it can support the traditional biodiversity that’s always existed on those lands. And so the solutions, not necessarily one solution—a pristine reserve for example—in many cases we’re talking about places that we can—that are human landscapes as well, that just need to be managed with sensitivity to the biodiversity that’s there.

CK: You’re listening to Dr. Paula Ehrlich of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation on 90.7 KPFK EcoJustice radio. So Paula in response to what you said, E.O. Wilson had suggested that people need a victory and not just to have this incremental progress of saving species by species. “To strive against odds on behalf of all life would be humanity at its most noble.” So how much time do you think we realistically have to establish Half-Earth before experiencing a global collapse in our ecosystems?

PE: Well we can predict that about half of species will be gone by the end of the century. That’s soon, right? That’s like 75-80 years. And yet we know what we need to do and we just have to have the will to do so, and the scientific information to guide us there. The difference a little bit between climate change, which we understand what to do. If we determined to do so we can fix that problem, right? But with species, once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. And so we don’t have the opportunity to bring them back. And in that sense there’s a different sort of urgency that needs to be applied to this situation in order to address the problem.

CK: Can you speak a little bit about how the research programs are implemented? I know that there’s the research programs to help educate us and also provide the leadership about what places to target for conservation. Could you share a little bit more about how that is actually being undertaken and who are your partners in that?


Our partners in getting to Half-Earth are everyone.

PE: Sure. So really our partners in getting to Half-Earth are everyone working in the the conservation community, the general public, and decision-makers and leaders around the world. What the Half-Earth Project is working to do is to honor the deep expertise of everyone’s efforts as we work to convene them towards this goal, which is like a moonshot right? It’s something that we can work together to achieve and in that sense it’s an inspiring new level of participation towards a goal rather than a process.

CK: Absolutely.

PE: Within the Half-Earth Project, we’re working to provide scientific leadership as a priority right now by working to map the fine distribution of species across the globe. That’s a unique and differentiating effort which hasn’t been done in quite this way to guide conservation efforts before. That scientific mapping effort is being led by Map of Life at Yale, as well as our graphic design partner, Vizzuality, which is in Cambridge, UK and Madrid. By bringing these very talented and deep scientists together with all of the data partners, who have amazing data they’ve collected over the years, and then integrating that in a visually engaging way with information about conservation opportunities and priorities, as well as human impacts, such as populations and mining rights and fishing lanes, we can identify and sort of gerrymander the places where we have opportunity to protect the highest number of species.

CK: How did then…

PE: And then help to guide decision-makers, stakeholders at many different levels on what places we need to target for protection.

CK: So would all the results of that research and scientific evidence be publicly available?

PE: Absolutely. Our intention is to have that online in interactive maps that that people can engage with. Obviously to publish this information in peer-reviewed journals as well, so that it can be a deep scientific endeavor. But we’re also coming together with all kinds of people who through our Half-Earth Council can provide additional expertise to support our success. So where questions arise around the scientific core - around population or the effects on economics, or effects on indigenous people – we’re trying to bring some of the most profound voices and most sensitive voices to those sorts of issues into the Half-Earth Project and our Half-Earth Council as well, to help inform our success.

CK: Could you speak a little bit more about how the Half-Earth Project might address indigenous populations that are losing their habitats and what might we do to also protect their livelihoods and their traditional way of life?

PE: Well I think that we need to advocate on their behalf as part of the Half-Earth Project. The scientifically grounded information that we have about the extraordinary biodiversity that they may be shepherding needs to be honored and protected. I think that it’s a tricky one to answer as a whole because of course the situation is going to be unique in each individual place and it’s going to have its own important human element that will need to be addressed locally. But in general where we’ve seen conservation efforts the most successful—and there are many, many good examples of this—the associated economic needs of people who are living in these extraordinary places are taken into account first and the conservation priorities that are unique to that place can be integrated into the promotion and support of a thriving community. A very good example of that is what has happened in Mozambique with the Gorongosa Restoration Project. There’s been tremendous socio-economic support for the people of Gorongosa as they’ve also restored this extraordinary "lost Eden.” And we know in the U.S. as well, that National Park units and other places tend to bring a lot of sustainable economic growth to areas where parks are created. So in general, as we nurture and protect biodiversity, most often we can also point to some tremendous socio-economic stability and economic growth that occurs with that.

CK: Well yeah, and I also wonder in situations say for example in Africa with poaching, if the socio-economics were different, would poaching still be an activity that people would want to engage in, if they didn’t need to or if they didn’t feel that that was simple?

PE: Well, in Gorongosa, the folks that come in and poach, they’re given a job as rangers. They are the people that know the most about that place and really where they can use that knowledge to sustainably support their families and the park. It’s a win-win for both sides.

CK: Absolutely. How would the designated Half-Earth areas be monitored and protections enforced so that there’s not violations or that the protections really remain enforced?

PE: That’s a huge challenge of course. And through the Half-Earth Project, we’re trying to provide leadership about what places need to be managed to best protect biodiversity. And in each place how that’s best accomplished, of course, is a very local and regional consideration. But I think that the conversation we’re trying to have is about that management. It’s not just about coming in and protecting or designating a place as protected, but that we really need to think about how that place is also managed to support biodiversity and sustain it.

CK: Could you say beyond the obvious threats of climate change and habitat loss, why is extinction accelerating?

PE: Beyond the habitat loss…

CK: and climate change.

PE: The threats of climate change…Well we simply don’t know the effects of all different kinds of human intervention on the species around us. So in many cases it’s simply, I think, from lack of information to better understand our planet. Certainly with development and habitat loss, we’re removing the critical habitat that species need for their own livelihoods, but we may not be aware of all the species that we’re affecting with those changes. So even where we try to plan for protection with development, it’s inevitably not comprehensive because we don’t know enough about the species that are there. So a big renaissance in our understanding of species needs to occur in order for us to address those human impacts or understand our human impacts better. We can work to reverse climate change and we can certainly be sensitive to the needs to plan carefully around development, but until we have that information, we won’t really fully know why our actions are accelerating the extinction crisis so dramatically.

CK: What is the most dangerous worldview according to E.O. Wilson? We’ve got just like another minute.

PE: I’m not sure I understand what you…

CK: What is the most dangerous worldview? It’s a chapter in the Half-Earth book. Maybe it is that man is master? Or man considers himself to be master?

PE: There is a change in the conservation community as we consider how to best drive value to our conservation efforts. There’s a traditional conservation perspective that we should value nature for itself and a new conservation model that is looking at really just valuing nature as it provides value to people. And where the latter is something that we can understand and sometimes fundraise very successfully about, unfortunately to carry that viewpoint to its farthest extent, we may just end up with a perfectly well-tended garden that no longer has biodiversity in it. We may have created a beautiful dammed river where we can have recreational activities and boats, but we may then have lost three species that needed that river for it’s own livelihood and resilience. So that’s the tricky thing. That we remember to honor species and the value of nature for its own sake.

CK: Paula can you explain to our listeners how they can actively support and promote the Half-Earth Project—just giving us a website or places where they can engage?

PE: Absolutely. Listeners can take the Half-Earth Pledge, which is at half-earthproject.org. And by signing up for the Half-Earth Pledge, they can personally participate in helping us bring Half-Earth to life and also give us a mechanism for communicating with them about ways that they can participate locally and regionally in conservation in their own communities.

CK: So half-earthproject.org, is that correct?

PE: Yes, half-earthproject.org.

CK: Listeners, please engage the website, spread the news, help it go viral. You’ve been listening to Dr. Paula Ehrlich of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation on 90.7 EcoJustice radio KPFK
Thank You Paula.

PE: You’re welcome.


A Different Dimension of Loss

Unless humanity learns a great deal more about global biodiversity, and moves quickly to protect it, we will soon lose most of the species composing life on Earth.
— E.O. Wilson, "Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life"

Remember when your family went on a long automobile ride and your car’s windshield would become coated with bugs? Stopping at the gas station was not just about getting fuel, it was also about scraping off the window so that you could see. That doesn’t happen much anymore. That doesn’t happen because those insects are going extinct.

In fact, as author Jacob Mikanowski notes in “‘A different dimension of loss’: inside the great insect die-off,” published in The Guardian on Dec. 14, 2017, species are being “swept away in an ecological catastrophe that has come to be known as the sixth extinction.” It is invertebrates in general and insects in particular—what E.O. Wilson calls, “little things that run the world”—that are facing the worst of this crisis. “Everywhere, invertebrates are threatened by climate change, competition from invasive species and habitat loss.”

“If this trend were to continue indefinitely, the consequences would be devastating. Insects have been on Earth 1,000 times longer than humans have. In many ways, they created the world we live in. They helped call the universe of flowering plants into being. They are to terrestrial food chains what plankton is to oceanic ones,” Mikanowski writes, adding, “Without insects and other land-based arthropods, E.O. Wilson, the renowned Harvard entomologist, and inventor of sociobiology, estimates that humanity would last all of a few months.”

Why is this? As E.O. Wilson said in the book, The Diversity of Life, “As extinction spreads, some of the lost forms prove to be keystone species, whose disappearance brings down other species and triggers a ripple effect. The loss of a keystone species is like a drill accidentally striking a power line. It causes lights to go out all over.”

There are signs of hope amidst this crisis. The continued discovery of new species. A coral reef recovering. The resilience of an individual species surrounded by human encroachment. Mikanowski highlights the fluctuating plight of the Lange’s metalmark butterfly as one example. The tiny brown and orange butterfly with white spots feeds on a single plant that is being choked out by weeds, threatening the metalmark with extinction. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is taking bold steps to suffocate these weeds and allow native plants to return, and with it the health of the metalmark. “If we can bring back the environment, we can bring back the butterfly,” says wildlife refuge manager Don Brubaker.


Lange’s metalmark butterfly. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Lange’s metalmark butterfly. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


As E.O. Wilson says in his book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, “The crucial factor in the life and death of species is that amount of suitable habitat left to them.” If we can protect sufficient habitat – the habitat that butterflies and other species call home – we can protect the bulk of biodiversity. This is the premise for E.O. Wilson’s call to protect Half-Earth. If we protect half our lands and seas we have the opportunity to reverse the extinction crisis.

Asked why they make such an effort, Brubaker replied: “Why protect the species? Why not? Because it’s what we do – we’re enabling the planet to keep functioning.”

“The amount of work that goes into saving even a single species can sometimes feel overwhelming,” Mikanowski writes. “It isn’t enough to save one in a lab. You have to rescue whole environments – the products of complex interactions between plants, animals, soil and climate that have built up over millennia. If entomologists’ most dire predictions come true, the number of species that will go extinct in the coming century will be in the millions, if not the tens of millions. Saving them one at a time is like trying to stop a tsunami with a couple of sandbags.”

We must do more. As E.O. Wilson says, “The only hope for the species still living is a human effort commensurate with the magnitude of the problem.” Half-Earth offers that inspiring solution, raising our ambition to a new level, and the Half-Earth Project is engaging the public and convening the conservation community to achieve this important goal. To learn more about the Half-Earth Project visit half-earthproject.org.

Read the full article by Jacob Mikanowski.

Celebrating the Inaugural Half-Earth Day

The Half-Earth Project powers one of the grandest conservation efforts of our time, and provides the urgently needed research, leadership and knowledge necessary to conserve half the planet. If we conserve half of our land and seas, the bulk of biodiversity will be safeguarded from extinction, and life on Earth enters the safe zone.

The Half-Earth Project made great progress in 2017, highlighted by the inaugural Half-Earth Day held on October 23 in Washington, D.C. The event brought leading scientists, conservationists, and Half-Earth supporters from around the world and across disciplines to share their ideas and inspire innovative and impactful conservation efforts with this audacious goal in mind. 

Afternoon Session
Moderated by National Geographic Magazine Contributing Writer Jamie Shreeve, the afternoon presentations by Half-Earth Project partners highlighted model conservation efforts from the Gorongosa Restoration Project, Tompkins Conservation, African Parks, American Prairie Reserve, and Pristine Seas.


Dominique Gonçalves, Gorongosa Restoration Project

Years ago, Mozambique’s president decreed, “Gorongosa National Park should be a human development engine that should serve and help the local people even as the park replenishes its wildlife.” Today, the park is an example of how land and people can successfully coexist.


Tom Butler, Tompkins Conservation

Vast landscapes in Chile are being protected in their natural state, areas “where the land is not yoked to human will, human desire to manage, manipulate and exploit, where the land is home to self-willed creatures free to flourish in their own ways.”


Alison Fox, American Prairie Reserve

Fox and her team are creating a uniquely American park for wildlife and people, the largest wildlife complex ever assembled in the continental United States. “We’re pursuing three parallel tracks: acquiring habitat, remodeling that habitat to focus on biodiversity, and ensuring public benefit. Because of this integrated approach, we believe we are well on our way toward success.”


Andrea Heydlauff, African Parks

Managing protected areas on behalf of governments across Africa, Heydlauff notes: “What’s fantastic is that wildlife can rebound. Nature knows what to do. They just need to be given the space and security in order to thrive. And where wildlife thrives, people thrive.”


Enric Sala, Pristine Seas

Protecting the last pristine marine ecosystems worldwide is a huge goal. “I hear ‘Yeah, yeah, whatever. You helped to protect all these areas. Then what happens? Climate change is going to destroy everything.’ Well, science shows us that areas that are fully protected are more likely to bounce back after a warming event.”


Panel discussion with Gonçalves, Butler, Fox, Heydlauff and Sala, moderated by Shreeve.

“Let’s jump ahead… Let’s say it’s 2067 and half the Earth is protected…what are the steps that you took, how did we get there?” - Jamie Shreeve


Evening Session - "Celebrating Half-Earth: Steps to a Solution"
Introduced by National Geographic Society President and CEO, Gary E. Knell, and with comments and acknowledgements by E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation President and CEO, Dr. Paula J. Ehrlich, the evening session featured the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation Distinguished Lectureship in Biodiversity with naturalist Edward O. Wilson, biologist and author Sean B. Carroll, and legendary recording artist Paul Simon.

Gary E. Knell (remarks begin at 1:58)

“What we’ve found over the years is that major scientific advances are made not just in the field or the laboratory, but also in rooms like this, when leaders and experts and advocates and people who just care come together like yourselves to brainstorm new approaches.”

Paula Ehrlich (remarks begin at 12:42)

“The Half-Earth Project is informed by years of groundbreaking research, and the unique insight and expertise of many organizations and individuals who have dedicated their lives to understanding and caring for our environment.”

E.O. Wilson (talk begins at 25:50)

“When I attended last year the quadrennial meeting of the IUCN, I found that those who had read Half-Earth — and these are the experts, the professionals — they all seemed to like it. I thought I’d just be booed out of the place when I showed up because, you know ‘half the earth, are you kidding?’ But everybody who thought about this said, ‘yeah we can do that.’

 

Sean B. Carroll (talk begins at 25:50)

“Something wild has happened in the last year and a half. I saw all sorts of scientists today rooting, paddling in the same direction, rooting for Half-Earth as a unifying, galvanizing movement.”


Paul Simon (remarks begin at 1:23:05)

“People ask what they can do and I say begin. We don’t need a ripple effect, we need a tsunami.”
 

Support the Half-Earth Project


Photo by Tony Powell/National Geographic Eminent biologist Edward O. Wilson presents at the evening session of the planet’s first-ever Half-Earth Day. The inaugural event was co-convened by National Geographic and the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and held at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. on October 23, 2017.

Photo by Tony Powell/National Geographic

Eminent biologist Edward O. Wilson presents at the evening session of the planet’s first-ever Half-Earth Day. The inaugural event was co-convened by National Geographic and the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and held at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. on October 23, 2017.


‘A Second Notice’ for All of Us

E.O. Wilson was one of more than 1,700 original signators to the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” a document from the Union of Concerned Scientists sent to leaders all over the world in 1992.

On this, the 25th Anniversary of that document’s release, more than 15,000 scientists from around the world have now signed on to the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice.” Dr. Wilson is again a signator.


Photo copyright: Peter Hershey, 2017

Photo copyright: Peter Hershey, 2017


“Since 1992,” the updated notice states, “with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse.”

Among the stated threats in the original article was this: “Our massive tampering with the world’s interdependent web of life—coupled with the environmental damage inflicted by deforestation, species loss, and climate change—could trigger widespread adverse effects, including unpredictable collapses of critical biological systems whose interactions and dynamics we only imperfectly understand.”

Half-Earth is addressing this challenge directly. During the inaugural Half-Earth Day held October 23, 2017, in Washington, D.C., scientists led by Dr. Wilson agreed that saving half the Earth was not only necessary, but well within our powers to achieve. Leading with detailed species richness and rarity mapping, the Half-Earth Project is providing the foundation for reaching this global goal, and the scientific leadership needed to address the threat stated in the “Second Notice.” Progress is being made, but much remains to be done.

“To those who are steering the growth of nature reserves worldwide, let me make an earnest request:” Dr. Wilson implores. “Don’t stop. Just aim a lot higher.”

Watch Video and View Photos: Foundation Co-hosts Conversation With Rep. Don Beyer, Sen. Tom Udall, and E.O. Wilson On Protecting Wildlife Corridors

Originally published by Alexandrianews.org on October 24, 2017

Beyer, Udall, Environmental Groups Host Conversation With E.O. Wilson On Protecting Wildlife Corridors

screen-grab-wildlands-talk-640.jpg

In recognition of the planet’s first Half-Earth Day, Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) joined Wildlands Network and partners for “Wildlife Corridors and Saving America’s Biodiversity with E.O. Wilson” on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 24, at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center.

World-renowned Harvard biologist Dr. E.O. Wilson was joined by several conservation leaders and members of Congress for a solutions-oriented conversation about wildlife corridors and other policies that can protect America’s wild creatures and places for generations to come.

Known as the “Father of Biodiversity”, Wilson recently authored the book Half-Earth – Our Planet’s Fight for Life in which he laid out a vision to save biodiversity. Today, Dr. Wilson stated, “on this auspicious inaugural Half-Earth Day, a key issue addressed is the role of wildlife corridors, which would enlarge the nations protected areas and help achieve the goal of Half-Earth. Corridors would protect large swaths of America’s wildlife and other fauna and flora, especially in this critical time of climate change and shifting locations of the original environments in which a large part of biodiversity has existed.”

Rep. Don Beyer met with Dr. Wilson in 2016, and shortly afterwards introduced the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act, which would establish a National Wildlife Corridors System.


Note: Safari is the recommended browser to view this video.


“I introduced the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act in 2016 to help protect the nearly one in five animal and plant species in the U.S. at risk of extinction,” said Rep. Don Beyer. “Much of the danger to our most endangered species comes from habitat loss, and scientists like Dr. E.O. Wilson have told us that connecting habitats to ensure safe travel between them is key to the genetic strength of threatened populations, and to biodiversity as a whole.”

Recent studies show we are losing our native species at an alarming rate: currently one in five U.S. species are threatened with extinction. However, strategies – like protecting wildlife corridors – exist to protect our America’s wildlife.

“Our planet’s ‎wildlife is facing ever-increasing threats – from climate change to habitat destruction‎ — and we must take action at every level, from the U.S. Congress to the grass roots,” said Sen. Udall. “E.O. Wilson has dedicated his life to understanding the importance of species diversity, and eloquently sharing his studies and enthusiasm with a broad audience. His voice is essential, and I’m honored to join him for this Half-Earth Day conversation to raise awareness about the need to protect habitat and rally Americans to action.”‎

From monarchs to mule deer, from Florida panther to pronghorn, wildlife corridors and other policies can safeguard these species from the threats of climate change and habitat loss, increasing wildlife movement between habitat areas by approximately 50 percent compared to areas not connected by corridors.

“To preserve our wild heritage, we need to connect key habitat across the American landscape,” said Greg Costello, Wildlands Network Executive Director. “From the grizzly to the monarch butterfly, wildlife corridors allow us to steward some of our most treasured species. We’re excited to have the opportunity to discuss this critical topic with Dr. E.O. Wilson, Congressman Beyer and Senator Udall who are such great champions of protecting our natural heritage.”

“There is no doubt that protecting wildlife corridors is one of the most important proactive steps that we have to safeguard our country’s wildlife and majestic public lands,” stated Robert Stanton, former Director of the National Park Service and Endangered Species Coalition board member. “We are thrilled to help bring exciting ideas about saving biodiversity to Washington, DC.”

Presentations and discussions will follow Dr. Wilson’s conversation with members of Congress. Presenters included Dr. Bruce Stein of National Wildlife Federation; Dr. Stuart L. Pimm of the Nicholas School at Duke University; Dr. Healy Hamilton of NatureServe; Dr. Jon Beckmann of Wildlife Conservation Society; Dr. Gary Tabor of Center for Large Landscape Conservation; and Dr. Ron Sutherland of Wildlands Network.

See more at A Conversation on Protecting Global Biodiversity with E.O. Wilson.

For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.


Photos copyright: Peter Hershey, 2017

Can We Conserve Half the Planet for the Survival of All Species? Scientists and Conservationists at the World’s First Half-Earth Day Think We Can.

This article was originally published on National Geographic’s website on October 30, 2017.

Washington, D.C., October 30, 2017

Can we conserve half the planet for the survival of all species? Scientists and conservationists at the world’s first Half-Earth Day think we can.

Scientists and conservationists from around the world were joined by special guests, including eminent biologist Edward O. Wilson and legendary recording artist Paul Simon, to celebrate the planet’s first-ever Half-Earth Day on Oct. 23.

The all-day inaugural event, co-convened by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and National Geographic, highlighted efforts to halt rising extinction rates and help conserve half the planet. Half-Earth Day featured two large-scale public events, and a morning scientific session, that brought together scientists to discuss their research regarding how we can achieve the Half-Earth goal.

Half-Earth Day was inspired by E. O. Wilson’s best-selling book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life (read more about the book here). As Paula Ehrlich, president and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation explained at the evening session, “Half-Earth is E.O. Wilson’s call to conserve half our planet’s lands and seas in order to safeguard the bulk of biodiversity. Half-Earth was conceived as a moonshot; an inspiring goal that would drive conservation efforts to a new level.”

But is it still possible to set aside as much as half of the planet for conservation? Several dozen leading conservationists and scientists who convened in the closed morning session agreed almost unanimously that there is still an opportunity to provide scientific leadership on how to best manage 50 percent of the planet to protect life on Earth.


“The topline, really exciting element, is that the world’s leading experts in this field say that, ‘yes we believe this (Half-Earth) is possible.’ We have to effectively protect our key wilderness areas, and we have to think about restoration, but this is an idea that is very plausible and possible, and we should aim for it.”

said Jonathan Baillie, chief scientist and senior vice president, science and exploration at the National Geographic Society, after coming out of the morning session of Half-Earth Day

640-ngs-hed-01.jpg

Some of these experts went onto participate in the Half-Earth Day afternoon session titled, “Conservation in Action.” The speakers included: ominique Gonçalves, Gorongosa Elephant Project scientist at the Gorongosa Restoration Project; Tom Butler, vice president for conservation advocacy for the Tompkins Conservation family of foundations; Andrea Heydlauff, chief marketing and communications officer at African Parks; Alison Fox, president of the American Prairie Reserve; and Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and founder of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project.

The panel, which highlighted model large-landscape and ocean conservation efforts, was moderated by Jamie Shreeve, contributing writer for National Geographic magazine. “Can we alter our behavior? We already are. Is it enough? Not nearly. But things are changing,” said Shreeve.

Half-Earth Day continued with an evening session, which included remarks by National Geographic Society president and CEO, Gary E. Knell, as well as Ehrlich. The event culminated with a discussion between Wilson and scientist, author and educator Sean B. Carroll about practical steps that can be taken to protect species on a massive scale.


“If we set aside half the Earth for nature, we can save most all species.”

—Edward O. Wilson, university research professor emeritus at Harvard, and the guiding force that shapes the mission of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation

640-ngs-hed-02.jpg

Following Wilson and Carroll’s inspiring conversation, legendary recording artist Paul Simon took the stage to emphasize the importance of supporting biodiversity conservation.


“People ask what they can do and I say begin. We don’t need a ripple effect, we need a tsunami.”

—Paul Simon, legendary recording artist

After a special musical performance by Simon, Wilson and Ehrlich returned to the stage to honor Simon for his commitment to supporting conservation efforts with a framed image of a tree cricket named for Wilson from his personal collection.

In an op-ed published by National Geographic regarding Half-Earth, Wilson wrote: “The challenge —all-in, full global conservation — is formidable, but worth the effort, given the magnitude of the reward for humanity and for all generations to come. We can do it, and why not? Scientists and the general public already think it appropriate to map and collect some 100 million nerve cells in the human brain. At much less cost, we ought to be able to find and map the 10 million species believed to exist, for no less a goal than to save Earth’s living environment. Half-Earth Day will be the first step in showing the way.”

Read more about Half-Earth Day in this National Geographic story. To view recordings of the sessions, visit www.half-earthproject.org/half-earthday.


640-1920_017-photobytonypowell.halfearthday.nationalgeographic.october232017-73.jpg

E.O. Wilson in “Nature Ecology & Evolution”: Biodiversity Research Requires More Boots on the Ground

“Biodiversity Research Requires More Boots on the Ground”
This article was originally published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, October 24, 2017
By Edward O. Wilson

Our incomplete taxonomic knowledge impedes our attempts to protect biodiversity. A renaissance in the classification of species and their interactions is needed to guide conservation prioritization.

The discovery and description of Earth’s biodiversity is the oldest biological science, yet it is the least developed. The number of species characterized and given Latinized names by taxonomists recently passed 2 million. However, the full roster, comprising all those known and others awaiting discovery, is generally believed to be of the order of 10 million; one mathematically reasoned inference put the number of eukaryotic species alone at 8.7 million (1). Thus, a very large fraction of living species, as many as 80%, remains unknown to science. Simply put, we live on a little-known planet.

Take the ants, for example. These relatively well-studied insects are among the most abundant and environmentally dominant animals on the land outside the polar regions (Fig. 1). There are 334 currently recognized genera, of which the second largest in species number is Pheidole. In my study of the New World Pheidole I identified 624 species, including 337 new to science (2). The natural history of fewer than a score of these has been studied in any detail. Meanwhile, new species, discovered mostly in tropical forests and savannas, continue to pour into museum collections.


nature-ants-ss.jpg

A second example is the astonishing abundance and diversity of single-celled protists uncovered in studies (3) of the soil and litter of neotropical forests. A large fraction of these mostly new species is parasitic. Their activity seems to be a factor that sustains diversity in insects and other invertebrates, a large majority of which are also unstudied — or entirely unknown.

Biodiversity in the sea is even less well explored than that on the land. The ultramicroscopic bacterium Prochlorococcus, the principal photosynthesizer of the warmer open sea, was first recognized in 1988. These microbes, along with another superabundant marine bacterium, Pelagibacter, are exceeded in turn by viruses, which number on average billions per litre of seawater. A great many, perhaps most, seem to be bacteriophages.

Biologists have scarcely begun to measure the variety of life in Earth’s immense virosphere. Yet even as this domain is more fully explored, we are met by discoveries such as the mysterious ultramicroscopic eukaryotes classified in 2013 as a new phylum, the Picozoa. And beneath the surface of both land and sea is the ‘deep biome’ of rock-eating bacteria and their occasional nematode predators (4) that range downwards to the level at which the risen heat prevents all life — we think.

Most biological research begins and stays with the species as the favoured level of organization, whatever the nature of the trait analysed. The sequencing of highly variable mitochondrial segments — or even of the entire genome — is valuable in its own right, but tells us relatively little about the anatomy, physiology and behaviour of the organisms, and even less about their role in ecosystems. At the highest level, the classification of ecosystems and the rates at which they change tell us a lot. The same is true of ecoregions, relatively undisturbed natural areas consisting of one to multiple ecosystems (5). But the delineation of species and the rates of their individual population growth or decline tell us much more, and with far greater exactitude.

Many of the less-explored groups are immediately available for fruitful research on biodiversity — for example, the mites, soil-dwelling spiders, schizomid arachnids, parasitoid wasps, springtails, tardigrades, nematodes, rotifers, parasitic flatworms, midges, crustaceans, microscopic algae and a seemingly infinitude of microscopic fungi. I have often offered the following suggestion to new graduate students: if you go outside and pick up the first small organism you see, you will hold in your hand a PhD project.

As a rule, the only scientists able to discover and analyse the fine detail of biodiversity needed at the species level are specialists: the entomologists, herpetologists, nematologists, mycologists and others who devote their careers to the biology of their chosen group. They alone develop the fingertip familiarity with the species and a feel for the intricacy of organisms in the environment. They accumulate not merely data and syntheses but also impressions and intuitions beyond the reach even of Big Data technology. This deep peripheral knowledge leads to new questions and lines of research beyond ordinary imagination.

Unfortunately, research into the biology of diversity has been largely abandoned by universities in favour of focus at the molecular and cellular levels of a small number of ‘model’ species. Museums around the world with outstanding collections have been unable to increase their curatorial staff to compensate for this shortfall.

The Linnaean enterprise has taken a new urgency with the recognition that global extinction rates have risen to between 100 and 1,000 times the rate during pre-human history (6) (approximately 900 times in North American freshwater fishes, for example (7)). It makes sense, when surveying and mapping species for conservation practice, to focus first on those groups of which we have the greatest knowledge and can move most quickly to completion. Among them are the flowering plants, vertebrates, corals, butterflies, dragonflies and damsel flies, araneid spiders and mosquitoes. From this distribution information alone, which we could assemble in a decade, it should be possible to map the optimum placement of biodiversity-defined reserves. Some of these distribution studies already exist and conservation planning on the basis of them is ongoing (8).

Advances in molecular genetics and information technology are assisting crucial biodiversity studies (9). The reading of highly variable segments of mitochondria allows reliable identification of specimens to species level, and even to different life forms or isolated tissue fragments of the same species. Complete genomes make possible quick scans of entire faunas and floras. They also permit the reconstruction of the evolutionary history by which related species have multiplied. Yet in the broader perspective of biodiversity, these studies are the equivalent of aerial surveillance; what is more needed are boots on the ground.

The ongoing neglect of biodiversity research impedes the progress of conservation of life at all levels in all taxonomic groups. It also diminishes the capacity to meet one of the greatest challenges to the biological sciences, rising just over the horizon: the origin, evolution and equilibration of ecosystems. The problems presented by ecosystem analyses are equivalent in complexity to those presented by the human brain. They can be solved by nothing less than a Linnaean renaissance, in which each one of the millions of Earth’s species still surviving is discovered and its role in the biosphere increasingly well documented.

REFERENCES

1. Mora, C., Tittensor, D. P., Adl, S., Simpson, A. G. B. & Worm, B. PLOS Biol. 9, e1001127 (2011).

2. Wilson, E. O. Pheidole in the New World: A Dominant, Hyperdiverse Ant Genus (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2003).

3. Mahé, F. et al. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 1, 0091 (2017).

4. Tranter, M. Nature 512, 256–257 (2014).

5. Dinerstein, E. et al. BioScience 67, 534–545 (2017).

6. Lamkin, M. & Miller, A. J. BioScience 66, 785–789 (2016).

7. Burkhead, N. M. BioScience 62, 793–808 (2012).

8. Wilson, E. O. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life (Liveright, New York, 2016).

9. Pennisi, E. Science 355, 894–895 (2017).

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Affiliations
Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138-2902, USA
Edward O. Wilson

Competing interests
The author declares no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author
Correspondence to Edward O. Wilson.

You're Invited: Wildlife Corridors and Saving America’s Biodiversity with E.O. Wilson

CO-SPONSORS: Wildlands Network • E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation • Endangered Species Coalition • Center for Large Landscape Conservation • Animal Welfare Institute • Sierra Club • Defenders of Wildlife • The Wilderness Society • National Wildlife Federation • National Parks and Conservation Association


                                                       Photo: Tom Koerner, USFWS

                                                       Photo: Tom Koerner, USFWS


In cooperation with Honorary Hosts Representative Don Beyer (D-VA), Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI), 
Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) 

invite you to a briefing and cupcake reception

in recognition of the planet’s first Half-Earth Day

Wildlife Corridors and Saving America’s Biodiversity with E.O. Wilson

Tuesday, October 24, 2017
1-3:30 p.m.
Capitol Visitor Center: Congressional Auditorium and Atrium

Join world-renowned Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, former Director of the U.S. National Park Service Robert Stanton, and other leading biologists and thought leaders in a solutions-oriented discussion of how we can protect America’s wildlife. From monarchs to mule deer, from Florida panther to pronghorn, find out about wildlife corridors and policies that can safeguard these species from the threats of climate change and habitat loss.

1:00 p.m. – A Conversation with E.O. Wilson, Congressman Beyer (D-VA),
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)

1:30 – 3:00 p.m. – Presentations and discussion: Challenges to U.S. wildlife, wildlife corridors and other solutions to the biodiversity crisis

3:00 p.m. – Cupcake reception and meet and greet with E.O. Wilson and panelists. Bring your copy of Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life for E.O. Wilson to sign!

This event is free and open to the public.

PRESENTERS

Dr. Bruce Stein, National Wildlife Federation • Dr. Stuart L. Pimm, Nicholas School, Duke University • Dr. Healy Hamilton, NatureServe • Dr. Jon Beckmann, Wildlife Conservation Society • Dr. Gary Tabor, Center for Large Landscape Conservation • 
Dr. Ron Sutherland, Wildlands Network

RSVPs appreciated but not required. Please RSVP to info@wildlandsnetwork.org. For more information, contact Susan Holmes at 202-329-1553.

In Recognition of Half-Earth Day, Groups Host Conversation with E.O. Wilson and Members of Congress to Save America’s Biodiversity and Protect Wildlife Corridors

For Immediate Release: October 24, 2017
Contacts:
Susan Holmes, Wildlands Network: susan@wildlandsnetwork.org, 202-329-1553
Paula Ehrlich, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation: pehrlich@eowilsonfoundation.org, (215) 847-0920
Derek Goldman, dgoldman@endangered.org, (406) 721-3218
Fritschner, Aaron, Aaron.Fritschner@mail.house.gov, (202) 225-4376
Jennifer Talhelm, news@tomudall.senate.gov, (202) 228-6870

In Recognition of Half-Earth Day, Groups Host Conversation with E.O. Wilson and Members of Congress to Save America’s Biodiversity and Protect Wildlife Corridors


08-640.jpg

Washington, DC – In recognition of the planet’s first Half-Earth Day, join Wildlands Network and partners for “Wildlife Corridors and Saving America’s Biodiversity with E.O. Wilson” on Tuesday, October 24 from 1-3:30 p.m. at the Capitol Building Visitors Center Congressional Auditorium and Atrium.

World-renowned Harvard biologist Dr. E.O. Wilson will be joined by several conservation leaders and members of Congress, including Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) for a solutions-oriented conversation about wildlife corridors and other policies that can protect America’s wild creatures and places for generations to come.

“To preserve our wild heritage, we need to connect key habitat across the American landscape,” said Greg Costello, Wildlands Network Executive Director. “From the grizzly to the monarch butterfly, wildlife corridors allow us to steward some of our most treasured species. We’re excited to have the opportunity to discuss this critical topic with Dr. E.O. Wilson, Congressman Beyer and Senator Udall who are such great champions of protecting our natural heritage.”

Recent studies show we are losing our native species at an alarming rate: currently one in five U.S. species are threatened with extinction. However, strategies—like protecting wildlife corridors—exist to protect our America’s wildlife.

Renowned biologist E.O. Wilson recently authored the book Half-Earth-Our Planet’s Fight for Life in which he laid out a vision to save biodiversity. Today, Dr. Wilson stated, “on this auspicious inaugural Half-Earth Day, a key issue addressed is the role of wildlife corridors, which would enlarge the nations protected areas and help achieve the goal of Half-Earth. Corridors would protect large swaths of America’s wildlife and other fauna and flora, especially in this critical time of climate change and shifting locations of the original environments in which a large part of biodiversity has existed.”

“Our planet’s ‎wildlife is facing ever-increasing threats — from climate change to habitat destruction‎ — and we must take action at every level, from the U.S. Congress to the grass roots,” said Senator Udall, D-N.M. “E.O. Wilson has dedicated his life to understanding the importance of species diversity, and eloquently sharing his studies and enthusiasm with a broad audience. His voice is essential, and I’m honored to join him for this Half-Earth Day conversation to raise awareness about the need to protect habitat and rally Americans to action.”‎

Rep. Beyer, concerned with the critical need to slow the rising species extinction rate, understands the imperative of implementing wildlife corridors and other strategies to protect America’s biodiversity.

“I introduced the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act in 2016 to help protect the nearly one in five animal and plant species in the U.S. at risk of extinction,” said Rep. Don Beyer. “Much of the danger to our most endangered species comes from habitat loss, and scientists like Dr. E.O. Wilson have told us that connecting habitats to ensure safe travel between them is key to the genetic strength of threatened populations, and to biodiversity as a whole.”

From monarchs to mule deer, from Florida panther to pronghorn, wildlife corridors and other policies can safeguard these species from the threats of climate change and habitat loss, increasing wildlife movement between habitat areas by approximately 50 percent compared to areas not connected by corridors.

“There is no doubt that protecting wildlife corridors is one of the most important proactive steps that we have to safeguard our country’s wildlife and majestic public lands,” stated Robert Stanton, former Director of the National Park Service (NPS) and Endangered Species Coalition board member. “We are thrilled to help bring exciting ideas about saving biodiversity to Washington, D.C.”

Presentations and discussions will follow Dr. Wilson’s conversation with members of Congress. Presenters include Dr. Bruce Stein of National Wildlife Federation; Dr. Stuart L. Pimm of the Nicholas School at Duke University; Dr. Healy Hamilton of NatureServe; Dr. Jon Beckmann of Wildlife Conservation Society; Dr. Gary Tabor of Center for Large Landscape Conservation; and Dr. Ron Sutherland of Wildlands Network.

The event will wrap with a cupcake reception and an opportunity to meet E.O. Wilson, members of Congress, presenters, and other attendees.

E.O. Wilson and other speakers will be available for photos. This event is free and open to the public. RSVPs appreciated but not required. Please RSVP to info@wildlandsnetwork.org.

The event will be livestreamed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2q7nOx7fwrw

For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/120118835347840/

###

Guest Blog from The Global Ocean Refuge System in Support of Half-Earth Day

The Global Ocean Refuge System Supports Half-Earth Day


Sea turtles in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Edited here, original photo by Bo Mancao.

Sea turtles in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Edited here, original photo by Bo Mancao.


Humans are wreaking havoc on our oceans. Our impacts, from climate change to overfishing, are destroying marine ecosystems and their biodiversity. To stem these losses, the Half-Earth Project calls for us to work together and save half the planet for other life, and today has been named the inaugural Half-Earth Day to build support for this goal. They estimate that if we choose carefully, we can save 85% or more of species! The Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES, pronounced “glories”) works towards a sympathetic goal: building a network of marine reserves that strongly protect 30% of the global ocean. Each Global Ocean Refuge is a step towards this target and each protects a special place for marine life.


A school of red snapper in Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary. Edited here, original photo by Tomas Kotouc.

A school of red snapper in Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary. Edited here, original photo by Tomas Kotouc.


Off the coast of Colombia, Platinum Global Ocean Refuge Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary is a lush treasure and the eastern tropical Pacific’s largest no-fishing zone. As a result of this protection, it teems with a variety of sharks and hundreds of other fish species. Marine mammals, like humpback whales, and huge seabird colonies also ply its rich waters. Malpelo Island itself is the peak of an underwater ridge whose rugged cliffs and tunnels support this wildlife explosion. All told, this sanctuary’s natural wonders and conservation success make its place in GLORES well-earned.


A juvenile Hawaiian monk seal rests on a beach on Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Photo by Mark Sullivan, NOAA Fisheries Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, 2014.

A juvenile Hawaiian monk seal rests on a beach on Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Photo by Mark Sullivan, NOAA Fisheries Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, 2014.


Covering over 1.5 million km2 in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is one of the world’s largest marine protected areas. The park’s inner section has a strict no-take policy, while its outer area permits some scientific research, Native Hawaiian practices and non-commercial uses. This outer, limited-use area is a protective buffer for the inner zone and these measures safeguard critical habitat for thousands of marine species, including the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and critically endangered Laysan duck. Its incredible biodiversity, huge size, exemplary management and strong protection make Papahānaumokuākea a perfect fit as a Platinum Global Ocean Refuge.


A whale shark in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Edited here, original photo by Bo Mancao

A whale shark in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Edited here, original photo by Bo Mancao


Located in the Coral Triangle, the Philippines’ Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a no-take reserve renowned for its resilient, healthy reefs. Protected since 1988, the Park harbors over 1,200 marine species and some, like the hawksbill sea turtle, are endangered and need its support. Beyond its own reefs, studies have found that Tubbataha is a source of fish and coral larvae in the surrounding Sulu Sea, which only amplifies its remarkable conservation value. For the Philippines’ effective management and the area’s ecological abundance, it was an honor to award Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Platinum Global Ocean Refuge status.


Our President Dr. Lance Morgan, GLORES Science Fellow Dr. Sarah Hameed, and Board Chair Dr. David Johns with Global Ocean Refuge managers after our awards announcement at the 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress.

Our President Dr. Lance Morgan, GLORES Science Fellow Dr. Sarah Hameed, and Board Chair Dr. David Johns with Global Ocean Refuge managers after our awards announcement at the 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress.


Together, the three Global Ocean Refuges protect a diverse array of marine life across the Pacific. As the network grows, it will elevate marine protection through inspiring examples and encourage others to follow GLORES science-based criteria and improve their marine protected areas. Each Global Ocean Refuge advances impactful conservation of vital ecosystems. Both the Half-Earth Project and GLORES are science driven initiatives striving to make room for all life on our planet. As we work towards our complimentary goals, the planet will return to its wild abundance. What could make for a happier Half-Earth Day than that?

Guest Blog by Sarah Gibbens: Here's What You Need to Know About Half-Earth Day

“Here’s What You Need to Know About Half-Earth Day”
By Sarah Gibbens
Originally published on October 23, 2017 by National Geographic

Scientists say saving the world’s species from mass extinction is possible, but it requires urgent action. Here’s how you can get involved.

Species are declining faster than ever, yet 86 percent of them may still be unknown. Studies say the extinction rate is now so high the Earth is entering its sixth mass extinction—but one group of scientists has a plan for how to keep it from getting worse.

Half the planet. That’s the amount of protected marine and land habitats some scientists say is needed to save 80 percent of the world’s species.

It’s one of environmentalists’ most ambitious conservation dreams. For a time, it remained little more than a theory. But now a group of prominent scientists have a plan for how to actually reach this goal, and they plan to unveil it Monday at an event called “Half Earth Day.”


Red-fan parrot, Deroptyus accipitrinus, Houston Zoo. Photograph from National Geographic.

Red-fan parrot, Deroptyus accipitrinus, Houston Zoo. Photograph from National Geographic.


The concept was first penned by famed biologist E.O. Wilson in his book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. (Read more about the book here.) At 88 years old, Wilson has spent decades fighting for biodiversity (a term he also helped popularize).

Wilson credits an early edition of National Geographic magazine with inspiring him to save the ecosystems he says are now under a massive threat from human development and climate change.

So it’s fitting that the first time his foundation reveals its “Half-Earth” plans would be at the Washington headquarters of National Geographic, which is cohosting the event with the biologist’s E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.

On Monday afternoon, “Half Earth Day” will feature two large-scale events in which the public can participate.

The first is titled Conservation in Action and will discuss models of land and ocean conservation happening on large scales. The latter event will feature E.O. Wilson himself, musician Paul Simon, and author Sean B. Carroll, who plan to discuss practical steps that can be taken to conserve the environment on such a massive scale. More information on how to see a live stream of each discussion can be seen here.

At a session earlier in the day, scientists will attempt to map out how to set aside half the Earth for conservation

So what exactly are they trying to achieve?

In his book about the concept, Wilson explains that 80 to 90 percent of all species could be saved if half of the Earth’s habitats are set aside for wildlife.

“What we’re imagining is a spectrum of purely wild places,” said Paula Ehrlich, the CEO of the foundation. She referenced habitats as small as monarch gardens constructed in a person’s backyard to wildlife corridors that join two large protected habitats and allow species to move easily between the two.


Ring-tailed lemur, Lemur catta, Lincoln Children’s Zoo, Nebraska. Photograph from National Geographic.

Ring-tailed lemur, Lemur catta, Lincoln Children’s Zoo, Nebraska. Photograph from National Geographic.


Wilson’s concept is based off a theory he established in the 1960s with ecologist Robert MacArthur called island biogeography. The theory held that larger and more diverse habitats would give species a greater chance for survival.

Wilson’s foundation now plans to turn these theories into practical steps by outlining exactly where they think these protected habitats should be established. According to Ehrlich, they made these maps based on species range, distribution, and risk for human impact. She hopes that once people are aware of what needs to be protected, they’ll act.

The foundation also plans to lobby members of Congress to enact more protections for wild environments and species. Members of the public who feel motivated to contribute to the Half-Earth project in some way are asked to sign a pledge on the initiative’s website.

Sarah Gibbens is an associate digital producer at National Geographic.

First Half-Earth Day Offers a Chance to Halt Species Extinction

“First Half-Earth Day Offers a Chance to Halt Species Extinction”
By E.O. Wilson
Originally published on October 23, 2017 by National Geographic.

Nature versus the ‘terranauts.’

We are in an extraordinary moment. Awareness of the risks facing our planet is growing and people are leaning forward, looking for a hopeful solution. On Half-Earth Day, October 23, thought leaders from around the world are gathering to showcase model conservation efforts, research, exploration and discovery that are working to achieve the goal of Half-Earth and protect our planet.

Why must we save half the Earth? Two lethal crises in the global environment have arisen under the human regime. The first is climate change, which is reversible. The second crisis, which in contrast is not reversible, is the worldwide extinction of species and natural ecosystems. This spread of death is removing Earth’s billion-year-old environmental support system. If not halted, and even if climate were to be stabilized, the losses will in time turn Earth from a metaphorical to a literal spaceship. The first steps in technology are already on the table. A few scientists are exploring the possibilities of geoengineering, including the release of particles and chemicals into the sea and atmosphere in order to counteract climate change. As biodiversity is stripped away and replaced by artifacts the world will be run less by nature and more by human terranauts.

Terranauts is a rare term, occasionally used in fantasies. As the name implies, it will be in reality the scientists and engineers who fly the planet like an oversized space vehicle. They and their robots will spin the dials and click the keys to provide our food, potable water, and the very air we breathe. At some point humanity no longer will be able to rely on the life-giving resources granted by nature.


                                                   Photographs from National Geographic

                                                   Photographs from National Geographic


What we call nature, the living natural environment, consists of three levels of biological organization. At the top are ecosystems such as pastures, woodlands, and coral reefs. In the center are the species that compose each of the ecosystems in turn. Finally, at the foundation are the genes, which prescribe the traits that distinguish the species that compose the ecosystem.

Every species, every kind of antelope, conifer, orchid, algae, butterfly, spider, and roundworm, constitutes a population of organisms that freely interbreed with one another while remaining reproductively isolated from all others. How many species exist today on Earth? Since the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus began censusing them in 1735, a bit over two million have been identified and given a Latinized scientific name. How many species actually exist? When algae, fungi, and insects with other invertebrate animals are added to the vertebrates (birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fishes), the best estimate is about ten million. Sampling and statistical analysis estimate that eighty percent of these species remain undefined. Any experienced naturalist can tell you: we live on a little known planet.

How fast are these surviving species going extinct due to human activity? Answer from the fossil record: somewhere between 100 and 1,000 times faster than before the spread of humanity, and the rate is accelerating. If this trend continues, we could wipe out most species by the end of the century.

So how can we fix the problem? The solution consists of two parallel tracks. The first is called Half-Earth. If half the surface of the land and half the surface of the sea are managed to conserve biodiversity, we can protect 85% or more of Earth’s species, including ourselves. This approach, conceiving conservation as an explicit overall goal, as opposed to a process, has become a lodestar, engaging the public and convening the conservation community to achieve this solution.

The second, parallel solution, a long-term adjunct of Half-Earth, is to create a Linnaean renaissance of understanding about species and their interactions within ecosystems. A renaissance of taxonomic research would accelerate the effort to discover, describe, and conduct natural history studies for every one of the 8 million living species estimated to exist, but still unknown to science. This reinvigorated research, added to that on known species, will contribute immense amounts of information to both conservation and general biology, allowing us to effectively manage protected habitats.

The challenge – all-in, full global conservation – is formidable, but worth the effort, given the magnitude of the reward for humanity and for all generations to come. We can do it, and why not? Scientists and the general public already think it appropriate to map and collect some 100 million nerve cells in the human brain. At much less cost, we ought to be able to find and map the 10 million species believed to exist, for no less a goal than to save Earth’s living environment. Half-Earth Day will be the first step in showing the way.

Edward O. Wilson is a prominent conservation biologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who is often called the “heir to Charles Darwin.” He is a professor at Harvard and lecturer at Duke. Learn more about the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.

 

Watch the Half-Earth Day Events on October 23 via Livestream

                                                         Photo Courtesy National Geographic

                                                         Photo Courtesy National Geographic


Visit this page on Monday, October 23 to livestream Half-Earth Day presentations from the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C.

CONSERVATION IN ACTION: BRINGING
HALF-EARTH TO LIFE


Afternoon Public Session
2:00–4:00 pm
Grosvenor Auditorium

Highlighting model conservation efforts from the Gorongosa Restoration Project, Tompkins Conservation, African Parks, American Prairie Reserve, and Pristine Seas. Moderated by National Geographic Magazine Contributing Writer Jamie Shreeve.

Register for Tickets
Watch via Livestream
CELEBRATING HALF-EARTH: STEPS TO A SOLUTION

Evening Public Session
7:00–9:00 pm
Grosvenor Auditorium

The James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation Distinguished Lectureship in Biodiversity with naturalist Edward O. Wilson, biologist and author Sean B. Carroll, and legendary recording artist Paul Simon.



Register for Tickets
Watch via Livestream

The all-day, inaugural event will feature special guests including renowned biologist, researcher, theorist, naturalist, and author Edward O. Wilson, biologist and author Sean B. Carroll; and legendary recording artist Paul Simon. Half-Earth Day is sponsored by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and hosted by National Geographic as part of our partnership to explore and protect the living Earth.

Half-Earth Day will highlight conservation efforts from the Gorongosa Restoration Project, Tompkins Conservation, African Parks, American Prairie Reserve, and National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project. This event is an opportunity for everyone to convene, share their unique contributions and thought leadership, and inspire fresh goal-driven energy and engagement in conserving our planet.

Read more about Half-Earth Day events, including the full schedule of programs.


Starts Monday 2:00 and 7:00 PM EST

Half-Earth Project Gains Momentum with Significant Gift

Paul Simon Gift Supports the E.O Wilson Biodiversity Foundation’s Half-Earth Project

Durham, N.C., October 16, 2017 /PRNewswire/ – The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation today announced that it is expanding the staff and programs of the Half-Earth Project following a substantial gift from legendary recording artist, Paul Simon. Simon made the donation to the Foundation following his 19-city U.S. concert tour to support its efforts, in particular, the Half-Earth Project.

The Half-Earth Project is a goal-oriented campaign to conserve half the planet’s lands and oceans in order to stop the species extinction crisis. By conserving half the Earth, humanity can safeguard the bulk of biodiversity, including ourselves.

“We are very honored to receive this outstanding gift from Paul Simon and to have his generous support for the Half-Earth Project,” said Edward O. Wilson. “Humanity is currently faced with a momentous moral decision regarding the worldwide extinction of species and natural ecosystems. If we fail to act now, half of all known species will be gone by the end of the century. With Paul Simon’s gift we can expand the work of the Half-Earth Project and deepen our engagement with the public and conservation community to achieve this solution.”


11-640w.jpg

Paul Simon’s gift will support the Half-Earth Project’s research programs, which are working to identify, track, map, monitor, and visualize the biodiversity of the world in order to provide scientific leadership about what places to target for conservation and achieve the goal of Half-Earth. Funding is being used to drive the integration of vast data sets and expertise to create high resolution maps that will engage people everywhere in understanding why certain places are special, and how they can best be managed to protect life on Earth.

Paul Simon remarked, “I was particularly inspired by something Ed Wilson said a few years ago: ‘Our planet could be a paradise by the next century but we must work together quickly to save Earth’s biodiversity.’ I was proud to perform my last tour to benefit and support Ed’s vision for Half-Earth.“

“We are extremely grateful to Paul Simon for helping us to engage people in this hopeful solution and for his powerful voice on behalf of all of life on Earth,” said Paula Ehrlich, President & CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity. “His contribution gives us the opportunity to scale-up our research efforts to match the grand ambition of Half-Earth and protect our planet.”

About the Half-Earth Project
The Half-Earth Project has science at its core and our moral obligation to the rest of life at its heart. In collaboration with our partners, we are working to power one of the grandest conservation efforts of our time, and provide the urgently needed research, leadership and engagement necessary to conserve half the planet for the rest of life. Learn more at half-earthproject.org.

About the E.O. Wilson Foundation
The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation fosters a knowing stewardship of our world through biodiversity research and education initiatives that promote and inform worldwide preservation of our biological heritage. Learn more at eowilsonfoundation.org.

Leading Conservationists to Gather in Washington, D.C., to Celebrate Planet’s First-Ever Half-Earth Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Leading Conservationists to Gather in Washington, D.C., to
Celebrate Planet’s First-Ever Half-Earth Day

Inaugural, All-Day Event on Oct. 23 Features Special Guests, Including
Eminent Biologist Edward O. Wilson and Legendary Recording Artist Paul Simon

Durham, N.C., Oct. 13, 2017/PR Newswire/ – The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation today announced the planet’s first Half-Earth Day to take place at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 23. Studies show that if we conserve half of our land and seas, at least 85 percent of species will be protected from extinction. Half-Earth Day is a celebration and a call to action—bringing together leaders in conservation, from around the world and across disciplines, to share their ideas and inspire innovative and impactful conservation efforts with this audacious goal in mind.

Global conservationists, scientists and the general public will join renowned biologist, researcher, theorist, naturalist and author Edward O. Wilson for the all-day, inaugural event, which is co-convened by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and National Geographic to highlight the work of research and conservation organizations working to explore and protect the living Earth.

“The Half-Earth approach is not only science-based, but it will also expand fundamental science into new directions,” said Edward O. Wilson, university research professor emeritus at Harvard, and the guiding force that shapes the mission of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. “The goal of discovering and mapping all biodiversity, and especially at the level of species, will lead to immense new knowledge in basic and applied biology.”


Photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic

Photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic


“Our planet is at a crossroads, and there is both an opportunity and a critical need to act now, and to do so boldly,” said Gary E. Knell, president and CEO of the National Geographic Society. “National Geographic is proud to convene the first-ever Half-Earth Day to inspire people everywhere to understand and care for our world, furthering our progress toward a healthier and more sustainable future for generations to come.”

Half-Earth Day will feature afternoon and evening public sessions at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C. The afternoon session, “Conservation in Action: Bringing Half-Earth to Life,” will highlight models of large-landscape and ocean conservation, including the work of the Gorongosa Restoration Project, Tompkins Conservation, African Parks, American Prairie Reserve and National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project.

The culmination of the day will feature an evening event, “Celebrating Half-Earth: Steps to a Solution,”presented by the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation Distinguished Lectureship in Biodiversity. Special guests will include eminent biologist Edward O. Wilson, biologist and author Sean B. Carroll and legendary recording artist Paul Simon.

The all-day collaboration builds upon a rich history between E.O. Wilson and National Geographic that dates back to 1939, when E.O Wilson was inspired to become an entomologist after reading about insects in National Geographic magazine. In 2013, the National Geographic Society presented E.O. Wilson with the Hubbard Medal, its most prestigious honor, which is given to individuals for the highest distinction in exploration, scientific research and discovery.

“National Geographic is committed to protecting the planet and the world’s biodiversity,” said Jonathan Baillie, chief scientist and senior vice president, science and exploration, at the National Geographic Society. “We are investing in projects and people who are contributing tangible results in conservation, research, mapping and technology to ensure the long-term well-being of the planet. Half-Earth Day is a tremendous opportunity to gather with people who share that vision and to find new ways to collaborate.”

“Half-Earth Day is convening scientists, conservationists and the public to share their unique contributions and thought leadership and to inspire fresh, goal-driven energy and engagement in this compelling campaign,” said Paula Ehrlich, president and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. “There’s never been a more important moment for us to focus on understanding and action to care for our world. We’re asking everyone to take the Half-Earth Pledge and do what they can to preserve the Earth’s biodiversity. Together, as global citizens, we can protect the majority of species and our planet, the only home we will ever know.”

Half-Earth Day is a free, ticketed event, open to the public and the scientific community. To learn more about Half-Earth Day, visit www.half-earthproject.org/half-earthday.

###

About the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation
The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation fosters a knowing stewardship of our world through biodiversity research and education initiatives that promote and inform worldwide preservation of our biological heritage. Learn more at eowilsonfoundation.org

About the Half-Earth Project
The Half-Earth Project has science at its core and our moral obligation to the rest of life at its heart. In collaboration with our partners, we are working to power one of the grandest conservation efforts of our time, and provide the urgently needed research, leadership and engagement necessary to conserve half the planet for the rest of life. Learn more at half-earthproject.org.

About the National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society is a leading nonprofit that invests in bold people and transformative ideas in the fields of exploration, scientific research, storytelling and education. Through our grants and programs, we aspire to create a community of change, advancing key insights about our planet and probing some of the most pressing scientific questions of our time while ensuring that the next generation is armed with geographic knowledge and global understanding. Our goal is measurable impact: furthering exploration and educating people around the world to inspire solutions for the greater good. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.org.

Related Links
http://www.half-earthproject.org/
https://eowilsonfoundation.org/

CONTACT:

Kellie Laity
Communications and Development Coordinator
E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation
klaity@eowilsonfoundation.org
(919) 613-8137

Farley Fitzgerald
Communications Manager
National Geographic Society
ffitzgerald@ngs.org
(202) 807-3132

Guest Blog by Vincent Stanley: Our Common Ground

“Our Common Ground”
By Vincent Stanley
Posted with permission of Patagonia, Inc.


Most of us can readily name a piece of ground sacred to us as individuals that belongs to every soul in the country.

As Americans, regardless of our descent, we share as our greatest inheritance, both material and spiritual, the gift of our federal public lands. Most of us can readily name a piece of ground sacred to us as individuals that belongs to every soul in the country: Yosemite, the Everglades, Acadia, Hot Springs, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, the Smokies.

Most federal lands, while held in public trust, are only loosely protected. They can be used for private profit—for mining, drilling, logging, ranching and recreation, depending on the landlord, whether it be the BLM, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Park Service. Only designated wilderness areas are conserved to be the place where, in Margaret Murie’s words, “the hand of man does not linger.” These constitute less than 5 percent of the landmass of the United States.

The biologist E.O. Wilson has argued that—on a planet fighting for its life, with species going extinct at 100 to 1,000 times their natural rate, the lungs of the planet seared by global warming, the seas, the rivers and the soil losing their capacity to regenerate—we now should be devoting half the surface of the earth to nature so that we may save the lives of as many species of plants and animals as possible, including our own. To make life possible beyond the end of this century we need to slow the rate of global warming; reverse the advance of desertification; and restore the conditions in which life, and individual lives, can persist and thrive.


vincent-640w.jpg

Mr. Wilson’s proposal has not been mentioned during public debate among policymakers in the United States. Instead, a great fog machine has been set to work in the West, where the federal share of land ownership is close to 50 percent and vested interests itch to develop federal land at the lowest possible cost for the maximum possible return to the shareholder. Just when we need to learn how to restore natural capacity, not just in the West but the East, North and South, we see instead an attack on the existing protection for federal lands and hear a call for the sell-off of the land itself to individual states for eventual sale to private owners.

Not one of those who call for auctioning off our collective inheritance has in mind the purpose of conservation, regenerative grazing, organic agriculture or even the creation of more opportunities for nonmotorized recreation, which now generates more jobs and income than do traditional extractive industries. The fog machine, purporting to represent the rights of the individual versus the overly powerful state, conceals that the benefits will accrue to only a few, very few, individuals at the expense of us all and our future.

This is the time to safeguard our material and spiritual inheritance. We need not sell off what we have, but rather preserve more of nature in more parts of our country so that we may also restore and revive the health of our human communities and the planet as a whole.

Vincent Stanley, coauthor with Yvon Chouinard of The Responsible Company, has been with Patagonia on and off since its beginning in 1973, for many of those years in key executive roles as head of sales or marketing. He currently serves as the company’s director of philosophy and is a visiting fellow at the Yale School of Management.

U.S. National Science Foundation Funding Promotes Cutting-Edge Research in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique

Mozambique, Africa – Researchers from the University of Idaho and Princeton University have been awarded a prestigious grant from the National Science Foundation in the USA to continue their ground-breaking research in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. The Principal Investigators, Dr. Ryan Long of the University of Idaho (USA), and Drs. Rob Pringle and Corina Tarnita of Princeton University (USA), together with their students, have been studying the large herbivore communities of Gorongosa since 2013. This new $1.25 million collaborative grant will enable them to continue and expand their work over the next four years.

The study will focus on three closely related antelopes that vary five-fold in body size: bushbuck, nyala and kudu (all in the genus Tragelaphus). In natural ecosystems like Gorongosa, resources are not uniformly available across space and time. Consequently, animals must adjust their behavior in response to changing environmental conditions to maximize survival and reproductive success. In theory, the ability to make such adjustments is constrained by body size, because fundamental traits such as energy requirements are strongly influenced by size. Yet, how body size limits animals’ ability to respond to environmental variation remains poorly understood. This research will improve understanding of (a) how body size limits the range of behaviors available to animals for coping with environmental change or variation, and (b) how the distribution of resources such as food, concealment cover from predators, and favorable microclimates interacts with behavior to determine the success of individuals and populations that differ in body size.


From left to right, Principal Investigators Dr. Ryan Long, Dr. Corina Tarnita and Dr. Rob Pringle fitting a satellite collar to an immobilized kudu antelope in Gorongosa National Park

From left to right, Principal Investigators Dr. Ryan Long, Dr. Corina Tarnita and Dr. Rob Pringle fitting a satellite collar to an immobilized kudu antelope in Gorongosa National Park


As these three antelope species are relatively common in Gorongosa, understanding their ecology is relevant to understanding the broader system. This fits with the search for the general principles or rules that link ecology and behavior, and how understanding such rules gives us a deeper understanding that may be applicable in all ecosystems, not just in Gorongosa. For example the study could also help to inform the management and conservation of North American species with high recreational and economic value (e.g., deer, elk, and moose) that also span a range of body sizes.

The project will facilitate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) training and education for students from both the U.S. and Mozambique. For example, two U.S. PhD students will work on the project, and a Mozambican research assistant will be employed and trained. In addition, an immersive field course based on key conceptual themes of the project will be developed during years three and four, and will be offered to both U.S. and Mozambican students.

###

The Gorongosa Restoration Project integrates conservation and human development with the understanding that a healthy ecosystem will benefit human beings, who in turn will be motivated to support Gorongosa Park objectives.

Scientific research is an integral part of the long-term Gorongosa restoration effort, as a deep understanding of Gorongosa’s ecosystem will guide effective conservation decisions. The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory, opened in March 2014, positions Gorongosa to become a premier research hub in southern Africa. The laboratory has already attracted regional, national, and international attention. Scientists from Mozambican and international institutions, such as Universities of Eduardo Mondlane and Lúrio in Mozambique, Coimbra University in Portugal, and Universities of Harvard and Princeton in the USA, have been conducting research in the Park.

One of the laboratory’s most critical roles is to provide training to the next generation of Mozambican scientists in the Park, and also to send them to universities for advanced degrees. Several students, receiving full or partial financial assistance from the laboratory, have already begun studying for future careers as veterinarians, ecologists and lab technicians at universities.

For more general information, visit http://www.gorongosa.org