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Mapping Half-Earth

Biodiversity at the planetary scale.

Species are the foundation of a healthy planet. As species populations decline, ecosystems falter and, eventually collapse. Even a single species extinction can have unforeseen effects throughout nature.

Today, species are going extinct at a rate 1,000 times higher than at any time in human history, threatening the health of the planet for future generations.

Half-Earth outlines a solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem: conserve half the Earth’s land and sea to provide the habitat necessary to safeguard the bulk of biodiversity, including ourselves.

Globally, we have a general, coarse-resolution understanding of biodiversity richness and rarity around the globe for a growing number of species groups. This information is revealing the most important places we need to manage to protect species and reverse the extinction crisis.

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There global network of conservation protections plays a key role in safeguarding species. Currently, about 17% of Earth’s lands and seas are under some form of protection. By overlaying global species richness or rarity with the conservation areas network, we can quickly see that existing conservation areas provide insufficient protection for many if not most species.

The encroachment of human activities, added in this view, brings into further focus the need to protect species on a grand scale.

How can we reduce these conservation gaps? Where do we expand the network of conservation areas to protect the most species? How do we address growing constraints from human pressures, such as agriculture and urban development?

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Conservation activities that balance the needs of both humans and nature will require more information, in much finer detail. The Half-Earth Project is developing this information, at spatial resolutions of 1km and inclusive of a growing number species, to support biodiversity discovery and conservation worldwide.

By mapping the biodiversity of our planet at this unprecedented level of detail, we can identify the best places to conserve to safeguard the maximum number of species, as well as areas where more species data is needed.

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What does it look like in action?

South Africa’s Cape region is a global hotspot of unique and threatened biodiversity.

Using remote sensing data and models, the Half-Earth Project Mapping Initiative has mapped the richness and rarity for a number of species groups (richness for birds is shown here) for every square kilometer in the region. Notice the intricate fine-scale variation in biodiversity patterns that is missed by the coarser-resolution global map.

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Protected areas cover about 15% of this region and have been instrumental for the conservation of its unique flora and fauna. While the regional governments and institutions are dedicated to safeguarding this heritage, the map clearly shows that many key areas remain unprotected.

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In addition to the important traditional conservation protections, such as the conservation areas, community-based conservation areas and private reserves also play a key role in this region, particularly for safe-guarding against increasing human pressures.

Highlighting the global significance of priority sites for biodiversity conservation can empower local efforts to protect lands and seas, encourage local, regional and global support for additional protections.

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In collaboration with our partners, the Half-Earth Project will use this map to prioritize and develop conservation initiatives that will protect the most species, and identify places where additional species research is needed.

The Half-Earth Mapping Initiative is unlocking a new era in data-driven conservation. Join us and follow along as we continue the work to complete this fine-scale global biodiversity map within the next 5 years to help people, communities, conservationists and leaders everywhere make sound biodiversity decisions.

We invite you to Explore the Map.

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Half-Earth Day 2018