Land Conservation: Overview

Land protection—through public parks, private reserves, or legal restrictions on land use—is a cornerstone of conservation and a key element of ICFC’s arsenal.

How does an organization the size of ICFC maximize its impact?  We can’t go out and purchase a million hectares.  But we can do a lot!

natural areas are not all equal…

First, biodiversity “hotspots” in the tropics sustain a large proportion of species (see box to the right), hence efforts can be focused there.

Second, we need to protect ecosystems that are large enough to be self-sustaining long term.  An isolated island of habitat supports fewer species than a similar sized area that’s part of a larger area of habitat, as described by the theory of island biogeography.

Third, healthy intact ecosystems such as old growth forests are favoured for biodiversity conservation over degraded habitats (but note that allowing degraded forests to regenerate is a great way to sequester carbon).

So, ICFC has focused on protecting huge landscape-scale areas of land or small but important areas that have proximity to sufficient habitat for ecological sustainability.  In some cases we work to establish corridors to link areas of habitat.

ICFC undertakes land acquisitions to protect sites that are rich in biodiversity and at risk; some sies indirectly protect a larger area. These are managed as private reserves by our capable field partners, and ICFC sometimes assists with reserve management and protection. ICFC’s Reserve Fund for Land Securement enables rapid action when opportunities arise.

We have also seized opportunities to protect ecosystems on a massive scale, through working with the Kayapo in the Amazon and by securing protection of the Los Amigos Conservation Concession in Peru.  Here the lands have legal protected status and what was needed was added protections.  This can be highly cost effective, and we will look for more such opportunities.

One of Costa Rica's national parks -- Area de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG) -- is an excellent example of a collaboration between government and civil society to manage a large protected area. ACG effectively protects four major tropical ecosystems—marine, dry forest, cloud forest and rain forest--and is recognized as a world model for involving local communities and for tropical forest restoration.  ICFC supports the work of ACG's partner NGO, the Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund (more info).

Finally, we are investing in preventing deforestation by disseminating near real-time deforestation information to governments and civil society..This work in the Andean Amazon has been highly successful and represents truly exception value. 

ICFC respects traditional use of wildlands by people and views those communities as prospective partners in conservation.

In all of this, your support enables us to do more.

Atlantic Forest, southeast Brazil, Photo: Kevin Schafer

Biodiversity hotspots

Just 8.2% of the world’s land area is home to 93% of all species of vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians).  Amphibians, which include frogs and salamanders, are an especially threatened taxon.  A mere 2.2% of the world’s land area contains the entire known ranges for half the world’s amphibian species.1

Barba Azul reserve, Bolivia.  Photo: Asociación Armonía

Across a broad range of taxa in the tropics, 25% of species were found to be unique to primary forests, as against secondary forests and plantations.2


1 Jenkins, C.N. et al. 2013.  Global patterns of terrestrial vertebrate diversity and conservation. PNAS July 9, 2013 vol. 110 no. 28

2 Barlow, J. et al. 2007. Quantifying the biodiversity value of tropical primary, secondary, and plantation forests.

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