Where is conservation most needed?
We start by looking at the best available information on where habitats and species are most diverse and most threatened. We look at:
- Key Biodiversity Areas – Sites contributing to the global persistence of biodiversity on land, in freshwater and in the sea.
- Conservation International’s ‘Biodiversity Hotspots’ – Landscapes that are both biologically rich and deeply threatened.
- Alliance for Zero Extinction – Places where species that are Endangered or Critically Endangered, according to The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, are restricted to a single remaining site.
- WWF’s EcoRegions – Geographically distinct regions with a distinct assemblage of species, natural communities and environmental conditions.
- Birdlife’s Endemic Bird Areas – All places on earth of greatest significance for the conservation of the world’s birds.
The ‘Atlas of Life’: A map showing the distribution of land vertebrates, created by researchers from the University of Oxford, Tel Aviv University and 30 other institutions.
(Nature, Ecology & Evolution | Vol 1 | November 2017 | 1677–1682 | www.nature.com/natecolevol)
We analyse information on the largest sources of funding for conservation to understand which regions and ecosystems are the main beneficiaries. This helps us to home in on the biggest gaps in funding for priority conservation issues.
Broadly speaking, we have found that marine ecosystems receive the highest number and amount of grants, followed by forests, with freshwater receiving by far the lowest.
Our findings from this initial mapping process underlined two major obstacles to effective environmental philanthropy:
- Firstly, the overall amount of philanthropic giving directed at environmental issues is very small – it is estimated that it constitutes only around four to five per cent of total philanthropic giving from European foundations (European Foundation Centre).
- Secondly, the majority of this giving is directed towards domestic issues i.e. people in the UK tend to support UK-based wildlife, landscape and coastal initiatives, US environmental philanthropy largely stays in country and so on. For example, a report from the Environmental Funders Network calculated that on a per capita basis, North America receives 180 times more environmental philanthropy money than Asia.
We examine a variety of information sources and consult with scientists and practitioners from across the conservation sector and broader international development community to understand current and emerging threats. We take a proactive approach for emerging threats, looking for places where swift and coordinated action may help to prevent loss of species and habitats.
With this scoping exercise, we discover the range of organisations currently addressing priorities identified in our research (from local organisations through to international bodies) and the most common types of intervention (from species protection or habitat restoration through to public awareness and international advocacy campaigns).
We find out about what’s working and what’s needed; we also discover the barriers to conservation success. Sometimes, this might simply be a lack of funding which prevents adequate resources being devoted to the most urgent or important work.
We consider where our scale of funding can have long-term impact. This can be as an early funder in new initiatives or as a funder of core costs. We look to add value to those we fund and to help connect them to our networks.