The Nature Conservancy's Priority Conservation Areas

Overview

The areas identified by The Nature Conservancy and its partners represent a network of lands and waters that, if adequately conserved, have the highest probability of ensuring the continued persistence of the full range of each ecoregion’s biodiversity. These areas are not necessarily being targeted for land acquisition, but represent a scientific assessment and vision for where to conserve the native plants, animals, and natural communities of each ecoregion most efficiently and effectively.

Data Layer Description

Source

The Nature Conservancy

What this data layer represents

Areas of biodiversity significance representing potential conservation priorities

Location

National

Description

Ecoregional planning is one of two methods that The Nature Conservancy uses to establish its land-protection priorities. By assessing relatively large geographic areas delineated by consistent climate, vegetation, geology and other ecological and environmental patterns, this process provides a regional-scale, biodiversity-based context for implementing on-the-ground conservation action. TNC currently identifies 67 terrestrial ecoregions in the conterminous 48 U.S. and another five and 11 ecoregions, respectively, in Hawaii and Alaska.

Each ecoregional planning process leads to the design of an ecoregional portfolio, which includes conservation areas representing the full distribution and diversity of native species, natural communities, and ecosystems both within and across ecoregions. If managed appropriately, a portfolio will ensure the long-term survival of all native life and natural communities, not just threatened species and communities.

By highlighting areas that the Conservancy believes are both most important and most suitable for the conservation of ecoregional biodiversity, these portfolios are intended to guide on-the-ground actions by the Conservancy and its public and private partners. Each portfolio includes terrestrial and freshwater priorities, as well as marine priorities for coastal ecoregions.

Every ecoregional assessment also identifies priorities that affect multiple conservation areas. These priorities include wide-ranging targets, pervasive critical threats, and institutions and mechanisms that affect multiple conservation areas within a given portfolio, among several portfolios or across geopolitical boundaries.

Designing ecoregion-based portfolios is a complex, iterative process based on five steps:
• Identifying the species, communities and ecosystems in an ecoregion;
• Setting specific goals for the number and distribution of these conservation targets to be captured in the portfolio;
• Assembling information and relevant data on the location and quality of conservation targets;
• Designing a network of conservation areas that most effectively meets the goals; and
• Identifying the highest priority conservation areas, wide-ranging targets and pervasive threats for conservation action

Note that these areas are not necessarily being targeted for land acquisition, but represent a scientific assessment and vision for where to efficiently and effectively conserve the native plants, animals, and natural communities of each ecoregion. Conservation of these places can and should be achieved through a wide range of strategies including private land management.

How to get the data layer

View the data on The Nature Conservancy's conservation priority areas map viewer

Contact TNC's Worldwide Office data manager

Learn more about the Nature Conservancy’s process of setting priorities

How you might make use of this data layer

Use this data layer at statewide and regional scales to inform long term conservation plans and priorities focused on biodiversity conservation. This layer does not necessarily represent areas where The Nature Conservancy or its partners are currently working or intend to work in the near future.

How to get more information

Learn more about the Nature Conservancy’s process of setting priorities

Access the library of completed ecoregional assessments.

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