Nature's Strongholds

To date, humans have transformed more than three-quarters of the Earth. At least 1 million species are at risk of going extinct. At least 21% of the net global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with land-use change. We need to safeguard nature’s last remaining strongholds—the most important and intact wild landscapes and seascapes, which provide habitat for half the biodiversity on our planet, host the world’s largest wildlife aggregations, and are essential to our own well-being.

Our Strategy

Protecting and managing the world’s most important remaining natural areas is critical to human well-being. These areas, known as Nature’s Strongholds, represent core wildlife habitat. Locally, they provide essential ecosystem services to Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Globally, they help us conserve biodiversity and are vital to global climate stability. WCS is committed to the durable conservation of Nature’s Strongholds across the globe. To achieve the long-term conservation of Nature’s Strongholds, WCS builds on our lessons learned from over 100 years of direct conservation practice in the field across the globe.

We partner with local governments as they have the mandate. We partner with Indigenous Peoples and local communities as they are vital allies. We bring the best science to complex conservation challenges. We hire highly talented local citizens, as it is citizens of the countries in which Nature’s Strongholds occur that are in the best place to have impact. And we make long-term commitments, learning and embracing the unique subtleties of the conservation of each Nature’s Stronghold.

Photo Credit: ©Scott Ramsay/WCS

What Are Strongholds?

  • Large areas featuring exceptional global biodiversity or biomass.
  • Typically, they are 1 million acres or larger.
  • They have high ecological integrity and are functionally intact.
  • Collectively, they represent different ecoregions spanning global natural diversity.
  • They are habitat to Global Priority Species, helping ensure ecosystem-level functioning.
  • Generally, they are large natural landscapes and seascapes that are mosaics of important protected areas, as well as other legal categories of land and/or sea.

Our Goals

We have identified a core group of Nature’s Strongholds across the globe where WCS has the opportunity for greatest impact. At these strongholds WCS aims to achieve a suite of core goals, all done in strong and respectful partnerships with local governments and Indigenous Peoples and local communities. These goals include:

  • Rapid reduction of the most immediate threats to Strongholds, so as to have time to put in place lasting, durable conservation measures.
  • Improved legal status for Strongholds through the creation of well-designed protected areas and other well-designed area-based effective conservation measures.
  • Improved management of Nature Strongholds, utilizing the best science, pragmatic field-driven approaches, and which is tailored to the different and unique features of each stronghold.
  • Building institutional capacity with our partners in government and local communities, as well as within WCS, to manage the entire portfolio of Nature’s Strongholds.
  • Strengthening the national political commitment to prioritize the protection of local Strongholds as core elements of their natural heritage.
  • Lead a global agenda of Nature Strongholds conservation as a strategy to curb decline and promote recovery at a planetary scale.
  • Rigorously monitor all of our efforts to conserve Nature’s Strongholds using the best science and proven metrics for key features such as legal status, habitat, biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and human well-being.

Sign Up for Email Updates

Get news from the field and learn about ways you can help Earth’s most threatened species.