World Wildlife Fund Science Driven

WWF scientists write about topics that are a big part of WWF’s work such as quantifying the value of nature, evaluating the impact of conservation on people and nature, and adapting to climate change. They will also share fresh ideas and emergent issues that could become important for conservation.

filtered by category: Tools & Technology

  • Date: 19 November 2014
  • Author: Katie Arkema and Amy Rosenthal

What do looking both ways to cross the street, buying insurance, and marine conservation have in common? Answer: They are all strategies for reducing risks. And we do such things because they help to achieve better results — crossing safely, avoiding bankruptcy, and preserving the coastal habitats that manatees, turtles, and people all depend on.

Working with researchers and planners from WWF, Stanford University, and the Belizean government, we developed a new method to assess risk to coastal and marine habitats. Our habitat risk assessment (HRA) model produces maps that show where damage to ecosystems like coral reefs and mangroves is most likely to occur now and under any number of future scenarios.

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  • Date: 13 October 2014
  • Author: Amy Rosenthal and Gregory Verutes

Natural capital is everywhere. It’s the fresh air we breathe, the clean water we drink, the beautiful coral reefs we visit that protect coastal communities from storms and support fisheries around the world.

Some of these benefits that our lands, waters and biodiversity provide are not fully appreciated, often because they don’t have a price tag like products in a store. Yet without them our well-being, even our survival, would be threatened.

Through the Natural Capital Project—where WWF is a founding partner—we seek to improve the state of human wellbeing by motivating greater and more cost-effective investments in natural capital. Valuing nature helps ensure that the benefits people enjoy today will be available to support their health and livelihoods well into the future.

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  • Date: 15 September 2014
  • Author: Jon Hoekstra

Technology is transforming conservation by giving people super-powers to help save nature.

Thanks to advanced technology for satellite-based remote sensing, we can see more, from farther away, and in greater detail. WWF and our partners are using such technology to monitor some of the world’s most biodiverse and threatened forests from Sumatra and Borneo to the Congo and the Amazon. GPS tracking technology enables us to go on virtual ride alongs with far-ranging and elusive wildlife like elephants and jaguars, thereby gaining valuable insights into their daily and seasonal movements. And the combination of low-cost remote-control planes and surveillance technology is enhancing security for rhinos and other wildlife, and aiding law enforcement in the fight against wildlife crime.

I had the honor to be a guest on the Diane Rehm show to talk about how these and many other exciting innovations are transforming conservation. I was joined by Rebecca Moore from Google Earth Outreach, and Andrea Crosta, founder of WildLeaks. You can listen to our conversation here.

You might also be interested to read my essay on Networking Nature in Foreign Affairs magazine.

And stay tuned for an upcoming presentation I will be giving on this topic at SXSW Eco in early October.

Meanwhile, you can learn about some of WWF’s most innovative applications of technology to conservation around the world:

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  • Date: 27 May 2014
  • Author: Jon Hoekstra

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be an explorer? To discover a natural wonder? Being a conservation biologist, I always hope I might experience that in some small way. But in our rapidly developing world, where wilderness continues to shrink, it can feel like there is nothing big left to discover. Yet my colleague Robin Naidoo and his collaborators in Namibia (WWF, Ministry of Environment and Tourism) and Botswana (Elephants Without Borders) have done just that. They have discovered the longest known land mammal migration in Africa — a 300+ mile seasonal trek by Burchell’s zebra (their newly published full study appears in Oryx).

Adding to the surprise, this journey is not happening in the Serengeti that is so famous for massive wildlife migrations. It is happening in southern Africa, where up to several thousand zebra migrate back and forth between the Chobe River floodplains in Namibia and Nxai Pan National Park in Botswana.

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  • Date: 21 March 2014
  • Author: Jon Hoekstra

I recently was asked by Foreign Affairs Magazine to contribute an essay exploring the nexus of conservation and technology. I jumped at the opportunity, honored by the invitation and eager to call attention to – and ponder the possibilities of – some of the most cutting edge innovations and ideas in the name of saving nature and our place in it.

Perhaps for the first time, conservation is beginning to operate at the pace and on the scale necessary to keep up with, and even get ahead of, our toughest environmental challenges. Technological innovation – from elephants equipped with cell phones to quantifying the value of nature – is giving us new hope for averting the planet’s environmental collapse and reversing its accelerating rates of habitat loss, species extinction, and climate change.

You can read my essay in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs here. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts (and ideas) in the comments section.

  • Date: 14 January 2014
  • Author: Roopa Krithivasan

We know a lot of great conservation science happens out in the field. WWF is involved in efforts ranging from tracking the movements of key species to collaborating with communities to improve human lives and the environment. But there’s a side to science at WWF that we don’t always hear about—the important work that happens when scientists are back in DC, sitting at their desks. The research we do in the office can help provide invaluable conservation insights.

A few years ago, WWF started one such “desk-based” study to better understand what happens to national parks, nature reserves, and other protected areas after they are established. Protected areas are regions designated or managed for conservation purposes and conventional wisdom suggests that once one is created, it will continue into perpetuity.

But by poring over thousands of documents, reports, and maps, and speaking with experts from around the world, our team found this is not always the case. Our detailed analysis identified a poorly understood but widespread phenomenon that was affecting protected areas globally: Protected Area Downgrading, Downsizing, and Degazettement (PADDD). That is, protected areas sometimes go through a legal process that makes them weaker (downgrading), smaller (downsizing), or eliminates them completely (degazettement).

Our new research looks at when and why PADDD happens in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean—regions that are particularly important to our conservation work. We identified 543 instances of PADDD across 57 countries, affecting around 500,000 km2 – roughly the size of Spain.

So why does PADDD happen? And what does it mean for conservation?

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