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World Wildlife Fund and The Coca-Cola Company Collaborate to Advance Freshwater Conservation

WASHINGTON - World Wildlife Fund today announced a $2.05 million leadership grant from The Coca-Cola Company to support its freshwater conservation work and fund cutting-edge research into freshwater biodiversity around the world.

"Across the globe, our lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands are under siege, with extinction rates five times higher than they are in terrestrial habitats. Thanks to The Coca-Cola Company's generous support, WWF will be working to restore and conserve five critical freshwater systems, including a key network of rivers and streams in the southeastern United States," said Kathryn S. Fuller, president of World Wildlife Fund-US.

"WWF is very grateful that a major corporation like The Coca-Cola Company recognizes the importance of freshwater conservation and has chosen to invest in its protection. Saving these systems is essential not only for conservation, but for the well being of the people who depend on them," Fuller added.

The bulk of the three-year grant will fund conservation projects by WWF and its local partners in the Chihuahuan Desert straddling Texas and Mexico; the Mekong River Basin of Vietnam; the Atlantic forests of Brazil, the Zambezi Basin in southern Africa, and the rivers and streams of the southeastern United States, a freshwater ecosystem encompassing parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia. The research portion of the grant will be used to create a map of global freshwater biodiversity and to fund preliminary research into the feasibility of a large-scale effort to improve freshwater practices in the private sector, initially focused on The Coca-Cola Company's operations.

"Our success depends on the prosperity and sustainability of the communities where we operate all around the world, and preserving sensitive freshwater systems is an integral part of our ongoing mission to be a responsible corporate citizen," said Douglas Daft, chairman of The Board and chief executive officer, The Coca-Cola Company.

While they face a daunting array of threats-since the 1600s, the vast majority of species extinctions in the United States have occurred in the rivers and streams of the Southeast-freshwater systems historically have received far less funding or attention from conservationists than their terrestrial counterparts. For many freshwater systems, basic biodiversity information has never been published and, as a result, few tools exist for global freshwater conservation.

To address this glaring gap in conservation science, WWF experts will be using part of the Coca-Cola grant to fund a global freshwater mapping project, incorporating information from scientists around the world. "This project is really a first of its kind and, when complete, should represent the most comprehensive synthesis of freshwater biodiversity data available," said Robin Abell, WWF's Freshwater Conservation Biologist. "It will be an invaluable tool, not only for WWF scientists, but for other biologists and conservationists everywhere."