BTO and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative

BTO is part of a unique collaborative partnership between the University of Cambridge and leading biodiversity conservation organisations.

Based in the David Attenborough Building in Cambridge, the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) is the largest cluster of conservation organisations in the world. Its strong convening power enables BTO to directly engage with a wide global audience, from leaders in government, business, academia and NGO communities, to the general public.

Working together to deliver more effective approaches

CCI’s vision is to secure a sustainable future for biodiversity and society by creating an effective partnership of leaders in research, education, policy and practice, something that is being delivered through its interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches involving BTO and the other CCI partners.

A good example of this approach can be seen in the partnership’s development of collaborative projects addressing climate change impacts on wildlife.

Led by BTO’s Director of Science, James Pearce-Higgins, the partnership team has developed and implemented two CCI-funded projects, one exploring the mechanisms underpinning climate change impacts on global diversity, the other developing a framework to inform approaches to climate change adaptation for biodiversity.

  • The papers from these projects have had wide reach and impact, underlining the value of bringing together the depth of expertise inherent in the CCI partner organisations.

Informing policy at a global scale

The move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is one of the main tools being used to mitigate climate change impacts, but the switch to renewable energy could also have detrimental consequences for biodiversity.

Despite this, there has been no global assessment of the likely vulnerability of biodiversity to renewable energy at the scales at which this technology will need to be deployed for effective climate change mitigation. This assessment is urgently needed, in order to inform policies and approaches that minimise conflict between mitigation and biodiversity conservation.

A CCI team, involving BTO staff and again led by James Pearce-Higgins, undertook a global assessment of the impacts of different levels of renewable energy generation for both birds and mammals, producing a series of vulnerability assessments and global maps. The latter, together with other policy-relevant outputs from the project, will inform decisions on how and where to deploy renewable energy infrastructure.

One of the peer-reviewed papers to emerge from this work provides vital evidence of the potential risks that wind farms pose for bird and bat populations. This work has been communicated through the Convention on Migratory Species Energy Task Force, and has provided the species-level information that underpins the sensitivity mapping BirdLife International is doing in Asia.

Sharing expertise

One of the central programmes within the CCI framework is the Endangered Landscapes and Seascapes Programme, which seeks to restore natural ecological processes, populations and habitats for a better and more sustainable future and also make landscapes more resistant to climate change by, for example, understanding the drivers of wildfires. The programme signals a shift towards a positive and creative conservation agenda in which the potential of our land and seas is recognised.

Through this programme, BTO participated in species research and monitoring underpinning a landscape restoration project in Belarus and Ukraine, aimed at protecting and restoring the wetland wilderness of Polesia. Working with in-country partners, BTO staff have been able to share their expertise in tracking and acoustic monitoring technologies.

BTO’s expertise in monitoring and analysis has helped project partners to survey large-mammal abundance and distribution throughout the extensive project region, providing vital evidence to protect the most important sites for threatened large mammals, such as Wolves and Lynx. Given our expertise in long-term monitoring, BTO also helped design the monitoring and evaluation framework for the programme.

BTO has also contributed its expertise to a wealth of other CCI projects, including ones that are helping conservation practitioners to effectively implement multi-taxa acoustic monitoring in projects, better assess, communicate and apply learning from failure, integrate biodiversity and sustainable development in tropical agricultural landscapes in Africa, and to horizon scan for potential conservation challenges and opportunities.

A successful and ongoing partnership

Through the CCI partnership, we have come together with other organisations to tackle complex and challenging issues with innovative approaches, using a multi-disciplinary approach that cannot be achieved by any one organisation alone.

The partnership not only delivers impactful conservation outcomes, it has also benefited BTO and our staff, supporting staff development, providing new collaborative opportunities, and forging new friendships.

Through CCI we are working in partnership with the University of Cambridge, Fauna & Flora, BirdLife International, RSPB, The International Union for Conservation of Nature, TRAFFIC, The Tropical Biology Association, the Cambridge Conservation Forum, the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“BTO is enormously fortunate to be part of this unique and powerful collaboration of science and conservation organisations.

Through it we can ensure our expertise in areas such as citizen science, acoustic monitoring and tracking technology play a bigger role in conservation globally, and benefit from the remarkable collective breadth and depth of expertise the CCI represents.”

Juliet Vickery, BTO Chief Executive Officer

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