Morton Arboretum, Shedd Aquarium gain global designation as Centers for Species Survival
The Morton Arboretum and the Shedd Aquarium became two of 11 Centers for Species Survival in the world today, designated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the world's largest conservation organization.
The IUCN's Species Survival Commission -- made up of 8,300 conservationists around the globe -- named the Shedd Aquarium the first dedicated Center for Species Survival: Freshwater and the Morton Arboretum the first Center for Species Survival: Trees. Of the 11 centers recognized globally by the commission, five are in North America.
"These new designations elevate the role of the Chicago region as an international leader in biodiversity conservation," the organizations said in a joint statement.
The two centers will give the arboretum and the aquarium the opportunity to collaborate on conservation effects, as well as advance ongoing efforts to assess aquatic and tree species biodiversity, plan conservation strategies and engage with the public.
"Collaboration is critical for the conservation of our planet's biodiversity," Jon Paul Rodríguez, the IUCN Species Survival Chair, said in a statement. "Shedd's deep understanding of freshwater conservation and the Morton Arboretum's demonstrated success leading the conservation of trees will allow our global network to expand our shared impact to new geographic areas and add new species of animals, fungi and plants to assess, plan and act."
The new centers are being funded by the Walder Foundation, a private family foundation based in Skokie.
Work at the Arboretum's new center will hone in on developing strategies and policies to mitigate and reverse a global biodiversity crisis, according to the joint statement.
"Through this new tree-focused center, our researchers will be able to expand essential work with partners in critical regions of biodiversity, such as Mesoamerica and Southeast Asia, to implement conservation strategies that protect trees and benefit humans as well," Silvia Alvarez-Clare, director of global tree conservation at the Arboretum, said in the statement.
Trees, the "scaffolding of forest ecosystems, support much of the earth's biodiversity and the livelihoods of millions of people, Alvarez-Clare said.
As the planet faces peril from threats such as climate change, logging, pests and disease, Alvarez-Clare said coordinated action among community members, partners and stakeholders is vital.
"With a third of the world's tree species threatened with extinction, the establishment of the first tree-focused Center for Species Survival at the Morton Arboretum is a huge boost for plant conservation," Paul Smith, executive director of Botanic Gardens Conservation International and co-chair of the IUCN Plant Conservation Committee, said in a statement. "Building on its already well-established reputation as The Champion of Trees, the Arboretum is providing global leadership in tree species conservation."
At the Shedd, the new Center for Species Survival: Freshwater will raise awareness of threats to freshwater habitats, which include pollution, habitat loss, overexploitation and climate change.
Using IUCN tools, Shedd projects will assess potential extinction threats, identify key biodiversity areas and train local partners in similar initiatives.
At a time when the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Freshwater Conservation Committee is shifting its focus from assessment to planning and implementing conservation actions, committee co-chair Topiltzin Contreras said he foresees the Shedd "becoming a beacon for global freshwater biodiversity conservation."
"This designation strengthens Shedd Aquarium's ability to build partnerships, conduct field research and apply our conservation science in ways that make meaningful and sustainable change for freshwater habitats and species globally," Chuck Knapp, vice president of conservation research at Shedd Aquarium and co-chair of the IUCN SSC Iguana Specialist Group, added. "Shedd is thrilled at the opportunity to broaden freshwater conservation beyond the Great Lakes and maximize our global impact."
• Jenny Whidden is a climate change and environment writer working with the Daily Herald through a partnership with Report For America supported by the Nature Conservancy. To help support her work with a tax-deductible donation, see dailyherald.com/rfa.