Life on Earth is at risk from an unprecedented rate of environmental change that threatens the natural resources on which humanity depends. Biodiversity – the genes, species and ecosystems that comprise nature – provides food, fuel, medicines and other vital ‘ecosystem services’, along with countless intangible benefits, for society.
But biodiversity is in steep decline, and its sustainable management is a major challenge for the 21st century. In response, University of Cambridge researchers from diverse disciplines, along with conservation practitioners and policy experts – all linked to global networks – created the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) in 2007.
Cambridge is famous as the centre of ‘Silicon Fen’ – the cluster of high-tech businesses drawn together geographically by the benefits of a world-leading research-intensive University and rich networking opportunities. Much less well known is the fact that Cambridge is home to one of the world’s largest clusters of people and institutions working to understand and conserve global biodiversity.
As a partnership between the University and world-leading conservation organisations, CCI aims to help secure a sustainable future for biodiversity and humanity through interdisciplinary and innovative research, learning, leadership and action.
Many examples of collaboration between researchers and practitioners illustrate how this University Strategic Initiative is addressing global challenges. Achieving food security while conserving the raw materials provided by biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions and alleviating poverty through forest conservation, and measuring the benefits an area’s biodiversity brings to society are but three of 14 projects supported through the CCI Collaborative Fund that offer solutions to real-world problems.
Similarly, we see how innovative thinking can begin to transform the landscape of biodiversity conservation. Studies that identify new emerging issues for biodiversity conservation, which explore whether computer gaming can reconnect people to nature, and which draw on disciplines as diverse as business, archaeology and English show how Cambridge offers a distinct and often novel approach to conservation.
Over the next three years, our vision is to create an interdisciplinary conservation campus at the heart of the University, bringing together over 500 professional conservationists from across organisations and University departments, in a centre of international conservation excellence. The campus will facilitate and sustain the flow of conservation research and practical solutions, enhance global conservation capacity and leadership, and help to transform public understanding of nature.