The Morton Arboretum and Shedd Aquarium named Centers for Species Survival

The Morton Arboretum sign and an exterior photo of the Shedd Aquarium
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The Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has named both The Morton Arboretum and the Shedd Aquarium as Centers for Species Survival.

Two of eleven centers in the world recognized by the IUCN SSC

Specifically, The Morton Arboretum has been designated as the first Center for Species Survival: Trees, with the Shedd Aquarium the first Center for Species Survival: Freshwater. The two are among just eleven centers in the world to be recognized by the IUCN SSC.

With this designation comes the ability for the two to collaborate on conservation efforts, helping ecosystems worldwide, especially in biodiversity hotspots. They’ll also be able to work on science-driven conservation strategies.

“Collaboration is critical for the conservation of our planet’s biodiversity,” said Prof. Jon Paul Rodríguez, IUCN SSC Chair in a news release. “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.”

What is the IUCN SSC?

The IUCN SSC is a commission made up of more than 8,300 conservationists worldwide. It’s a science-based network with volunteers from almost every country, united to create “a just world that values and conserves nature through positive action to both prevent the loss and aid recovery of the diversity of life on earth,” according to its website.

tree image from Morton Arboretum

Dr. Silvia Alvarez-Clare with Quercus brandegeei. Photo courtesy: ©The Morton Arboretum

New designation helps arboretum in tree conservation efforts

The Morton Arboretum had been a contributor in The State of the World’s Trees Report, which showed more than 17,500 of the world’s approximately 60,000 tree species are threatened with extinction. That’s because of factors like habitat loss from agriculture and grazing, over-exploitation from logging and harvesting, along with climate change, extreme weather, and pests and diseases.

With this new designation from the IUCN SSC, the arboretum can now take more aggressive steps toward addressing these issues.

“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,” said Silvia Alvarez-Clare, Ph.D., director of global tree conservation at The Morton Arboretum.

Shedd Aquarium turns its eye toward freshwater biodiversity conservation

Shedd Aquarium worker looks at mussel

Freshwater mussel field work. Photo courtesy: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

The Shedd Aquarium can now play a larger role in affecting change within the global freshwater ecosystems. Those systems include the support of food production, human health, and water purification among their vital roles. They suffer threats such as pollution, habitat loss, and the climate crisis.

“The Center for Species Survival: Freshwater comes at a perfect time, as we are shifting our focus from assessment, towards planning and implementing conservation actions,” said Topiltzin Contreras, co-chair of the IUCN SSC Freshwater Conservation Committee. “I foresee it as becoming a beacon for global freshwater biodiversity conservation.”

Initial projects at the Shedd Aquarium will include scaling its current freshwater mussels research across parts of Central America, and surveying freshwater fishes in partnership with the Field Museum in Chicago.

“Shedd is thrilled at the opportunity to broaden freshwater conservation beyond the Great Lakes and maximize our global impact.” said Chuck Knapp, Ph.D., vice president of conservation research at Shedd Aquarium and co-chair of the IUCN SSC Iguana Specialist Group.

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