SITE VISIT: Conservation Central

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Science  24 Mar 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5461, pp. 2111
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5461.2111c

Suppose you wanted to know which coral reefs were blighted in 1997 by black-band disease, a suffocating microbial mat. Or whether forests are dwindling faster in India or in neighboring Pakistan. Or find a certified sustainable logging operation in Bolivia.

Answers to these and many other conservation-related questions are contained in the multitude of graphs, maps, tables, and reports posted by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge, U.K. Designed to supply timely and impartial information, the site includes 30 searchable databases, from documents on international agreements protecting wildlife to the World Conservation Union's Red Lists of threatened plants and animals. But be prepared to dig, as some nuggets—such as the Arctic Bird Library, which offers range maps, photos, and recordings of bird calls—are tucked away or require registration (free, but processing can take days). The site's standout attraction is its detailed maps, ranging from protected areas by country to the global distribution of mangrove swamps. Some maps are interactive. For example, click “olive ridley” on a map of sea turtle nesting sites, and a constellation of olive dots springs up along the rim of the Indian Ocean. You can superimpose results for five other turtle species or download the raw data.

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