4-Andes to Amazon, Leite Pitman, R, 2008

A view from the Amazon to the Andes. Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo: Renata Leite Pitman

Our Mission: The CTC was established to focus the activities of Duke faculty and students who share a common concern for tropical biodiversity. Our goal is to unite biological scientific inquiry with sound political economic analysis and conservation advocacy. The CTC serves to gather and disseminate pertinent information and to promote and coordinate research relevant to biodiversity and the sustainable development of natural resources.

Our Purpose: Tropical forests shelter millions of plant and animal species, help maintain global climate patterns, and provide a living for millions of people who depend on the forest as a source of food, fuel, and income. At the same time, countries in tropical regions face large foreign debts and the demands of growing populations for a better quality of life. These circumstances restrict a country’s choices in the use of its own resources. Consequently, the tropical region is experiencing destruction of the natural environment at an unprecedented rate, with both local and global consequences.

Much of the destruction is directly or indirectly the result of misguided policies seeking to maximize short-term revenues. Deforestation and environmental degradation also occur as the unintended by-product of well-meaning projects in other sectors of the economy. In either case, resources – tropical forests in particular – are being squandered in a fashion that makes neither economic nor environmental sense in the long run.

Unsustainable explotation of resources contributes to social strife as well as environmental problems. It is in the best interests of all countries to enter into partnerships that foster fair and sustainable access to the benefits of natural resources. The process of resolving environmental problems is inherently interdisciplinary. It must draw upon state-of-the-art science, especially ecology; rigorous economic analysis; and an understanding of the institutions that formulate and implement environmental policies.

However, good science does not automatically lead to wise policy. The research and training agenda of the Center for Tropical Conservation therefore focuses on the integration of environmental science and environmental policy, and the processes by which policies can be adapted to reflect new scientific findings. Development of methods for managing natural resources is coupled with economic analysis to suggest policy reforms that promote the sustainable use of natural resources such as land, water, forests, and biodiversity.


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