Silk Road – Transboundary Conservation

“The greatest threats our planet faces today transcend political borders, whether climate change, poverty, peace and security, water issues, or habitat and biodiversity loss. These are all tightly interlinked challenges, and to tackle them we need to think beyond borders,” Kate Harris of the Cycling Silk team.

Cycling Silk is a year-long biking expedition following the Silk Road between Europe and Asia aimed at exploring existing and proposed transboundary conservation initiatives in mountainous regions along the way. Cycling Silk uses bikes to enable the autonomous and adventurous exploration of remote transboundary wildernesses, and to reinforce the notion of the Silk Road – and world itself – as a landscape of continuity and connection, despite the borders that attempt to divide it. In a single uninterrupted push lasting at least a year, starting in Istanbul, Turkey and finishing in Leh, India, we will investigate existing and proposed TBPAs encompassing some of the world’s most spectacular mountains.

The Cycling Silk team of Kate Harris and Melissa Yule seek:

  • * To investigate with borderless minds and hearts the pros and cons, successes and shortcomings, complexities and challenges of transboundary wilderness conservation in the mountains and deserts of the Silk Road.
  • * To explore the actual and potential impact of transboundary protected areas (TBPAs) on landscapes, communities, and the geopolitics of regional peace.
  • * To share their explorations through writing, photography, and film, and raise awareness about transboundary conservation.
  • * To make others fall in love with this wild part of the world, through all of the above, since making people care about a place is usually prerequisite for its conservation.

Why is this important and how does it fit into Nature Needs Half?

For millennia, the Silk Road has been a dynamic flux of people, products and ideas between the East and West. Today it links countries with borders demarcated based on politics, rather than natural or cultural boundaries. But the alpine ecosystems along the Silk Road, whose mountain glaciers sustain vast populations, defy the arbitrary lines that fragment them on maps. Conservation efforts, then, must transcend these borders to be successful and sustainable on environmental and human scales.

A very critical piece of the Nature Needs Half vision is that protected areas need to be interconnected.   Connectivity is important for so many reasons including genetic diversity, migrations for food and water, adaptation to changing climates and general resiliency of plants, animals and ecosystems.

How will Cycling Silk Work to Make an Impact?

Diligent pre-expedition research, preparation, and training. Interviews with transboundary conservation stakeholders on local, regional, national, and international levels to glean and portray diverse perspectives on conservation across borders on the Silk Road, and beyond. On-the-ground exploration and documentation of landscapes and communities in existing or proposed transboundary protected areas (TBPAs). And when all carefully plotted plans and methodologies fail us: brute improvisation.

The Route


Cycling Silk started their journey in January of 2011 and will be posting updates and news on their blog.  We’ll post some updates on the Nature Needs Half blog as well as The WILD Foundation blog.


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1 Comment

  1. GREAT PROJECT! I’m looking foward to reading all about your great adventures and learning about your results along the way!

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