International Nature Conservation on the Island of Vilm

An escape awaited with anxiety for the whole group of the 40th International Course on Environmental Management (EM40) to attend the module of “International Nature Conservation” at the International Academy for Nature Conservation Isle of Vilm, located in the Northern Part of Germany (Baltic Sea).  This trip began on a perfect sunny day in March, on platform 17 of Dresden’s Central Station. “The Isle of Vilm”, our destination, a wonderful biosphere reserve located on the Baltic Sea.

We were expecting about 8 hours by train ahead of us, but we knew it would be worth it, and we were not wrong, as we were welcomed by a wonderful sunset, slowly hiding in the Baltic Sea and some beautiful flower blooming along the pathway. The team in charge of the management of the Island introduced us about the historical background, features and rules to be observed by all the guests coming to the Vilm Island.  As a matter of fact, the Isle of Vilm (94 ha in area), was established as a nature reserve since 1936 and has been one of the core areas of the Southeast –Rügen Biosphere Reserve.

Some comments and reflection from 4 participants:

Benrina Demoh Kanu, Sierra Leone

The manner in which the concept of Protected Areas, trends, benefits and how the fact and figures were analyzed during the session was fascinating. During the session the participants get a clear understanding as to why we need protected areas, their benefits and also we were given the opportunity to decide whether the World Heritage Convention is a tool for conservation.

The most interesting thing was the fact that, years back, nature was protected mainly because of its intrinsic values and we see a shift from that dimension to protecting nature because of its economic, social, cultural and ecological arguments. Also there is a shift of paradigms from the former concept were in the central government runs the affairs of Protected Areas to an inclusive concept that caters for partnership and in most cases run with/for/by the people.

Therefore, our visit to the National Natural Heritage Center Rügen and the Jasmund National Park was a confirmation that Protected Areas do not only serve as conservation tool, but also soothes the soul.

Marle Aguilar Ponce- Honduras

The 2nd day of the module on “International Nature Conservation”, was very interesting, the Topic? Access and benefit-sharing (ABS) and marine nature conservation. Personally, ABS is a topic that I was looking forward to discuss with my colleagues, and I was sure that it will generate many questions and discussion; especially about the examples and case study generated during the presentation.

Although I could say that, the biggest prize, was the practice or play role on fish banks and sustainable fishing, letting us met, what I call “the dark side” of each one of us as representatives of fishing companies. But also leaves us with the task, of analyze our current situation in relation to the use and overexploitation of all our resources (and biodiversity), and the availability of these resources for our next generation.

Another thing that I really enjoyed of our trip in Vilm Island was the little but effective excursion trough the Island, and learning about its history and stories, emblematic species and fascinating characteristics like its particular forest and all the spectaculars landscapes that we could see from the Island.

Moussa Lamine, Niger

The theoretical lectures and practical exercises related to the concept of Biodiversity, the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) and the negotiating processes at the conferences of the Parties to the Convention, were really impressive. To crown it all, the simulation game on biofuels gave a compressive understanding on how the negotiation processes are done in real life, even though we recognized that in real life negotiation and discussions process are more stressful and intensives.

Ahmed Said Sulaiman, Ethiopia

A short film on Teff (a fine grain grown predominantly in Ethiopia) showcasing the possibilities of exploring the benefit sharing gave an insight on the impact on development and conservation.

Another interesting theme was the Red List of species of IUCN and its application in conservation. It was surprising to know how little is known about the existing species. For example currently only 61,914 species have been assessed.

The role play game on marine nature conservation thought us how to intermarry the goals of sustainable resource use, while on the other hand facing competition from the market and at the same time maximizing profit. By practicing the game, we have learned that cooperation and communication among stakeholders can improve the situation and bring a win-win situation. It was also evident that short term thinking will serve only limited time, and flexible and forward decisions could help to avoid potential surprises in the future.

“Without any doubt, the stay of EM40 on the wonderful Island of Vilm was a spectacular learning and pleasant experience, Memories we will never forget’’.

Some hopeful news for biodiversity and sustainable development?

Today is a day of farewell but also of new and hopeful beginnings. We are concluding the 65th UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology.

Here you see the participants and CIPSEM staff after the award ceremony.

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It is clear we face many challenges regarding

  •  species extinction and loss of diversity
  • drastic changes in biogeochemical cycles such as that of nitrogen
  • land use changes and the loss of ecosystems, fragmentation of habitats, the pollution of water, air and soil.
In the course we have discussed the overarching concepts of biodiversity as such, of restoration approaches, of putting a value on ecosystem services and many other approaches. The course has benefitted greatly from the experience and kind sharing of this group of highly motivated, diverse participants.
In their wonderful short speech on behalf of the group, Ms. Yetunda McLean from Jamaica and Mr. Mindaye Teshome Legese from Ethiopia have highlighted some of the characteristics which everybody contributed to help this group to grow and explore together. This gives good reason for hope, because there are a lot of issues to tackle.
Overall, this is a year of hope. On this very day the world leaders come together in New York to make sustainable development with its many interlinked aspects a top priority for all countries.
The 17 sustainable development goals are designed as one indivisible package. That two of the 17 targets address terrestrial and marine biodiversity directly, highlights the importance of this topic:
  • Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss (Goal Nr. 15)
  • Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development (Goal Nr. 14).

Let’s take our governments by their words. And also: let’s assume the responsibility we all have for how our circumstances develop, and let’s celebrate the small victories along the way.

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