Human and Nature in Harmony

The term “Biosphere Reserve” (BR) has always fascinated us. Particularly because to an optimist of conservation and sustainable development, it is a realizable model striking a balance between fulfilling the requirements for nature conservation while meeting the needs of human. BR are the model region of sustainable development where the conservation and human development goes hand in hand, benefiting both. This excursion to the Upper Lusatian Biosphere Reserve (BR) epitomizes this idea. The Upper Lusatian heath and pond region between the Upper Lusatian plains in the south and the Upper Lusatian mining region in the north is a part of the Saxon lowland region with an altitude 80–180 m above sea level. The region has evolved over many centuries as a result of human use, with the first documented evidence of the building of fish ponds dating as far back as 1248.The region, with an area of about 30,102 ha was recognized as a BR in 1996. Every BR represents a mosaic of landscapes – in this case, it was primarily forests (50%), agriculture (40%) and ponds (8%)

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The forests of the Upper Lusatian heath used to be mainly mixed forests of oak, pine, birch and hornbeam. In the Biosphere Reserve, we also still find them as pine and oak forests, which were once characteristic of the Upper Lusatian Heath, as berry bush and pine forests. The major pine forests are gradually being transformed into mixed forests suitable for the area. Management is now aiming at the development of wild forests. Along with the forests, the meadows and the ponds form important components of the mosaic. Meadows containing streams and rivers, fast-flowing and slow running water, fordable places and deep scour pools and steep and flat banks form ideal living conditions for many animals and plants in the BR. The flat ponds with their wild banks, silted areas and strips of reeds with their gradual transition to meadows and forests, provide a home for plants and animals which have long disappeared in other areas.

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The governance and administration of the BR is guided by three objectives- a) use of natural resources in alignment with environmental protection, (b) target oriented research and development and (c) environmental education for tourists, visitors and the youth. Environmental education is at the heart of the BR philosophy and management. More than 700 events are organized each year for the public. Concepts of ecological, economic, social and cultural integration into planning sustainable development is the foundation of the message delivered. Each of these programs are customized to cater to different target groups.  We could see some kids attend a workshop near the pond landscape and being thrilled to be in this landscape. Seeing them rejoice being in the lap of nature is always a good reminder of how much man has to transform its practices to leave behind healthy ecosystems to secure their futures.

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It was also interesting to note how the BR administration works closely with local farmers in promoting sustainable agriculture as well as promoting education on agriculture and farming. The local farmers in the region grow local varieties of crops which is supported by BR office (provision of seeds) and farmers in turn extend support on conserving birds and their habitat. Significant weightage is given to the re-introduction of crops that are local and representative to this area, for instance winter Rye, which is used both for the feed and food, has also the benefit of requiring less fertilizer and crop protection measures.

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Around 80% of the local farmers are participating in the Saxony government are being supported with projects to eliminate non-environmental friendly agricultural practices. Farmers are incentivized with financial compensation to discourage the use of chemicals and pesticides. Similarly, partnerships of local tourism providers and farmhouse owners with the BR authorities was working successfully to reap benefits for the reserve. Witnessing these practices form important impressions that our group members hope to translate into action back home (with support of partners and authorities).

One of the most unforgettable moments of the excursion was undeniably the stop at the Eco-farm for lunch. The farm produced vegetables, meat, oils and seeds along with a range of other products were up for sale. Being in that farm and eating that locally grown food cooked with tones of love and compassion for nature, we felt a deeper sense of gratitude for just how much the earth has borne to cater to needs of humankind. It surely is time to give back.

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by Urvana Menon (India) and Kamal Thapa (Nepal)

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Humans, Economy and Biodiversity Conservation – Sustainability in the Centre

Tales from the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Upper Lusatian Heath- and Pond Landscape” – EM-41 excursion, June 6, 2018

As challenging and complex as it might seem, the heath- and pond Landscape of Upper Lusatia has managed to embrace both, biodiversity conservation and human well-being, yet no doubt anyone can be convinced the project is sustainable, the secret being including people in the scheme: “by the people for the people”.

It started about 800 years ago when the Slavic people first arrived in the area which was almost 20% swampy landscape. Due to scarcity of land for cultivation, the monks tried to drain the area to suit cultivation. As a result there was influx of German people in the area. Due to the agricultural activities over the last 8 centuries most of the indigenous plant species were lost. To date only 1% of the plants are endemic in the natural habitat.

The success story begins with zonation to cater for the conservation, residency and economic activity in harmonious manner.  ‘Designation as a UNESCO biosphere reserve means much more than protection of the natural landscape, because it also envisions sustainable development of the region. Economic development should be promoted whilst the cultural value of the landscape should be preserved.’ Walter Hirche, President of the German Commission for UNESCO

(i) Nature/Biodiversity Conservation

Although the heath- and pond landscape of Upper Lusatia has a long history; it was until 1992 when it was formally set aside as a conservation area with 30.102 hectares.  In 1996 the area was recognized and approved as UNESCO biosphere reserve. The aim is the protection of natural ecosystems and their long-term productivity and functional capacity.

Today the area is a home to 1.100 plant and 3.600 animal species. This reserve is important for conservation in Germany; for example it is the only place where Bog Violet (Viola uliginosa) is found, furthermore it hosts more than 50% of Moss Grass (Coleanthus subtilis). Regarding fauna, the site hosts 20% of Saxony’s (about 5% of Germany’s) wolf population (Canis lupus)  and an estimate of 5-10% of European otter (Lutra lutra) just to mention a few. In addition to this, the presence of 350 ponds in the biosphere reserve covering 125 hectares host 1000 breeding pairs of over 90 bird species making the site incredibly important and uniquely beautiful attracting lots of local and international tourists.

(ii) Economic Sustainability

Support should be targeted towards sustainable development options in the various sectors of the economy, e.g. organic farming, ecologically adapted forest management, and environmentally and socially compatible tourism. Fish farming, crop cultivation, cattle keeping and tree plantations are some of the viable economic activities in the Biosphere reserve.

Carp is one of the fish species farmed in 12 of 305 ponds at “Gutter Teiche” fishery ponds. Carp farming goes hand in hand with reeds management giving best scenic views to tourists who visit the area while bringing income to farmers and healthy meal to consumers. The whole view of ponds with associated species, e.g. reeds, ducks and other water birds are breathtaking!

 

(iii) Heritage Crop and Variety Project

With increasing healthy eating and lifestyle, the village Kreba-Neudorf has been keen and ventured to engage in crop cultivation. The project only grows old and seriously threatened grains of rye, wheat, oats and spelt. The cultivation follows the organic farming standards with no external agricultural inputs, the yield are said to be a rich source of vitamins, minerals and taste better. Rye bread is particularly good for people allergic to gluten.  Furthermore products diversification and value addition chain has been in place by installing grinding mills, bakeries and specialty local brew brand.

(iv) Research and Sustainable Development

For sure this projects would not be successful without investing and collaboration between researchers with an interdisciplinary outlook aiming at hands-on sustainable development through constructive participation.

Acknowledgement

IPicture7t is said seeing is believing. We would like to thank CIPSEM team, especially Tamara Karp, Susanne Barisch and Dirk Weis from the Biosphere Reserve, and the Ladusch family for facilitating this field training to EM41 participants on 6 June 2018 which convinced us that it is possible to embrace conservation also at the same time it is possible to practice other economic activities in a compatible manner while restoring the degraded area. At the end of the day environment is conserved, better income, healthy and happy living.

 

by Francisca J. Malembeka (Tanzania) & Dr. Liu Zhao (China)

Nature calls EM-41 !!! Arrival on Isle of Vilm

Within the module of Conservation and Restoration Ecology, the flagship excursion of CIPSEM EM-41 to the International Academy for Nature Conservation (INA) at the Insel Vilm started on May 13, 2018. The moment CIPSEM fellows stepped onto the island, the joyous faces were apparent and the excitement was at its zenith.

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Ms. Kathrin Bockmühl, Scientific Officer at the INA, welcomed the fellows, provided an overview of INA’s work in nature protection at the national and international level since 1990, and briefed on sessions planned on biodiversity conservation and governance for the cohort. It started with an introductory talk by Ms. Gisela Stolpe and Dr. Horst Korn on biodiversity conservation and ecosystems services, and the UN-Convention on Biodiversity (CBD). With an objective of giving hands-on experience of CBD conferences, a simulation exercise on decision-making was conducted. The fellows represented CBD State Parties including regional unions, small island countries and NGOs, and deliberated on drafting decisions regarding the use of biofuel. Also, a session on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), with an Ethiopian case study provided important insights into the importance of sharing the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources. The exercise provided interesting impressions on importance and challenges of global treaties concerning biodiversity conservation.

The afternoon of the second day started with the theme of marine nature conservation and a role-playing game called Fish Banks Ltd. was simulated. The aim was to realize the challenges of managing resources sustainably in a common pool resource setting. Dr. Chrtistian Pusch talked about the importance and challenges in fisheries and marine national parks management in today’s global scenario with case studies on German exclusive economic zones.

As expected, we could not leave the island without a guided walking tour on local biodiversity including the famous last remnants of beech forest in Germany, untouched for about 500 years. With a cloudy sky and pleasant temperature (with mosquitoe clouds as well unfortunately), we walked through the circular trail learning about the beech forest and ecology of several associated species. Thanks to our excellent facilitators Ms. Kathrin Bockmühl, Dr. Katharina Stein and Dr. André Lindner.

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The fellows also visited the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Southeast-Rügen to learn about the ongoing conservation programs in the biosphere reserve. Later, we arrived at Jasmund National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site inhabited by beech forest. All the fellows were delighted with the beautiful views of Baltic Sea and had the pleasure to see the largest chalk cliffs in Germany called the Königsstuhl or King’s chair.

Words are missing to describe the extraordinary week we had. Special thanks to Ms. Kathrin Bockmühl who opened the doors of this beautiful place for the CIPSEM EM-41 fellows. The excursion at the Insel Vilm was a unique experience, which we will remember for its extraordinary landscapes, beech forest and the knowledge acquired to manage ecosystems and biodiversity. The experience will be engraved forever in the memory of all the fellows.

by Mariela Yapu Alcazar (Bolivia) and Dhruv Verma (India)

Biosphere Reserve Upper Lausatian Heath- and Pond Landscape

Together with the TUD M. Sc. course ‘Tropical Forestry‘ the group visited the ‘Biosphere Reserve Upper Lausatian Heath- and Pond Landscape’ (Oberlausitzer Heide- und Teichlandschaft) … – what a long name, however this area’s uniqueness justifies the effort: the reserve comprises over 30.000 ha and is part of the UNESCO ‘Man and Biosphere’ network (MAB). The target of biosphere reserves is to reconcile human livelihoods, economic activity and nature conservation, which is worldwide achieved by the classification of the area into four zones (core area, buffer zone, transition zone and regeneration zone) with various natural features and different management purposes and intensities.

Carrs, mire-, heath- and dune-landscapes, woodlands, meadows, riparian forests, ponds, and river flood plains are just some of the habitat types occurring in the core area and the buffer zone. Over 3.400 animal species have been found in the reserve (e.g. 53 species of dragonflies, 23 fish species, 15 amphibian species, 161 species of breeding birds, such as white-tailed eagle and 49 mammal species) among which are 807 IUCN Red List species.

Transition and regeneration zone serve primarily for agricultural production, settlements and the recultivation of devastated lignite open-cast mining sites.

(Photos: A. Lindner)