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)

From Dresden to Wisconsin – an alumni story

I joined the 71st International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services (SC71) as a coordinator of conservation projects at a local NGO in Azerbaijan – IDEA (International Dialogue for Environmental Action). I managed projects on the Caucasian leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica), European bison (Bison bonasus), as well as anadromous fish species.
The course helped me broaden my network, I got to know a number of young conservationists from around the world, each very influential in their countries or regions. It helped me share my skills and more importantly, learn from their experiences in their countries, as well as field realities. Additionally, I was happy to find out about alternative and new conservation strategies that others have implemented, which helped them to eliminate or reduce problems in their countries/regions. Learning from experienced speakers with different backgrounds helped me understand what a human being is capable of doing, which affected my view of the world around me and I returned home with even higher ambitions. My participation in the course helped me develop professionally towards my goal of becoming a leader in the field of conservation in my home country.

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The SC71 course in the Botanical Garden of TU Dresden.

In August 2018, I was proud to join the SILVIS Lab as a Doctoral Research Assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US. I am currently working on a project funded by NASA – studying land cover and land use changes that have happened in the Caucasus region over the last half century. I am using remote sensing to evaluate how land use change has affected habitats and distribution of wild mammal species in Azerbaijan. You can now contact me through: rizayeva@wisc.edu

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by Ms. Afag Rizayeva (SC71 alumna)

 

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)

Finishing strong!

On September 26th the 71st UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Conservation of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services came to an end in festive manner … but first let’s have a look back a few days into the course programme, where the participants got to know a guest lecturer from Brazil, invited with the support of TU Dresden’s Internationalisation Strategy. Mr. Nicholas Locke is in charge of the private reserve “Reserva Ecologica de Guapiaçu” (REGUA) in the Atlantic Rainforest in the state of Rio de Janeiro and not only shared his thoughts on the ongoing restoration projects on the property, but also talked about the challenges in building, maintaining and expanding such ambitious work. In addition to presenting valuable facts and insights, he was also able to transfer some of his very own passion to the group – here are some quotes on his lectures:

“Passionate and visionary person…Motivation 100% – Thanks!”

“Mr. Locke is a wonderful man, inspirational and full of good energy. We could learn a lot from this practical example.”

“I liked the passion behind the hard work Mr Locke has done in Brazil through his voice and presentation. I feel very inspired to go to my home country and make a difference. I feel privileged to meet such a great man.”

“From the great work that Mr.Locke had done in Brazil, the most important (and influential) for me was the point that he lived in the environment that he worked on. I am very motivated to do the same now.”

“It was an amazing presentation and gave us a lot of motivation for working in nature conservation even the difficulties.”

With this motivation we release 23 course graduates back to their duties. We are sure their positive influence is to be noticed and a change towards the better is possible and these 23 individuals are among “those people who do understand what we’ve lost are the ones who are rushing around in a frenzy trying to save the bits that are left.” (Douglas Adams, Last Chance to See, 1990).

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overview about REGUA here

photos by Harald Schluttig (weissraum)

71st UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services getting of the starting blocks

The end of the summer break marks also the beginning of a new CIPSEM course year and we are happy to welcome the participants of the 71st UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Ecosystem Management. We are looking forward to spend the next weeks with our guests from Ethiopia, Nepal, Bolivia, Rwanda, Brazil, Philippines, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Cambodia, Guatemala, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Thailand, Ghana, China, Peru, Madagascar, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Bhutan, and Colombia.

(Photos: T.Karp)

Field trip through the UNESCO biosphere reserve Heath and pond landscape of Upper Lusatia

Author: Karimon Nesha

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39th UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB course along with Tropical Forestry students of TU Dresden in the Biosphere Reserve

The purpose of UNESCO biosphere reserves is the protection of cultural landscapes. The size of the Biosphere Reserve Upper Lusatia Heath and Pond Landscape is 30.102 ha of which 10000 ha are used for agriculture. The biosphere reserve has a very special character as a result of extensive land use including agriculture, forestry and ponds. The pond landscape is unique for this reserve and started 800 years ago. The ponds are used for the cultivation of carps. People are also seen as part of the biosphere and use resources sustainably. There is also a teaching path in the forest. The reserve administration reports every 10  years to the UNESCO.

The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve has three zones:

  • Core zone : it covers maximum 20% of the area
  • Buffer zone
  • Transition zone or development area

The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve fulfills three tasks:

  • Sustainable land use
  • Nature conservation
  • Environmental education called education for sustainable development (ESD)

Administrative tasks may also be included in forest management in addition to the three tasks of biosphere reserve.

Ponds in the Biosphere Reserve

Around 10% of the reserve area  is ponds. There are about 347 ponds in the Reserve covering  2.415 ha. The first pond established around 1000 years ago and the shape has not much changed in the last 500 years. Mostly, carps are cultivated in the pond. The ponds are not deep. It is only 0.5m deep and flat as the carps need warm water. Carps feed on  small animals in water and on cereals. In winter, the water freezes, so carps are taken out of the ponds and put in winter ponds which are deeper and consequently do not freeze completely. It takes around 2.5 years to cultivate carps in the ponds. The carps are bred mainly in mono-cultures. Farmers are given incentives to produce diverse fish in the ponds.  The production of fish in the ponds are estimated to be 500 to 1,000 kilogram per year and hectare.

Agriculture and biodiversity: Village Kreba-Neudorf, farm of family Ladusch

In the farm, old and seriously threatened grain species (rye, wheat, spelt) are cultivated based on crop rotation under The Heritage Crop Varieties Project started in autumn 1997 supporting preserving the biodiversity of crop plants. The old cereal species are resistant to diseases.  Since 2007, the area of old cereal species cultivation is increasing. Three species are currently highly productive in the farm.

Forestry and Biodiversity: Dune of Mücka

Dune of Mücka was a former military area. Along with the abandonment of exercises in this military training area in 1991 heavy shrub invasion and forestation took place by natural succession. The great importance of those sites for thermophilic and xerophilic species has already become obvious by first surveys of the entomofauna and avifauna. In the meantime more than 30 sand wasp species, 110 wildbee species and 50 nesting bird species are represented here. Among other things, it is habitat for more than 50% of the hoopoe population, the curlew, camprimulgus (Camprimulgus europaeus), and of the hobby (Falco subbuteo) in the biosphere reserve. Today this forest is privately owned by nature foundation.  There are four categories in the forest. These are mentioned below:

  • Category N: this category represents natural vegetation. Almost 80% of the tree species are pine and the age of the pine is more than 100 years. About 90% species are native.
  • Category Transition: In this category, 60% of the trees are pine and the age of the pines is over 80 years. In 20 years, this category is expecting to transform in category N.
  • Category UL: The ages of this category are below 80 years. It will take more than 20 years to reach the status of conservation.
  • Category S: special: It is a lower intermediate forest type.

A visit to the TU Dresden botanical garden

Without an entrance fee for the community, the publicly accessible Botanical Garden of the TU Dresden is not only home to native and endangered plants, but also serves as a botanical repository for plant species of ‘vulnerable’ status, highlighting the vital role of botanic gardens in the conservation of the same.

The visit started with an introduction on the historical development of the plant conservatory including the different locations wherein plant collections were held since 1820. This was followed by a description of the entire plant collection, namely a variety of 10,000 plant species from tropical, subtropical, old-world deserts and rain forests in America, Africa and Asia which are divided into species of annuals, perennial herbs, and woody plants. We warmly thank Dr. Barbara Ditsch, Dr. Stein, and Dr. Lindner for the lecture and guided touring around the garden with the unforgettable unique plants.

Before the excursion was completed, we also came to learn about the natural bees whose role in the maintenance of plant genetic resources and also plant conservation, not only in this garden but also worldwide, is regarded as very important. We felt we have had a tour around the botanical world within the confines of the TUD Botanical Garden, with the birds singing and the light-sunny peaceful ambience.

 

Report by Dang Diep Yen Nga (Vietnam) and photographs by Rocío Grommeck (Paraguay)