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)

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Excursion to the National Park of Saxon Switzerland (Bad Schandau) and the Museum of Natural History of Görlitz

by Ms. Alexandra Pedro (Brazil) and Mr. Emmanuel Suka (Cameroon)

On arrival at Bad Schandau, participants of the 41st International Post Graduate Course on Environmental Management were warmly received by the authority of the National Park Center run by the Saxonian Foundation for Nature and the Environment. The Center’s history, organization and up to date work was presented, highlighting interalia, concept of the foundation, information and exhibition in the center, nature conservation fund, visitors and education center, establishment of the academy in 1994, the volunteer, environmental education and academy programmes, and outreach to the local community, networking and partnership with over 240 members including neighboring nations like Poland and Czech Republic. Thereafter, participants were given a guided tour of the center, projection of a documentary and video of the National Park, and then a visit of the center’s garden where participants had their lunch.

After lunch, participants were guided into the National Park by Mr. Zenker. The forest walk in the park was very engaging and interesting thanks to the enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide. Mr. Zenker gave a vivid account of the park’s history, local culture and management of the park. He equally showed interesting sites in the park like the core-zone and its importance, an artificial cave, a historic European brown bear trap, sharp stone gorge with more than 30 species of ferns, identification of further forest and plant species in the park, conduction of a practical activity of building a human sand stone, hiking to the top of the Elbe sand stone mountain, teaching of traditional German conservation songs and dancing by the participants. Finally, to beat farewell to the participants he sang a German folklore song using a musical instrument “mouth organ”.

After breathing the forest air, hiking in the National Park of Saxon Switzerland, in the following day CIPSEM fellows visited the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History of Görlitz.

The meeting started with an introduction of the museum and the Senckenberg Society, by Prof. Dr. Willi Xylander. The museum has three research departments: Soil zoology, Zoology and Botany, where around 60 scientists work. We had the opportunity to talk to part of this team of experts about the museum collection and their current research.

In the Zoology department, the first meeting was in the Mammalogy sector. The mammal collection have been built up since 1980 and nowadays it is incremented by the research demands (e.g the Mongolia project) In the Geology sector we could see the ancient and the modern collection, containing from volcanic rocks to precious fossil plants. The Insects sector preserves a collection of around 18,500 species, from which we could observe some beautiful butterflies from all over the world and the diverse ants and beetles. We also learned about their current research on ant populations and taxonomy. Finally in the botany department, we appreciated a collection of species (some dated from 19th century) carefully maintained and their research about the land use effects on vegetation.

After lunch, we visited the library and afterwards the museum exhibition, through the enthusiastic guidance of Prof. Xylander. Starting with the geology exhibition of Upper Lusatia, with different colorful types of soil on the ground according to the cities in the region, we learned not only about the local geology, but also its biodiversity and history. Animals and plants from the tropical forests and the African savannas could be appreciated in another exhibition. We also could interact with a full size bear and painted walls for funny photos. To complete the visit, in the vivarium some fellows could direct interact with animals, feeding the fishes and having some species in hands.

The participants wish to thank all facilitators for their support and warm reception.

Excursion to the Botanical Garden of TU Dresden

As a part of the programme of the 71st UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Ecosystem Management – Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services, our diverse group from 21 countries (mainly from the tropics and subtropical areas) had the experience to visit an important place for tourists, scientists and environmentalists alike: The Botanical Garden of TU Dresden. With an extension of three hectares, the garden is home of around 10,000 species of native and exotic plants, that had been well preserved and managed by specialized gardeners, volunteers and dedicated scientists since 1822. Today the scientific head of the Botanical Garden is Dr. Barbara Ditsch, a woman with great knowledge and passion regarding plant conservation and management and to whom we are deeply grateful for sharing her knowledge and warm hospitality.

During this pleasant excursion, we could find a variety of native and endangered plants included in the red list of Saxony as Arnica montana; medicinal and toxic herbs as Colchium autumnale, tropical and subtropical aquatic, carnivorous or ornamental plants as Victoria cruziana, Nepenthes sp. and orchids respectively, as well as perennial plants and deciduous trees from Europe, temperate Asia, North America and the Mediterranean region. Also our excursion was warmed up with the visit into three wonderful and well managed greenhouses showing the tropical and subtropical regions, and even the humid weather of the Amazon or the warm and dry weather of Madagascar desert.

New concepts of conservation and plant management have been provided to our pool of knowledge, where we could learn that The Botanical Garden of TU Dresden is working with the aim to integrate several innovative proposals towards an important topic in this decade: “Ecosystem services”. In which it is relevant for the ex-situ plant conservation and for the local animal diversity (e.g. providing habitat for 120 bees that have been recorded here and in its surroundings), but also providing a harmonic space for tourism, education and research (estimated 100,000 guests/year), highlighting the multiple roles of botanical gardens within urban areas. This experience had contributed both in our cultural enrichment and also in our professional knowledge, in which the majority of us will be very glad to bring this innovative and multidisciplinary idea of conservation for our countries.

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by Vanessa Wätzold Ospina (Colombia)

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’’.

Into the wild: trip to Saxon Switzerland National Park

The National Park Saxon Switzerland is located virtually right at our doorstep, so the EM38 course headed out on a sunny Friday to pay a visit to this scenic landscape with its bizarre sandstone rock formations.

The tour started at the National Park Centre which was – after being hit by the Elbe river floods in June 2013 – newly renovated and reopened just three weeks before our visit. An exhibition with seven thematic stages illustrated the special characteristics of the local nature and gave a good example of methods in environmental education.

We finished the day with a walk at the Schloßberg to the Schomburg ruin.

(Photos: A. Lindner)