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)

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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)