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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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)

German Environment Agency (UBA) – back again

On April 12th and 13th we visited the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt – UBA). It was founded in 1974 and its mission is to protect citizens from environmental influences and the environment from external damages. On our first day, we were welcomed by Mr. Ralph Wollmann, who introduced us to the main objectives of UBA. After that, we had detailed lectures and discussions about environmental perspectives of Germany. The topics were related to energy transition, adaptation to climate change, transboundary water pollution and water resources management.

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Mr. Max Werlein started the first presentation about guidelines for political action in energy transition, which included economic efficiency, supply security, and environmental capability. The next lecture was given by Clemens Haβen which was about adaptation to climate change in Germany and was focused on the role of UBA on policy adaptation and policy cycle, as well as the impacts and consequences of climate change. After that, Mr. Gerd Winkelmann-Oei explained us about protection strategies of transboundary water pollution in Germany. The main topic was on crisis management of hazardous activities in European rivers and the tasks done by the International River Commission. The presentations were ended with a brief lecture about water resource management by Mr. Bernd Kirschbaum and were started by introducing us to general information and short overview about water use and climate. Besides, he presented about wastewater treatment and chemicals status of the surface in Germany. Finally, he pointed out the main problems and new issues of water resources management. This long and enriching day was completed with a short visit to the historical Bauhaus building and a delicious dinner at the fancy Radisson hotel in Dessau.

The second day began with a relaxing breakfast. Then, the first lecture was about sustainable development and green economy by Mr. Bjӧrn Bünger by which details were mainly on inevitable transformation to green economy and the current requirements of changes in consumption and production. He also added that the growth of green markets is a precondition for the green economy. The second lecture of the day was focused on international chemical management by Ms. Johanna Rose/Mr. Hans-Christian Stolzenberg and the lectures and discussions were on the need for global action on chemicals, chemical management at a global, regional and national level as well as actions taken. After lunch we made a short guided tour of UBA building with Mr. Max Bӧsecke. Finally, a short presentation and a case study in Costa Rica about tourism and environment were given by Ms. Ulrike Wachotsch.

For us, as reporters and CIPSEM fellows, the main purpose of this excursion was to understand German experience in environmental research and strategies proposals for policies; to make networking with government agency and scientists, and to improve our professional skills in environmental management.

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the authors: Ms. Lourdes Amparo Lares Acero, Peru (right) & Mr. Fisseha “Fish” Berhe Halefom, Ethiopia (left)

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.

(Less than) 50 Shades of Brown

Most likely, this morning some of us went to the bathroom, brushed our teeth, took a bath, and did our things in the toilet, maybe followed by washing the dishes that have been sitting on the sink since last night dinner. Little did we know, the water (or better we call it wastewater) that we used is flushed and drained to a collection pipe. In the case of EM-41 class, our wastewater is collected by sewer pipes in Dresden which has a total length of 1700 km with diameter of up to 2 meters.

These pipes are laying under the roads of Dresden and deliver our wastewater to a specific plant in Kaditz, an area northwest of Dresden. Occupying an area as large as 25 football fields, the plant was constructed in 1910 to treat the wastewater produced by Dresden’s population. Currently, everyday approximately 120.000 m3 of wastewater coming from 700.000 people is reaching the treatment plant. Since Dresden’s wastewater system applies a combined system, the incoming wastewater is collected together with rainwater and treated together in the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP).

To give you some illustration about the smell that we inhaled that afternoon, here is a picture of raw wastewater which just arrived in the WWTP; a dark-brown water.

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Dirty, hence the dark color. Full of organic materials, which could lead to oxygen depletion in the aquatic ecosystems.  Full of microorganisms, which some are harmful to humans, and of course smelly. And these are the shades of brownish colors of the same wastewater during the treatment processes:

More or less 24 hours later, we will receive this not-even-close-to brown water, which is the treated water from the WWTP.

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Almost like clear water, it is still not safe for drinking, but is now safe to be discharged into receiving water bodies, in this case the famous Elbe River. With only 5 mg/l of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD5), and 41 mg/l of Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), NH4-N of 0,7 mg/l, N total of ±13 mg/l, and P Total of 1 mg/l, this water won’t be a harm to humans and neither to the environment once it is discharged into the river.

How could the wastewater be turned into clear water? The answer is because of several physical, biological, and chemical processes that were taking place in the plant. At first, the wastewater was treated with physical and mechanical treatment with bar screens and grit chamber to remove the trash and to remove sand subsequently from the wastewater. The water then underwent a sedimentation process in which its floating and settle-able solids sink to the bottom of the tank. Afterwards, the water was transported to aeration tanks. In these tanks, air bubbles were introduced to the water to be used by the microorganisms which “eat” the organics. The water then again settled in secondary sedimentation tanks, from which it can then be safely discharged to receiving water bodies.

The sludge coming from the primary and secondary sedimentation tanks was also treated in a series of sludge treatment units. Unfortunately, we did not have the chance to visit all the units, but we could see from afar the two giant egg-shaped anaerobic digestion tanks.

We had fun during the visit, especially since the weather was rather nice today. And since 81% of the energy used is produced by the plant (mainly from anaerobic sludge treatment units and small amount produced by solar systems), we proudly took a picture in between the solar panel systems.

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by Vika Ekalestari (Indonesia)

special credit to Tamara Karp (CIPSEM) for the title idea 😉

An excursion to the BMUB and 3rd German Future Earth Summit in Berlin

After a month of studies in Dresden at CIPSEM, we (EM41) had an opportunity to go to Berlin for a visit to the Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and attending the 3rd German Future Earth Summit. As scheduled, we left Dresden in the early morning of February 7th heading to Berlin by train. As soon as we arrived, on the way to our first stop, we encountered an old piece of the Berlin Wall and the line that used to divide the city. We got to the Ministry of Environment. Ms. Königsberg received us and told us about the history of the house, Berlin and The Wall. She showed us maps and old photos from that time. We did a tour of the building, through the patios and the standing Wall. We proceeded to the conference room where we met with Mr. Contius, head of the division “United Nations, Agenda 2030, Cooperation with Developing and Newly Industrialized Countries” at the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

Mr. Contius talked to us about Germany’s Multilateral Work for Sustainable Development and its relevance on the national level. He explained that the main goal of his division involves narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, and help businesses go green. That way, there will be a change of course in order to achieve as many SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) as possible by 2030. Germany mainly focuses on 3 issues: energy, agriculture and traffic; through the “5 Ps”: people, planet, prosperity, partnership and peace. After having lunch at the Ministry, we went to the greywater recycling project station at Block 6. Mr. Nolde, manager of the project, explained the history and the overview of his project on how it operates. The facility is a decentralized recycling station, which according to Mr. Nolde is the best way for water treatment and reutilization in order to maximize energy efficiency. In the evening, Dr. Lindner gave us a quick tour around Brandenburger Tor and the Reichstag, on the way to a wonderful dinner at Hopfingerbräu im Palais.

On the following 2 days, we joined the 3rd German Future Earth Summit – From Knowledge to Action at the Umweltforum. This summit provides a platform for researchers, scholars, NGOs, practitioners to discuss and figure out the challenges, especially in science, regarding the agenda 2030 of Sustainable Development. This year, the focus of the Summit was on KANs or Knowledge-Action Networks, in order to build bridges between the scientific community and other stakeholders and decision makers.

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During the summit, we were divided into different roundtable discussions and sessions according to our professional and academic expertise and interests. This helped us understand, discuss and share ideas among all attendees. It was a great opportunity for us, EM41 Fellows, to meet many scholars and researchers, and build networks with them for future cooperation.

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Overall, the Berlin Excursion gave us a great opportunity to understand Germany’s Environmental Policy, build networks and explore a vibrant city.

by Josefina Achaval-Torre (Argentina) & Chandara Yem (Cambodia)

Excursion to Waste Management and Recycling Facilities

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In Saxony waste management involves many stakeholders (including private, public and PPP`s) and has a very interesting social aim. Led by Dr. Dietmar Lohmann, we had two days of excursions (January 31st and February 1st) to many waste management facilities.

It was very interesting to know more about the German management model, in which consumers and producers are economically responsible for waste management. The inclusion of handicapped people in waste business was nice and surprising, becoming definitely a role model to be analyzed and implemented in developing countries.

We had the opportunity to see new technologies for bio-waste treatment, like the quick fermentation chambers at the composting facility. Although it is important to mention that some other processes at this facility, like compost maturation and marketing, surely can be improved.

In developing countries may be difficult to find waste to energy projects, but here in Germany we had the chance to visit a landfill-gas utilization project, in which biogas was transformed into energy for the grid.

Also we were impressed by the willingness of Germans for buying recycled products, as we saw the success of PAKA, a cardboard recycling company with more than 100 years of history. We have to highlight the way they market their products and find specific and lucrative niches.

These excursions were a wonderful experience for us, but also a great chance to have nice moments with our fellows.

by Gabriela de Jesús Fernández Tay (Cuba) & Eduardo Esteves (Ecuador)