Vol 6 N° 1 [January–March 2008]



p 2 The rise of animals (Part II)

p 9 Arctic sea ice a record low
p 10 Ocean observing flotilla hits 3000 mark
p 10 Report confirms science still dominated by men
p 11 Children follow in gorilla’s footsteps
p 13 23 new biosphere reserves in countdown to Congress
p 13 Water institute to train 2100 iranians
p 13 Environment prized at Forum

p 14 Jacob Palis presents the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World

p 16 The fall and rise of Bam’s qanats
p 20 Rhön’s gastronomical ambassadors

p 23 Governing bodies
p 24 Diary
p 24 New releases

Quick link to Vol. 6 N° 1 (PDF document);
See also ARCHIVES for A World of Science



Trend-setting in sustainability

For years, actors in nature conservation and business went their separate ways, convinced they lived in separate worlds. UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme was one of the first to make the connection between underdevelopment and environmental neglect. In 1995, the adoption of a new strategy at the 2nd World Congress of Biosphere Reserves in the Spanish city of Seville consecrated this new mindset.

The new strategy set out to make biosphere reserves model regions for sustainable development via rural economic development. As eco-tourism had the dual advantage of generating local revenue while teaching the public to value nature, incentives were put in place to encourage local entrepreneurs to develop wildlife-watching, snorkelling, desert safaris, mountain treks and the like.

Biosphere reserves were urged to develop eco-industries, organic agriculture, ecological animal husbandry, apiculture, wine- and fruit-growing and so on. Rhön Biosphere Reserve in Germany has never looked back. Thanks to the decision to focus on marketing quality local produce, Rhön has created jobs and preserved farms at a time when much of the country is experiencing a rural exodus. The case of Rhön is all the more inspiring in that one-third of the biosphere reserve is situated in what was formerly East Germany. As we shall see in this issue, Rhön is as much a symbol of newfound German unity as of economic revival.

Suk Kyung Shim of the South Korean Commission for UNESCO sees a parallel between Rhön and the situation closer to home. She believes ‘the demilitarized zone separating North Korea from South Korea since the ceasefire in 1953 resembles the former inner-German border. The [4 km-wide by 248 km-long] area has not been exposed to human influence of any kind for more than 50 years,’ she explains in UNESCO Today, the journal of the German Commission for UNESCO, ‘and is today a natural treasure trove that is home to many rare species. This makes the demilitarized zone unique and particularly worth protecting.’

Could a transboundary biosphere reserve offer a solution one day to the two Koreas? ‘The Republic of Korea has looked at various international programmes,’ says Suk Kyung Shim, and ‘a biosphere reserve appears to be particularly suitable,’ even if ‘the political situation makes it improbable that the biosphere reserve can be established in the near future.’ There are now several transboundary biosphere reserves in the world and even one intercontinental biosphere reserve linking Morocco and Spain.

UNESCO’s MAB programme has often been a ‘trend-setter.’ Some say it was practicing sustainable development long before the term was coined. So, where do biosphere reserves go from here? The 3rd World Congress of Biosphere Reserves may well provide the answer; it is being hosted by the Government of Spain in Madrid from 4 to 9 February on the theme of …Biosphere Futures. After analysing implementation of the Seville Strategy over the past decade, the Congress will be elaborating the Madrid Action Plan for 2008–2013.

W. Erdelen
Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences

Consult the Special Issue on Climate Change (October 2007)


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