Vol 8 N° 1 [January–March 2010]

 

CONTENTS

IN FOCUS
2 Wildlife in a warming world

NEWS
10 Science must be a priority, says new UNESCO head
10 Concern over budget for science
11 Colombia hosts Year’s largest space marathon
11 Launch of consortium for science in the South
12 Three science prizes awarded
12 A biosphere school for Guinea Bissau
13 Healthier oceans vital for combating climate change
14 Collapse of karez forces Iraqis to abandon homes
14 Sustainable development needs cultural dimension
15 Two Nobel Prizes for L’ORÉAL–UNESCO laureates
15 18 countries test tsunami system

INTERVIEW
16 Farouk El-Baz returns to the Moon

HORIZONS
18 The Bushbuckridge healers’ path to justice
21 Can a blue dye help save the Aral Sea?

IN BRIEF
24 Diary
24 New releases

Direct link A World of Science Vol. 8 n° 1 (document PDF)
See also ARCHIVES for A World of Science

 

EDITORIAL

Tomorrow begins today

It may not have grabbed the headlines but the fate of long-term biodiversity conservation was also riding on the outcome of the climate talks in Copenhagen. As the authors of Wildlife in a Warming World explain overleaf, global warming will have a ‘profound and global' impact on biodiversity.

Even 2°C of global warming will stress species and ecosystems, causing coral reefs in Australia, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean to bleach, for example. If we are to limit global warming to 2°C this century, we need to act quickly and decisively, yet delegations to Copenhagen have just decided to put off until tomorrow what could have been done today. Two weeks of tense talks concluded on 18 December with a vague agreement signed by a minority of countries that contains no internationally binding commitments to reducing carbon emissions, even if it mentions the target of limiting global warming to 2°C. The Copenhagen Accord also endorses the mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD). We shall be examining the implications of this decision for biodiversity conservation in a subsequent issue of this journal.

The message of the International Year of Biodiversity is clear: act now to slow the alarming pace of biodiversity loss or regret it tomorrow. Climate change is not the only threat hanging over biodiversity, of course. Habitat loss, deforestation, overfishing and invasive species are just some of the other threats species face.

The Year gets under way at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 21 January. The launch will be followed by a conference at which scientists will demonstrate how new knowledge can be used in biodiversity-related decision-making. Topics will include the new generation of taxonomy; biogeography and climate change; biodiversity priority-setting and planning; and the biodiversity science–policy interface. The conference proceedings and recommendations will be presented in October both to UNESCO’s Executive Board and to the meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Japan. The importance of biodiversity for economic development will also be discussed at the scientific conference in January. Who would have thought, for example, that a simple natural dye could solve some of the Aral Sea Basin's most acute ecological and socio-economic problems, as we shall see in this issue?

Education will be a key objective of the Year. After eight days at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, a travelling exhibition will leave for a world tour on 30 January to convey the Year's main messages to policy- and decision-makers, students and the general public. A biodiversity learning kit for teachers and trainers will follow in October.

The Year will also underscore the ties between biological and cultural diversity. Together with the CBD and others, UNESCO is holding an international conference on biological and cultural diversity in June in Montreal (Canada). As we shall see in these pages, the Bushbuckridge traditional healers in South Africa personify this symbiosis between biological and cultural diversity. Now that they have discovered their rights, they intend to exercise them. The benefits will be both short and long term as, by protecting the medicinal plants that are their livelihood, they will also be protecting their communities’ health.

W. Erdelen
Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences

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