Vol 8 N° 3 [July–September 2010]



2. A bleak outlook for biodiversity?

12 ‘IPCC for nature’ gets green light
12 Thirteen new biosphere reserves
13 A 4D system for improving conservation of Calakmul
14 50 years of ocean studies

15 Why Vineet Soni is bent on saving the guggul plant

17 Tracking plant diversity in a changing world
21 Mapping the oceans to save the seas

24 Diary
24 New releases

Direct link A World of Science Vol. 8 n° 3 (document PDF)
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A biocultural alliance

In the summary of the latest Global Biodiversity Outlook overleaf, one of the rare bright spots in an otherwise bleak tableau is the ingenuity of traditional and local approaches in protecting biodiversity. In one example, fish and rice have cohabited in China for at least 2000 years in an agricultural system that is sufficiently productive for there to be a lesser need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. But for how much longer? The homogenizing forces of globalization are whittling away some of the world’s most effective cultural strategies for protecting biodiversity.

To combat this worrying trend, UNESCO and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), author of the Global Biodiversity Outlook, have joined forces to study and tackle the threats hanging over cultural and biological diversity. This joint programme is the brainchild of the Conference on Biological and Cultural Diversity for Development, held in Montreal (Canada) on 8–10 June; it brought together scientists, representatives of indigenous and local communities, politicians, NGOs, intergovernmental bodies, development agencies and environmentalists. If the joint programme is adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the CBD in Nagoya in October, UNESCO and the CBD Secretariat will begin by elaborating a set of guiding principles for future research, management, practice and policy work at the interface between biological and cultural diversity.

The programme will also advance knowledge on the ways in which cultures have shaped and continue to shape biodiversity in a sustainable way. It will collect empirical case studies of the links between cultural and biological diversity in biosphere reserves, world heritage sites and elsewhere. In parallel, it will strengthen collaboration and coordination among relevant international agreements, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) and UNESCO culture-related conventions, in particular the World Heritage Convention (1972) and those for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003) and the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005).

One of my first decisions upon taking office was to launch A World of Science ‘to keep UNESCO’s concerns in the public eye and at the centre of public debate.’ I believe the newsletter has fulfilled that promise. Above all, I would like to thank the editor, Susan Schneegans, for putting flesh on the bones of this idea and for maintaining a high standard over the past eight years. I would also like to thank our colleague Yvonne Mehl, to whom we owe the attractive lay-out.

Today, the newsletter fills a unique niche and the readership continues to grow. Feedback from readers is most positive. As I prepare to hand over the reins to my successor, Gretchen Kalonji, I can only encourage her to maintain this line of communication open with those who share UNESCO’s ideals and a keen desire to understand – and influence – the changing world in which we live.

W. Erdelen
Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences


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