Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Represented at World Congress in Spain

Representatives in one of the squares in the old city of Madrid.

Text and Photos by Debby Thomson


Debby Thomson, project coordinator for the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere, attended the 3rd World Congress on Biospheres, hosted by UNESCO in the city of Madrid from February 4 to 9, 2008.

More than 850 delegates from over 100 different countries around the world gathered with the main purpose of drawing up and adopting a document, that will be known as the Madrid Action Plan.

  • This is a follow up document and further development on the Seville Strategy, drawn up in 1995. The initial review of the Madrid Action Plan looked into the background of Biosphere Reserves, where they have come from and how they were started. Thereafter it followed on with looking at global challenges of Biosphere Reserves which included:
  • Climate change
  • Provision of ecosystem services
  • Urbanisation as a principal driver for ecosystems wide pressures
  • The vision and mission statements for the World Network of Biosphere Reserves within the MaB (Man and the Biosphere) Programme were reviewed and the progress since the drawing up and adoption of the Seville Strategy was reflected upon. The following Madrid Actions were outlined and reviewed: Cooperation, management and communication
  • Zonation ? linking function to space
  • Science and capacity enhancement
  • Partnerships Each of the above aspects was reviewed within smaller group scenarios, reports drawn up and then larger plenary presentations and adoptions were completed. The small groups were initially divided up according to region (ie AfrimaB, EuroMaB, IberaMaB etc) and each region was then able to give their viewpoints from a regional and cultural stand.

Thereafter, the groups were divided into ecosystems (ie forest biospheres, island biosphere, dry land biospheres, freshwater system biospheres, etc) and once again each of the above aspects were reviewed from an ecosystem point of view.

At the culmination of congress, the Madrid Action Plan was adopted, with the provision of a small number of alterations to be undertaken by the International Coordinating Council (ICC), as well as a declaration.

The Madrid Declaration was drawn up and adopted by the congress and lastly, as one of the newer Chapters of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, the AfriMaB Charter was also reviewed and adopted by the AfriMaB sector of the congress ? comprising more than different countries from all over the African Continent.

Connect the Parks to Fight Climate Change - IUCN

Conserving and connecting natural habitats is critical to combat climate change ? and save species, according to IUCN's world commission on protected areas. Connecting protected areas is one of the most effective ways to help plants and animals survive the threats posed by climate change.

That was the message from IUCN (World Conservation Union) at the World Congress on Biosphere Reserves held in Madrid, Spain, from February 4-9. The 2007 climate change forecasts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) show the continental scale of the changes and the importance of large-scale responses.

IUCN's world commission on protected areas (WCPA) introduced the concept of connecting and conserving natural habitats to reduce species loss and ensure ecosystems continue providing human benefits, such as healthy catchments which provide communities with clean water.

'We are talking about very large areas ? continental scale 'corridors' which cover hundreds of kilometres,' explained Graeme Worboys, vice chair of WCPA's mountain biome, at a side event organised by IUCN. 'This approach involves maximising 'naturalness', protecting the last natural habitats that are left and saving species from extinction,' he added.

The impacts of climate change make it all the more imperative to address fragmentation. Global warming is forcing natural habitats to shift, while protected area boundaries remain static. Conserving large-scale natural lands that interconnect protected areas can help species to migrate and survive the effects of climate change.

'Protected areas are part of connectivity conservation, and biosphere reserves are an integral part of this,' said David Sheppard, head of IUCN's programme on protected areas. 'Protected areas are an important tool, but they are not enough on their own. We need to think beyond protected areas and consider large-scale connectivity,' he added.

Two successful examples of large-scale connectivity conservation can be found in the Yellowstone National Park to Yukon initiative between the USA and Canada, and the Alps to Atherton corridor in Australia. Both protect thousands of kilometres of adjoining natural habitats, ensuring the survival of key species such as the grizzly bear and greater glider.



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