World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


CONSERVING BIODIVERSITY IN THE MIDDLE EAST - 3/5: Strategies for in situ and ex situ conservation in the Middle East (108) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE 20, 11.30 am-1.30pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Centre for Middle Eastern Plants - part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (United Kingdom)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Tony Miller

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: This panel examines contemporary issues regarding effective in situ and ex situ biodiversity conservation in the Middle East. The aims of the panel are to discuss the obstacles to in situ and ex situ conservation in the region and to highlight strategies for overcoming such problems.

Chair: Matthew Hall, Centre for Middle Eastern Plants - part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Paper presenter: Tony Miller, Centre for Middle Eastern Plants - part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Strategies for Improving Biodiversity Conservation in the Middle East
Increasingly, the wealth of Middle Eastern nations is being ploughed into biodiversity conservation implementation. From Al-Baydha in Libya to Kabul in Afghanistan, new national parks, nature reserves, protected areas, botanic gardens and wildlife parks are currently being planned and established. At a time of major regional and global threats, including habitat loss, global climate change and increased resource use, this paper will provide a broad exploration of the obstacles to effective biodiversity conservation and restoration in the region. After detailing the challenges for in situ and ex situ conservation and restoration, this paper will discuss strategies for improving the efficacy of conservation in the Middle East.

Paper presenter: Catherine Schloeder, Texas A&M University, Challenges for Conserving Biodiversity in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a country of diverse ethnicities, livelihoods, environments and species - a country that has also experienced many conflicts over the centuries. Recently, the actions of extremist movements against the world have changed the nature of aid to poor and vulnerable countries like Afghanistan. Sizable investments of funds are being awarded in an effort to stabilize and improve economies and militaries as a means of keeping extremist movements from gaining control. Afghanistan is no exception. As of April 2009, the US alone has spent $196.1 billion dollars to address Afghanistan’s socio-economic, environmental and military issues. Some of this funding has been allocated to address specific environmental programs including reforestation, range management, protected area and species conservation, development and institutional development. Unfortunately, environmental data continues to be unavailable for most if not all projects regardless of their impact on Afghanistan’s environment or biodiversity. Reasons for this include the unavailability of publications, a loss of data during the occupation of the Taliban and recently, a lack of interest by donors in the ‘scientific investment’ needed to locate and assemble the required baseline information. Furthermore, in the current environment, security issues make the collection of new baseline information extremely difficult. Security issues also allow for indiscriminate planning that may have significant environmental consequences in the near and far future. This paper discusses the challenges faced by the PEACE project in conserving biodiversity while implementing a livestock production program in Afghanistan.

Paper presenter: Salma Talhouk , American University of Beirut , Ex situ conservation options in Lebanon
The recommendation to establish ex situ facilities in addition to in situ measures has been proposed by Lebanon's initial National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBASP 1998). Today, however, such a recommendation may not constitute a viable option in areas where real-estate value is high such as coastal vegetation, as well as other plant communities threatened by urban and agricultural expansion. Furthermore, the country is unlikely to be able to sustain a large number of ex-situ facilities, such as botanic gardens, and for the coastal flora, it is unlikely to compete with more visible flora at higher altitudes where the vegetation is more attractive and therefore more conducive to awareness campaigns and conservation activities. In this respect, an ex situ facility on the coast is clearly at a disadvantage and is unlikely to rank high in national priorities. Given the limited national resources which prohibit the creation and maintenance of botanic gardens, and the difficulty the country is already experiencing to sustain the protection and management of declared protected areas, alternative venues need to be examined for conservation. Instead there is a need to investigate options for exploring lands, with specified uses, that have not conventionally been considered as potential conservation refuges. For instance, open spaces that are relatively ‘protected’ from urban and agricultural encroachment include archeological and historic sites, religious holdings, and university campuses. These might become the only options in the near future for an in situ/ex situ hybrid vegetation conservation. An investigation is needed to assess the economic, socio-cultural, and biological feasibility of establishing and maintaining plant species and vegetation communities in these sites, and develop mechanisms to sustain this proposed multifaceted land use.

Paper presenter: Sophie Neale & Sabina Knees, Centre for Middle Eastern Plants - part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh , Botanic gardens in the Middle East and their role in 21st century conservation
The Middle East has a long tradition of horticulture and garden design. Over the last 10 years a new generation of botanic gardens have started to emerge in the region. These range from high profile, large scale projects such as the Oman Botanic Garden, to small scale, locally owned initiatives, operating on very small budgets. This paper examines the growing interest in Middle Eastern botanic gardens and ex situ plant conservation. After proving the historical background to botanic gardens, we explore the functions of botanic gardens and question their role in meeting the environmental and social challenges of the 21st century.