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Wednesday 25 August 2010, by Francis Segond
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Proceedings of the 3rd Mediterranean Scientific Conference GID - Parmenides - Conclusions and Recommendations
Towards a Mediterranean Science Area

"Mediterranean Wealth and Diversity; Biology and Culture"

Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 21-24 June, 2010
Alexandria - Egypt

Note: Due to the abundance and the quality of the presented papers and the subsequent round table discussions, these proceedings will be published in several installments. This first part - acting as a kind of summary of the conference - deals with the Conclusions and the Recommendations ending the three Symposia and displays many photographs shot during the event. The following parts will be dedicated to the abstracts and the accompanying working documents of the conference; they will soon be available on this site.

The Third GID-Parmenides conference, dedicated to the "Mediterranean Wealth and Diversity, Biology and Culture" was held at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Alexandria, Egypt) from June 21 to 24, 2010.

It brought together 120 scientists and literary personalities from 17 countries and 22 academies of the Mediterranean area.

Biodiversity and cultural diversity are now recognized as essential components of sustainable development.

Biodiversity and cultural diversity, which have long been – and still are – treated separately in their finalities while differing in their object, do appear to be closely interdependent and complementary in their key aim: the preservation of plurality.

The preservation of biodiversity is often linked to cultural practices and traditional knowledge.

Organized and conducted with this Interactive determination, the Conference, deliberately setting aside general approaches, focused its considerations on three themes as symbols of history, culture and core issues of Mediterranean development: the Tree, the Fish and the Book.

The very high standards reached during the lectures and the round table debates have given to this dialogue between science and culture a genuine and original character. They have also contributed to take a new and fresh look, illustrated by the final recommendations and their many suggestions for concrete actions.

Let us express the hope that the exemplary nature of this meeting is the mark of a new willingness to integrate the preservation of diversity in future development strategies.

André Capron
Membre de l’Institut
President of GID

The photographs taken during the conference have been gathered on these pages:
22 June 2010, 23 June 2010 et 24 June 2010

(By courtesy of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina - Scientific Committee: Dr. Yehia Halim, Dr. Omneya Darwish and Organizing Committee: Centre for Special Studies & Programs (CSSP); Dr. Mohamed El-Faham)

Professor André Capron, Member of the French Academy of Sciences and President of G.I.D., presents the Conclusions of the 3rd GID-Parmenides Conference on June 24th, 2010 (excerpt)

Professor André Capron


1st Symposium: The Tree

Conclusions

The Mediterranean region is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Its forests and other wooded ecosystems are a major repository of this biodiversity. These ecosystems have been shapped by the utilization which the many Mediterranean civilisations and societies have made of them throughout history, and they embody the related cultural values. They are highly specific compared to forests of the other regions of the world.

In addition to the biodiversity they contain, and the cultural values they convey, Mediterranean forests and other wooded ecosystems provide a wide range of goods and services, timber and other marketable commodities often not being the main ones. Their non wood marketable products (cork, pine nuts, aromatic plants, etc.) are important, as well as services with some marketability possibilities, such as recreation. However, forest owners and local populations are often not getting their reasonable share of the potential benefits from these market possibilities, and not participating fully in the definition and implementation of resources management strategies.

These ecosystems also produce important public goods other than biodiversity and cultural values, such as water protection - of vital importance in a region suffering from aridity and drought -, and landscape quality - essential, among other things, for sustaining touristic activities.

All their environmental, economic, social, and cultural values are at risk, since they are affected by some severe and durable threats, the impact of which is aggravated by climate change.

In the Northern rim, abandonment of agriculture and rural depopulation allow for their expansion in the hinterlands, but result in the discontinuance of some forest management activities once complementary to farming, a situation which increases the risk of fire. In the hinterlands of the Southern and Eastern countries, their area is either stabilized, or still decreasing due mostly to the expansion of agriculture; and their quality is degrading more or less rapidly almost everywhere as a result of various forms of overuse or inappropriate use (overgrazing, overexploitation for fuelwood and charcoal, etc.). This is also the part of the Mediterranean region which is the most vulnerable to climate change. Furthermore, in the littoral areas of all Mediterranean countries, forests and other wooded areas are being cleared to give way to rapid and largely unplanned urbanisation.

Protecting and sustainably managing these ecosystems is the way to maintain and enhance all their values. This is the more necessary as their degradation (and the resulting loss of their biodiversity) in several southern and eastern Mediterranean countries is both a cause and a consequence of poverty. Unfortunately, issues related to forest and other wooded areas are low on public policy priorities, at national, and hence, international levels. Their sustainable management does not benefit from the necessary human and financial resources. Related to the very low attention paid to these areas in public policies is the absence, with a few exceptions, of adequate instruments to internalise the related externalities.

This unfavourable situation is compounded by insufficient knowledge on the situation and evolution of the resources of these ecosystems, their biodiversity and functioning, and on the biophysical and socioeconomic factors influencing them; as well as on the full range of goods and services they provide in terms of quantities produced and of economic valuation, this lack of knowledge being more serious for the non wood products and the public goods.

Recommendations

The PARMENIDES III Conference recommends to Mediterranean Countries :

-  for a better recognition at national and international levels of the wealth, diversity and specificity of public goods and services provided by Mediterranean woody ecosystems, and, more generally, of their significant contribution to sustainable development :

to support the work of their research community aiming at a better characterization and evaluation of this contribution, and in particular to share in such cooperative initiatives as:
- the ‘State of Mediterranean Forests’ (SOMF),
- the Mediterranean Forests Research Agenda (with its emphasis on social sciences),
- the European education programmes at MSc level MEDfOR [1] ;

-  for a clearer definition of linkages between biophysical and socio-economic aspects and of the drivers of land resources degradation and desertification, and for improved forecasts :

to opt for more comprehensive and integrated methods of land use assessment and monitoring including all resources in forests, other wooded lands and rangelands, and their contribution to human well-being ;

-  for a better knowledge and the sustainable management of the biodiversity of Mediterranean woody ecosystems in the context of global change :

to develop a network of long-term study areas for monitoring biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services at various scales, from regional (using low and medium resolution satellite sensors) to local (e.g. RENECOFOR [2] in France) ;

to develop research on the impact of the main factors of change in the composition and structure of woody ecosystems (climate, land use, etc.);

to acquire the knowledge needed to anticipate and mitigate the impact of global change by
- assessing phenotype variation of tree populations,
- fostering evolutionary processes (response to new selection regimes) ;

to promote forestry practices diversifying the genetic structure of forest stands to make them more resistant to global change;

-  for a better assessment of the economic significance of Mediterranean woody ecosystems :

to support initiatives and projects for

the economic valuation of the full range of goods and services provided by Mediterranean woody ecosystems, and for improving their marketability;

-  for a better use of the knowledge thus enlarged on the socio-economics of these ecosystems, and of international cooperation opportunities :

to develop, and include in the relevant policy instruments, new financial and other mechanisms

  • of accounting and internalisation of the externalities of these ecosystems (fiscal and other financial incentives, credit lines at international and national levels, etc.), and
  • of adaptation to forest risks (insurances, fire prevention and control, interoperability and sharing of national fire control means, etc.) ;

-  for maximizing the benefits of multiple goods and services provided by Mediterranean woody ecosystems in a sustainable way :

to implement integrated land management strategies based on participatory approaches on a land unit basis ; and, to this end,

to provide support to concerned organizations formed on a voluntary basis (forest owners unions, local NGOs) ;

-  for facilitating the funding of the protection and sustainable management of Mediterranean woody ecosystems :

to ensure that the specific needs of arid and semi-arid zones are catered for in the international negotiations on climate change, particularly those of the Global Partnership on REDD+ [3], and of other mechanisms such as the World Bank FCPF [4], the Global Environmental Facility, etc. ;

-  for enhancing the priority assigned at national and international levels to the protection and sustainable management of Mediterranean woody ecosystems :

to set up a process at ministerial level somehow similar in structure and functioning to the MCPFE [5] for Europe, or to the COMIFAC [6] for Central Africa, which have proven effective in improving forest conservation, development and management and the cooperation in these fields. Such a process could be attached in due time to the UfM.


2nd Symposium: The Fish

Recommendations of the "Fish" workgroup

Introduction

The GID is an assembly of scientists who want to preserve their freedom of decision and their rigor in the expression of diagnosis and recommendations (eg, tuna is not "a soon extinct species", it is "overfished" )

DIAGNOSIS

- Time does not work for the evolution of aquatic ecosystems (the "fish") in the Mediterranean; on the contrary. Acting is therefore an emergency. This action makes sense only if it is collective
- Decision makers do not always have reliable and recent data at their disposal but a quality expertise exists which can be mobilized to complement the official authorities.
- Food supply is an issue of growing importance in many Mediterranean countries and scenarios of future chronic crises should not be set aside by decision makers (increasing overall deficit of protein). However, the aquatic resources (fisheries, freshwater and marine aquaculture) can significantly contribute to reduce the actual dependence on imported food.
- Fishing is now limited and will remain so. Aquaculture has a potential to rise but under several conditions.
- Many fish populations are at risk of irreversible collapse if fishing exceeds some thresholds.

ACTION RECOMMENDATIONS

Fishing will keep a steady production capacity if the conditions for its management are rigorous and shared, hence the importance of scientific diagnosis and follow-up actions, training and supervision. Increased vigilance is required in this area with an improved dialogue between fishermen, biologists and policymakers. This long-term work concerns not only fishermen, from the stage of awareness of their responsibilities in the balance of aquatic ecosystems, but also a daily management of their fishing areas.

Aquaculture can be a complement to fishing if it develops the culture of species of lower trophic levels such as molluscs, omnivorous fish (eg, the recent success of Egyptian aquaculture) and microalgae for multiple uses: oil, protein, trace elements…

The sustainable integration of these two activities in a fragile and coveted space comes necessarily through an integrated management of the ecosystem involving all the concerned persons. One of the tools of this management is a set of relevant indicators, accepted by all countries. A specific work of selection, negotiation and co-construction is therefore necessary.

Finally, the use by biotechnologies of molecules of marine origin is also an interesting field, although not well known. Research should play an increased role in this area.

In general, this evolution has to be considered according to two scales, the first including the whole Mediterranean and the second involving the homogeneous territories which enable the synergy of all actors of specific projects.

Two examples of actions:

Tuna is an emblematic example. It is overfished, but two ways of improvement actually exist: a more rigorous management of fishery (there are some success stories) and its breeding while controlling all possible impacts.

Marine biodiversity will be affected by global change. It must be the aim of an ambitious policy including, for example, the development of many marine protected areas, regularly distributed throughout the Mediterranean.

3. TOOLS

Strengthen the existing regional networks and those to be created in the fields of research, training, information and communication

Harmonize legislative and regulatory measures concerning the sea (such as pollution standards) for all Mediterranean countries.

Develop a collective eco-citizen consciousness by increasing the public awareness and its education


3rd Symposium: The Book

Introduction

The future of the Book in the Mediterranean Region constituted the subject of an in-depth review in Workshop 3 which followed Symposium, dedicated to presentations about two complementary subjects:

- Life and death of books (4 presentations)
- Translation, major component of diversity (4 presentations)

In the course of Workshop 3, two presentations treated the subject "Publishing the book / Showing the book" and one handout about the publishing of legal books was distributed.

Three further presentations were concerned with the issue of "The Digital and Biblio-Diversity".

The following recommendations are inspired by the presentations and the discussions of both Symposium 3 and Workshop 3.

Recommendation 1

Taking into consideration the importance of books in the Mediterranean area of science and, more particularly, its role in the transmission of ancient knowledge since Antiquity, the 3rd GID Conference recommends:

- a) that the national, regional and international institutions as well as the scientific and cultural foundations support the implementation of programs for collecting, editing and/or translating Greek and Latin manuscripts;

- b) that special attention be given to written documents dating from Antiquity and preserved in libraries, museums and archives in North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya) concerning their collection, preservation and publication.

Recommendation 2

Taking into consideration that

- a) translation constitutes a pillar of cultural diversity

- b) diversity fosters cultures and thereby contributes to the creation of a new geoculture;

- c) the language of the Mediterranean Region is also translation;

and also considering that language, in its obvious diversity, is not only a means of communication, but also a cultural media;

the 3rd GID Conference recommends:

- 1) that academic institutions connected in the framework of EMAN periodically establish a list of works to be translated, as a priority, into the languages of the Mediterranean Region;

- 2) the establishment of a sustainable, multilingual and updated information system, about the works being translated in the Mediterranean Region.

Recommendation 3

Taking into consideration

- a) that the digitization of books (as long as copyright laws allow it) provides security for books - with regard to physical risks - and allow to multiply access to them;

- b) the importance of cooperation between libraries in developing collective or complementary corpora;

- c) the needs in terms of circulation of ideas among the member states of the Union for the Mediterranean;

- d) the technological innovations that allow various sharing options (open platforms, such as Europeana, open standards, etc.).

the 3rd GID Conference recommends

to encourage and promote the dissemination of digital cutural content at all levels, in particular between the cultural institutions of the Mediterranean Region.

Conclusion

As much as book history and its destiny, we must pay continued attention to the book chain, with all its components (protection of copyrights, publishing, circulation through book fairs, bookstores, libraries and the media; translation and training).

Interest in books is not only a scientific, educational or cultural activity based on the synergy of partners actions for the methods and assistance, it is also an important activity in favour of development.

The book, as a fact, contributes in its own way and by its unrivaled contribution to the efforts of development.


Notes :

[1] Mediterranean Forestry and Natural Resources Management.

[2] Réseau National de suivi à long terme des ECOsystèmes FORestiers.

[3] Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest degradation in Developing countries : a funding mechanism of greenhouse gas emissions compensation within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The sign + characterises a more recent version enlarged to cover forest conservation and sustainable management and to benefit local stakeholders: a total amount of 4 billion USD had been pledged beginning of June for the period 2010-2012.

[4] Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.

[5] Ministerial Conference on Protection of Forests in Europe.

[6] Central African Forests Commission.