Rays of Hope for Ecological Restoration in the Middle East
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Posted by: Marguerite Nutter
Public Symposium Held in Jordan Offers Collaboration, Ideas for the Future
Botanic Gardens Conservation International
Tariq Abu Taleb
Royal Botanic Garden
Missouri Botanical Garden
St. Louis, MO, U.S.A.
Ecological degradation is widespread in the Middle East. Soil erosion and dust storms negatively impact the land and people and the resources allocated to support restoration efforts have proven largely inadequate. While the science and practice of ecological restoration is growing rapidly in Latin America and parts of Asia and Africa, with one or two exceptions, movement toward restoration in the Middle East is limited.
Recognizing the need and the challenges, the Ecological Restoration Alliance of Botanic Gardens (ERA) in conjunction with the Royal Botanic Gardens of Jordan, held its most recent international meeting in Amman, Jordan. “The ERA meeting in Jordan was a great opportunity for people to come together to discuss the need for restoration in the Middle East, as well as how to go about achieving it,” noted Paul Smith, Secretary General of Botanic Gardens Conservation International.
More than 100 people from universities, government, botanical gardens and potential funders took part in the most significant public meeting on ecological restoration to date. The takeaways were clear: large-scale ecological restoration will require collaboration across international borders in order to secure both biodiversity and the livelihoods of those who live in the Middle East.
“Botanic gardens from the Middle East and beyond are now working together and showing a combined commitment to driving ecological restoration forwards in the region,” offered Smith.
As a result, new botanic gardens in the Middle East including those in Jordan, Iraq, and Oman, now have restoration at the forefront of their long term plans. They are setting up seed banks and nurseries and will receive guidance from established gardens in the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) network. BGCI member gardens will work to train others in the region on incorporating the livelihoods and traditional knowledge of local people in the restoration process. They’ll model programs after other successful ones, including the Missouri Botanical Garden’s program in Madagascar where local people are given restoration-based jobs as an alternative to those that might be damaging ecosystems.
Symposium attendees also developed a communication strategy to reach out to the public about the need for restoration. Language differences have been a challenge. Since the close of the symposium, key documents including the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) International Primer were translated to Arabic. Germination protocols are being developed and tested for keystone plants native to the region.
These institutions have a strong role to play in ecological restoration. True progress will be made when those groups bring government, institutions, corporations and local citizens together in this vital shared goal.
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Rays of Hope from the Ecological Restoration Alliance of Botanic Gardens, following its recent meeting in Amman, Jordan; Tariq Abu Taleb, James Aronson, Kirsty Shaw: First published: 25 May 2016 DOI: 10.1111/rec.12380
About Restoration Ecology
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