By Irene Teixidor-Toneu, GDF Mediterranean Programme Consultant
The 5th European Congress of Conservation Biology took place from the 11th to the 15th of June in the beautiful city of Jyväskylä, Finland. Over 800 participants gathered to share their theoretical and practical conservation knowledge in talks, workshops, plenary sessions, over coffee or during the many social activities organised.
On behalf of the Global Diversity Foundation’s Mediterranean team, I spoke about the High Atlas cultural landscapes in a session entitled “Biocultural approaches to conservation: New tools for involving communities and promoting human and environmental wellbeing”. The session was moderated by Aili Phyälä, Global Environments Summer Academy 2015 alumna, who gave an overview of international legal and institutional frameworks promoting community action in conservation. My talk was a fitting follow up, presenting GDF’s work as a practical, on-the-ground case study that illustrated Aili’s main points.
Global Diversity Foundation’s biocultural diversity approach to conservation addresses social and environmental drivers of change affecting both traditional livelihoods and biodiversity in the High Atlas. During my talk, I presented an overview of auto-ethnographic, ethnographic and ethnobotanical research results on traditional ecological knowledge of cultural practices for conservation in two High Atlas rural communities. Through a series of examples, I explained how these traditional practices help maintain biodiversity by shaping the landscape into specific topographic features and biodiversity patterns, by using local flora and protecting high-value species, or by regulating access to natural resources. These practices must be understood as interlinked and interdependent. I emphasised the importance of land ownership and customary law, and the need to strengthen communal governance systems to maintain biocultural diversity. In order to implement successful biocultural conservation strategies that are based on a holistic understanding of conservation challenges, we recommend integrated, transciplinary research of the kind that we have launched in the Moroccan High Atlas.