Humans are part of the environment, they live in it, from it and with it

Session 2: Cultural practices for conservation in the Mediterranean region

Humans are part of the environment, they live in it, from it and with it. All these interactions shape our natural world. This is especially true in the Mediterranean, where human activities have shaped local landscapes for thousands of years, creating characteristic ecological heterogeneity and biodiversity patterns. Many cultural practices and traditional lifestyles support and generate biodiversity, but they are rarely taken into account in conservation actions and planning.

This session will explore a range of cultural practices of conservation around the Mediterranean. Experiences about these cultural practices documentation, promotion and protection will also be shared and presented to professionals across disciplines. We aim to create an inter-disciplinary dialogue through which cultural practices are promoted and conservation professionals find support in addressing challenges related to human activities. Session 2 will begin with an introductory presentation by Liza Zogib (DiversEarth and Mediterranean Consortium for Nature and Culture), followed by the presentation of a case study on the documentation and promotion of cultural practices for conservation in the Moroccan High Atlas by Gary Martin, Irene Teixidor and Ugo D’Ambrosio (Global Diversity Foundation). Participants’ presentations will showcase a range of relevant cultural practices across the Mediterranean, from East (Greece, Lebanon, Turkey) to West (Morocco, Spain, Tunisia). We will also discuss the links between biodiversity conservation, nomadic pastoralism and transhumance, which are key cultural practices that have shaped landscapes over millennia throughout the region. Traditional practices related to the harvest and management of food plants and fodder plants will be presented as case studies in which human intervention has a positive impact on preserving local biodiversity. Some presentations will address cultural practices linked to religious and spiritual dimensions and their role in plant conservation. One of the presenters will also share insights on the relationship between urban areas and biodiversity.

The session will conclude with an open discussion on possible avenues for enhancing the role of cultural practices in conservation actions and planning. Ethnobotanical research can help address challenges related to human activities. Indeed, it is a key element for the success of conservation actions that seek to integrate human presence and biodiversity management. Lastly, session 3 will address the gap between the natural and social sciences in conservation by promoting dialogue between professionals in these two fields.

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