By Darja Kranjc and Lee Anne Bledsoe
Conservation of Fragile Karst Resources: A Workshop on Sustainability and Community in support of UNESCO science programs organized by Western Kentucky University, the George Wright Society, and the Mammoth Cave Biosphere Region was held virtually August 18-20, 2020 and addressed several topics concerning karst, caves, sustainable development, UNESCO biosphere reserves, and MAB program. Two interactive workshops presenting initiatives and management practices of BRs with caves and karst were held during the meeting.
According to the World Karst Aquifer Map (WOKAM, 2020) carbonate rocks underlie 5.2% of global ice-free land surface, with16.5% of the global population living on karst. During the plenary session professor John Gunn from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom addressed the question “How much of this land is protected under UNESCO?”. His research of the UNESCO biosphere reserves web database showed that there are 151 BRs and transboundary biosphere reserves (TBR) in 62 countries out of 622 BR and TBR in 122 countries studied. He identified 422.000 km2 of biosphere reserves as containing some carbonate karst.
Further on during the CaveMAB workshop, Clayton Lino, Director of the Mata Atlantica BR in Brazil and one of the three workshop facilitators and network coordinators explained that in addition to the carbonate rocks, caves also occur in many different lithologies such as quarzite, sandstone, iron, gneiss, basalt, gypsum, salt, lava tubes and ice. Thus, caves occur on about 20% of the Earth’s surface. His estimation is that more than 200 BRs out of 701 BRs in 124 countries (2019-2020) have caves and/or karst in their territories.
The CaveMAB workshop, facilitated by CaveMAB Network coordinators, started with a message of encouragement and support from Miguel Clusner Godt, Secretary of the MAB program and Director of the UNESCO Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences. Clayton Lino then briefed the group on 2018/2019 CaveMAB activities and the recently drafted Declaration of Objectives. He presented several examples of best practices from Brazil and the importance of sharing experiences in the CaveMAB Network. George Veni, UIS President and NCKRI Director, introduced the UIS International Year of Caves and Karst and shared some ideas for how CaveMAB could support the initiative. Lee Anne Bledsoe lead the group in two breakout sessions – the first to provide the opportunity for workshop participants to introduce themselves and as a new network get to know one another, the second breakout session asked participants to propose one collective action that CaveMAB could take to support the IYCK 2021 and celebrate the 50th Anniversary of MAB.
The speech of Miguel Clusner Godt is available here:
Clayton Lino presenting the CaveMAB Network initiative is available here:
Following the invitation of Lee Anne Bledsoe as head of the planning committee for Karst 2020, Darja Kranjc from Karst and Reka River Basin BR in Slovenia hosted a workshop on the significance of cultural heritage in karst landscape management together with Jasna Fakin Bajec from the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Art. This engaging and informative workshop session included presentations on the importance and value in cultural heritage to karst resource protection and implementation of sustainable practices. The use of ancestor wisdom to address problems of the modern world and build a treasury of traditional lifeways to address challenges such as water conservation and climate change in the Karst and Reka River Basin BR were presented. The participants were given time to contribute examples of cultural heritage that does or could inform sustainable practices in their BR, protected area, or field of study and sustainable development goals that could be addressed by that particular activity. Discussions following the group activity stressed using an integrative approach to build an army of local stakeholders by showing communities their intrinsic value in both tangible and intangible aspects of their culture. Participants agreed that instilling pride in one’s place and culture seeds responsibility to our environment.
Darja Kranjc and Jasna Fakin Bajec presentations are available here:
Below you can download this workshop participants’ invitation to collect sustainable traditional practices/cultural heritage elements on karst areas around the globe to fight global warming and explanatory narratives or legends explaining karst phenomena in celebration of the International Year of Caves and Karst and the 50th anniversary of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program in 2021.
This article is a brief summary of only two of the workshop sessions offered. There were more than 36 presentations across all sessions with authors from 18 countries. Please take a look at all the video contents from the meeting and be inspired: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYKKEzTAscvWhYukm0e2Zrg