Nav: Home

Nature conservation as a bridge to peace in the Middle East

March 22, 2017

Loss of biodiversity is a major challenge in today's world as is the quest for peace in regions engaged in conflict. But scientists writing in a Review published March 22 in Trends in Ecology & Evolution say that efforts to conserve natural resources present an opportunity to find common ground between communities at odds, building trust and renewed hope for peace.

"Nature can build bridges between nations," said Alexandre Roulin of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. "We use nature conservation to favor communication between communities in conflict. Although we've developed efforts in the Middle East, including Israel, Jordan, and the Palestine Authority, we hope that our work will become a platform to stimulate similar initiatives around the world."

Roulin says it all started about 35 years ago when co-author Yossi Leshem from Israel's Tel-Aviv University noticed that Israeli farmers were using poison to kill rodents. The trouble was that the rodents' natural bird predators were also dying from poisoning. It took years, but they ultimately convinced farmers and the Israeli government to eliminate the use of the pesticides and begin building nest boxes for barn owls and kestrels instead.

The effort helped to protect wildlife without any increase in crop loss. That's because each pair of owls can produce 11 offspring in a year. Those owls, in turn, consume thousands of rodents per year.

But there was more. The scientists began to realize that farmers in Jordan and the Palestinian Authority faced similar challenges, which needed to be addressed on a regional scale. They also began to realize that the project could unite Jordanians, Israelis, and Palestinians for a common cause despite their religious and political differences. Roulin recounts many examples in which people engaged in the project over the years have laughed and joked together, visited each other's places of worship, and more.

Roulin says it's best to start small. By documenting small-scale successes, you can begin to identify committed partners in other places. Ultimately, programs such as their "Birds know no boundaries" effort can be expanded to reach a national and international scale.

"The combination of nature conservation and peace-building is not only important, but it also brings a new message of hope that our society is looking for," Roulin said. "We hope to persuade the international community to consider such projects as diplomatic tools to pave the road to peace."

Their project in the Middle East has continued undeterred despite the conflict. There's already interest in their example from the Swiss and Chinese armies. There's also hope that a similar effort could be a starting point for bringing people from North and South Korea together.

"Unexpected ideas, such as working scientifically with barn owls, can be the source of great inspiration for issues that are far bigger than our scientific questions," Roulin said.

Roulin says he and his colleagues now hope to launch an educational program in Europe, to encourage connection between children from Europe and the Middle East and raise awareness about the interdependence of nature on a global scale.
-end-
Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Roulin et al.: "'Nature Knows no Boundaries': The Role of Nature Conservation in Peacebuilding" http://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/fulltext/S0169-5347(17)30057-5

Trends in Ecology & Evolution (@Trends_Ecol_Evo), published by Cell Press, is a monthly review journal that contains polished, concise, and readable reviews, opinions, and letters in all areas of ecology and evolutionary science. It aims to keep scientists informed of new developments and ideas across the full range of ecology and evolutionary biology -- from the pure to the applied, and from molecular to global. Visit: http://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution. To receive Cell Press media alerts, please contact press@cell.com.

Cell Press

Related Conflict Articles:

Violence against conflict-affected teenage girls in Africa is widespread
A majority of displaced adolescent girls are victimized by violence, according to a new study in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.
When the smoke clears... tobacco control in post-conflict settings
In new research published today by King's College London - Institute of Cancer Policy and the Conflict & Health Research Group in the journal ecancermedicalscience, the difficulties of prioritizing preventable disease and long term health issues in post conflict zones are explored.
Brain circuit enables split-second decisions when cues conflict
MIT researchers have identified a circuit in the brain that is critical for governing how we respond to conflicting environmental cues.
When people prepare for conflict, dominant leaders take the stage
One popular theory holds that dominant leaders are supported by those who fear new situations and threats.
Why do killer whales go through menopause? Mother-daughter conflict is key
Killer whales are one of only three species that are known to go through menopause, surviving long after they've stopped reproducing.
The conflict between science and religion lies in our brains
The conflict between science and religion may have its origins in the structure of our brains.
Hope for peace may be encouraged by enemies in Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Jewish Israelis may feel more hopeful when they hear messages of hope from Palestinians regardless of whether they are portrayed as peace activists or former militia members who had attacked Israeli military targets, according to new research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.
HIV spreads faster as violent conflict looms
A new Brown University analysis of HIV incidence in 36 sub-Saharan African countries finds that new HIV infections rise significantly in the five years before armed conflict breaks out.
Highly religious Americans are less likely to see conflict between faith and science
Highly religious Americans are less likely than others to see conflict between faith and science.
Reduced conflict-related brain activity may indicate risk for psychosis
Researchers led by Bradley S. Peterson, M.D., director of the Institute for the Developing Mind at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, have shown that lower levels of conflict-related brain activity are associated with a higher risk for later psychosis.

Related Conflict Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...