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:

Aboriginal rock art, frontier conflict and a swastika
A hidden Murray River rockshelter speaks volumes about local Aboriginal and European settlement in the Riverland, with symbols of conflict -- including a swastika symbol -- discovered in Aboriginal rock art.
Study of civilians with conflict-related wounds helps improve the care in conflict zones
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have carried out the first randomized trial of civilians with acute conflict-related wounds at two hospitals in areas affected by armed conflict.
Researchers study the intricate link between climate and conflict
New research from the University of Notre Dame is shedding light on the unexpected effects climate change could have on regional instability and violent conflict.
Achieving optimal collaboration when goals conflict
New research suggests that, when two people must work together on a physical task despite conflicting goals, the amount of information available about each other's actions influences how quickly and optimally they learn to collaborate.
Do we trust artificial intelligence agents to mediate conflict? Not entirely
We may listen to facts from Siri or Alexa, or directions from Google Maps or Waze, but would we let a virtual agent enabled by artificial intelligence help mediate conflict among team members?
Tension around autonomy increases family conflict at end of life
Conflict within families can be stressful and confusing, and it can lead to feelings of sadness.
Coca and conflict: the factors fuelling Colombian deforestation
Deforestation in Colombia has been linked to armed conflict and forests' proximity to coca crops, the plant from which cocaine is derived.
Global burden of mental health in conflict settings
People living in countries that have experienced armed conflict are five times more likely to develop anxiety or depression, a University of Queensland research collaboration has found.
Climate change increases potential for conflict and violence
Images of extensive flooding or fire-ravaged communities help us see how climate change is accelerating the severity of natural disasters.
AI systems shed light on root cause of religious conflict
Artificial intelligence can help us to better understand the causes of religious violence and to potentially control it, according to a new Oxford University collaboration.
More Conflict News and Conflict Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.