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"Hands on" understanding of diversity: Humboldt Conference and GEO Biodiversity Day

German-Colombian Cooperation

GEO Biodiversity Day on June 9th/10th 2001 in Villa de Leyva and in the Ruhrgebiet

NEW! Pictures of the 'Day of Biodiversity' from Villa de Leyva

The BIODIV Discussion Forum

"Hands on" understanding of diversity: Humboldt Conference and GEO Biodiversity Day

Cooperation in the field of biodiversity over several years has forged a special link between Germany and Colombia. In June this year there were two further highpoints in this collaborative relationship: on June 7th and 8th 2001 the Colombian city of Villa de Leyva was hosting the symposium on "200 years of biodiversity research: Colombia -Germany", followed immediately by GEO Biodiversity Day on June 9th/10th.

The aim of the conference was to examine the stage reached by research into biodiversity 200 years after Humboldt's pioneering work, to define today's scientific standpoint and to outline new approaches and opportunities for scientific cooperation in the field of biodiversity in Colombia. The conference also helped to promote and broaden scientific exchange between German and Colombian scientists and their respective institutions. In taking this initiative, Germany and Colombia are fulfilling the commitment they entered into under the Convention on Biological Diversity to exchange information (as part of the 'Clearing House Mechanism'). The Convention calls on signatory states to facilitate closer and ongoing technical and scientific cooperation.

The primary objectives of the conference in Villa de Leyva were:

  • to exchange information between German and Colombian scientists and between institutions promoting bilateral development cooperation.

  • to elaborate and develop existing initiatives at the scientific and technical level, and to identify and define new areas of cooperation between German and Colombian scientists.

Details of the conference programme are available at this address:

German-Colombian Cooperation

The Convention on Biological Diversity promotes international cooperation between those countries that have high biodiversity and the industrialised countries with the aim of promoting and encouraging conservation, scientific research and sustainable development. And this was precisely the aim of the initial symposium, held back in 1997, entitled "Biodiversity of Colombia: A call for Colombian-German Cooperation", which for the first time brought together German and Colombian scientists working on aspects of biodiversity. The conference was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

The success of that gathering then became apparent when two follow-up bilateral symposia in Bonn and Bogot led to the launch of a number of scientific projects, giving concrete expression to the German Government's desire for intensive cooperation with Colombia in the field of biodiversity. There is now, for example, a lively exchange of ideas and expertise with the Bundesamt für Naturschutz (BfN; Federal Office for Nature Conservation) in the field of national park management. This regular communication is complemented by the support given to scientific projects in Colombia.

Most importantly, the Deutsche Gesellschaft fr technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ, responsible for technical cooperation) and the Instituto Humboldt act as the "National Focal Points" in each country and have been working closely together since 1997. This collaboration has established a framework for, among other things, the creation of a national database of biodiversity experts by the German side. It has also enabled a considerable extension of the facilities offered by the Colombian Clearing House Mechanism (CHM), an agency for information on biological diversity which, through its interactive homepage for research cooperation (cooperation exchange), has already helped to initiate new research projects. You can find out more about these projects on the webpages of the German and Colombian Clearing House Mechanism.

GEO Biodiversity Day on 9th/10th June 2001 in Villa de Leyva and in the Ruhrgebiet

This year GEO magazine was holding - for the third time - GEO Biodiversity Day,"GEO-Tag der Artenvielfalt". This event is intended to highlight biological diversity world-wide, including the threats it faces and the issues of conservation and use. Thanks to a joint effort on the part of GEO, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) and Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) B-Day 2001 could be assured of wide publicity.

GEO Biodiversity Day began directly after the Humboldt Conference on "200 years of Biodiversity Research: Colombia-Germany". The highlight of this day of action was a 24-hour inventory of biological diversity. This marathon bio-inventory, the first ever of its kind, was performed by parties of schoolchildren examining flora and fauna in two parts of the world simultaneously: on the one hand, in the Andes region around Villa de Leyva and, on the other hand, in the parks, urban woods and replanted spoil tips of the Ruhrgebiet between Duisburg and Hamm, a region scarred by heavy industry. In Colombia, German and Swiss schools were joining the twenty or so Colombian schools engaged in the project. The young people were advised and assisted by a number of the leading international scientists attending the Humboldt Conference in Villa de Leyva on the previous day.

Detailed map of the Region (640x480; 100kb: ca. 28 sec @ 28.800 baud; map designation in spanish)

Map of the inspected areas of the 24-hour inventory of biological diversity (640x480; ca. 46kb: 13 sec @ 28.800 baud; map designation in spanish)

The school students from North Rhine-Westphalia and Colombia will then evaluate their surveys findings and put the results on the Internet at the website of GEO children's magazine GEOLINO so that they can be accessed by a wider audience of young people. Indeed, this site offers all interested Internet users an opportunity to send in questions and comments to the "research kids". In this way, the earlier exchange among professional scientists and experts will be followed by a lively exchange between young budding natural historians from different continents. As a follow-up to GEO Biodiversity Day, the school students from Villa de Leyva and the local vicinity will meet up every fifteen days and get in touch via the Internet with their partner schools in the Ruhrgebiet to exchange further results of the inventory.

In its September issue, GEO magazine will contain a special supplement dealing extensively with the subject of biodiversity and the day of action in Germany and Colombia. Moreover, GEO magazine Spain is also planning full coverage of the Biodiversity Day activities in Colombia and will produce a special supplement on the topic.

Television also spreaded the word: biodiversity issues were featured for a whole week on ARD Morgenmagazin, the nation-wide breakfast programme on Germany's first channel, with reports coming from different locations across Germany every day from June 5th to the 8th 2001. And Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) dedicated several programs to biodiversity, including Quarks & Co on June 5th and am Quarks & Co extra on June 8th. The highpoint of coverage by the regional station was a live report on June 9th of the school children's activities in the Ruhrgebiet. There were also some news on the "Internet bridge" linking kids in Germany and Colombia.

Pictures of the 'Day of Biodiversity' from Villa de Leyva

Some impressions of the 'Da de la Diversidad' from Villa de Leyva. You may find som m ore informations on the website of the Instituto Humboldt (english/spanish):

Photos dating from Saturday, June 9th 2001: Preparations for the 24-hours inventory, landscapes around Villa de Leyva and expert participants of the symposium on "200 years of biodiversity research: Colombia -Germany" held there...


The BIODIV Discussion Forum

GEO B-Day also offered the general public a chance to get involved in the biodiversity activities. The inquisitive and the committed can meet with experts from the GTZ project on "Implementation of the Biodiversity Convention" and discuss in a virtual space the whole question of biodiversity, including the threats to and the conservation and use of plant and animal species. By providing up-to-date expert commentaries and a discussions forum, the GTZ project is giving GEO Biodiversity Day (June 9th 2001) a prominent place in its Internet presence. On the GTZ Biodiversity homepage anyone with an interest in the subject can present their own questions, pass on their personal experience and know-how or comment on other people's entries.


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