Altai mountains: nature conservation across borders

Altai mountains: nature across borders
Workshop on proposed UNESCO Transboundar[...]
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On the 26th November at 4.30pm in the last remaining light of the day and with the temperature dropping rapidly to minus 10 degrees centigrade a small team of scientists led by Professor Ibisch and professional conservation staff from Russia, Kazakhstan, Germany and the UK met on the banks of the Katun River for a two day workshop in Manzherok, Altai Republic, on the proposed UNESCO Transboundary Altai Biosphere Reserve. The aim of this meeting was to begin the process of converting an ambitious idea that has been long in the making into a reality.


If the UNESCO application is successful and the strategic management plan launched by the planned date of 2014 then the Altai Mountains will join the elite ranks of those few but globally important transboundary reserves that are symbolic of international efforts between neighbouring countries. After an intensive and successful two days of working on a situation analysis of the proposed area the team of experts were joined on the 29th November in Gorno-Altaisk parliament building by officials from both countries and a representative from the German Federal Agency for Nature Protection (BfN), Prof. Hans-Dieter Knapp, for the official launch of a 2-year transboundary conservation project. This event was initiated jointly by experts from the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation and attracted the support of scientists from the Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management (Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, Germany), with funding from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.    


For approximately 15 years the countries of Kazakhstan, Russia, China and Mongolia have been involved in negotiations and cooperations towards a four-lateral transboundary protected area in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion. As a first concrete step in September 2011 the ministries of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan signed an intergovernmental agreement regarding the establishment of the bilateral transboundary reserve “Altai” on the basis of Katunskiy Biosphere Reserve in Russia and Katon-Karagaiskiy National Park in Kazakhstan with the perspective to apply for nomination into the UNESCO World network biosphere reserves.UNESCO biosphere reserves are model regions all over the world that seek for a new partnership between people and nature. They aim to preserve biodiversity as the basis for human development and provide ideal learning sites for a sustainable use of natural resources.


Within the framework of the Russian-German Environmental agreement from 1992 the German government has been supporting the process of transboundary cooperation in the Altai region both financially and consultatory for many years. The recent 2-year-project focuses on the elaboration and agreement of an initial management plan for the projected transboundary Biosphere Reserve and on the development of a model for the functional zonation of the reserve. The management plan is supposed to meet recent requirements like the Madrid Action Plan of UNESCO that emphasizes the importance of climate change adaption and risk management. Therefor, a special approach of participative and adaptive conservation management (“MARISCO”) is going to be applied during the project.


By spring 2014 the management plan shall be submitted to the Ministries of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan for approval. By summer 2014 the application for the official nomination of the TBR by UNESCO-MAB is going to be prepared for submission to the UNESCO-Committee in Paris.