Earthwatch Institute (Europe), in partnership with the Field Studies Council and the National Academy of Sciences in Minsk, has received a £50,000 grant from Defra to support capacity development in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. The project is part of the Partners for Environmental Cooperation in Europe (PECE) initiative and will be supported by Defra's Environment for Europe Fund. Twenty-eight key conservation professionals from these areas will receive training in botanical research, biodiversity monitoring, project management, environmental education and involving communities in biodiversity conservation.
"I am delighted that Defra is helping to support an important initiative that will not only advance research on vital European habitats but will also increase local and regional capacity for biodiversity conservation," said David Hillyard, Director of Programme Development at Earthwatch Institute (Europe). "Capacity development and community engagement in key issues is essential if we are to successfully achieve the aspiration of environmental sustainability."
The training project will be based around active participation in an Earthwatch research project studying wetlands in Belarus. The research project in Belarus has already been running with support from Earthwatch and private sector partners for over 12 months and aims to survey the botanical diversity and geobotanical condition of unique oligothrophic peatbogs in Belarus.
The Field Studies Council will develop and deliver the professional training package on biodiversity monitoring and community involvement. The training, together with practical experience from Earthwatch, will enable participants to engage communities in their own countries to monitor and conserve biodiversity.
"Our Belarus Wetlands project is in an area of unique biodiversity as it includes insectivorous plants and the largest known breeding populations of aquatic warblers," said Roger Mitchell, Chief Scientist and Director of Research and Education for Earthwatch Institute (Europe). "The habitat is vitally important as a carbon sink and it is important to conserve remaining bogs in countries such as Belarus. The project will also provide an ideal capacity development and training location."
Each of the twenty-eight participants from Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Georgia and Iran will be required to submit a proposal for a new biodiversity conservation or environmental education project in their own country as a condition of attending the training course. At least 4 proposals will subsequently be selected by Earthwatch and The Field Studies Council for future development.
Photo Credits: © Emily Cantrell - Belarus Wetlands