Synergy between nature and culture: the role of historical and sacred natural sites in biodiversity conservation

Organized by: Balázs Deák; Lendület Seed Ecology Research Group, Institute of Ecology and Botany, Centre for Ecological Research, Hungary

Land use intensification over the past centuries has become one of the major threats to biodiversity at a global scale. Extensive stands of remaining natural habitats are generally restricted to the few protected areas; and consequently resources dedicated to conservation are also focussed there. However, remnants of the natural habitats could remain in small, generally island like habitats outside these reserves. In general, the existence of these sites is associated with their attributes that makes them inadequate for agricultural production or infrastructural developments (like in the case of verges or rocky outcrops), but nowadays it is getting to be recognised that long-term existence of certain natural sites is often supported by their sacred, historical or cultural values. Such sites as old cemeteries, churchyards, shrines, sacred grooves and ancient burial mounds have centuries- or millennia-long histories, and due to the religious respect and social taboos confined to them they primarily have been recognised for their spiritual values and have not been used for agricultural or industrial production. Historical and sacred natural sites have often been utilised and managed in an extensive traditional way since historical times that supports the long-term maintenance of natural habitats and their characteristic species even in heavily transformed landscapes. In many regions together with other habitat fragments, these sites form a complimentary network of natural habitats beyond the official protected areas, and exist because of the willingness of the local people to protect them. In this symposium, we put the role of historical and sacred natural sites in biodiversity conservation into a broader context. We seek to understand the social drivers maintaining their biodiversity, the factors that threaten their existence, and the necessary conservation actions that can contribute to their preservation. We encourage integrated and interdisciplinary studies, including case studies, policy assessments and sustainability studies.


Presentations

Role of ancient historical monuments in conservation ‒ Bronze and Iron age burial mounds as sentinels of grassland biodiversity
- Deak Balazs ('lendület' Seed Ecology Research Group, Institute of Ecology and Botany, Centre for Ecological Research, Hungary)

Sacred natural sites in space and time
- Shonil Bhagwat (The Open University, United Kingdom)

Steppe islands in a sea of fields: where island biogeography meets the reality of a severely transformed landscape
- Iwona Dembicz (Faculty of Biology, University of Warsaw, Poland)

The role of cemeteries in biodiversity conservation
- Viktor Löki (Centre for Ecological Reseach, Hungary)

The sacred commons: Conflicts and solutions of resource management in sacred natural sites
- Claudia Rutte (Swiss Academy of Sciences, Switzerland)

The role of Sacred Natural Sites in Italy for conserving biodiversity, forests and cultural landscapes
- Piero Zannini (Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna, Italy)

Ecosystem Services from Urban Sacred Natural Sites
- Alison Ormsby (University of North Carolina Asheville United States)