A Rocha: Faith in Conservation

12 February 2007, Brussels, Belgium. Today Peter Harris, the International Director of A Rocha signed the Countdown 2010 declaration on behalf of its European member organizations. The Christian conservation network is launching a new A Rocha Mediterranean Programme as its specific contribution towards halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010.

A Rocha began with the work of its field study centre in southern Portugal in the 1980s, and was joined by parallel projects in Lebanon and southern France in the 1990s. The Mediterranean Programme now brings the research, educational and advocacy work in these three countries, together with a new initiative in Bulgaria, under a single umbrella. In doing so it seeks to add further value to existing activity, and develop more coordinated approaches to the common threats facing biodiversity across the northern Mediterranean basin. It will aim to collaborate on specific research and conservation projects across different countries, foster greater awareness amongst its key audiences on Mediterranean environmental issues, and encourage cross exchanges of information and cultural experience.

A Rocha’s approach is to develop successful case studies based around chosen sites of biodiversity importance and conservation intervention.

  • In Portugal, A Rocha’s focus has been on the sustainable coastal zone management at the Alvor Estuary, backed up by research on the local breeding population of Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus and other key species and habitats.
  • In the nearby Monchique Mountains, it is also engaged in studying the effects of recent forestry practice on biodiversity and forest fire occurrence, and contributing to regional debates on more sustainable forestry systems.
  • In France, A Rocha is working with landowners to restore floodplain wetlands in the intensively farmed Vallée des Baux of Povence.

All three sites above are recognised for their biodiversity value through Natura 2000 designation.

  • A Rocha France has also developed a network on the conservation of the European Roller Coracias garrulusis as a flagship for High Nature Value Farmland, based on its research and practical local conservation measures for this species.
  • In Lebanon, A Rocha has been instrumental in reversing the gradual decline of one of its key freshwater wetlands, the Aammiq Marshes. Its ongoing bird monitoring and other scientific study is designed to help secure the long term health of this ecosystem.
  • A Rocha Lebanon is also partnering with Birdlife partner SPNL to identify new Important Bird Areas (IBAs) across the country.
  • In Bulgaria, a new A Rocha group based in the capital Sofia has been involving volunteers in the study and conservation of priority species in the nearby Konjavska Mountains, beginning with the Red Peony Paeonia peregrina.

Through the Mediterranean Programme, these activities will be further developed and enhanced to help place Countdown 2010 on the Mediterranean map, and gain further support for the meeting of the biodiversity target across this region.

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