Networks, history and art in Burgos


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Patchwork mountain landscape of agriculture, forestry, and deforested terrain. April 2007. Tianlin County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China. ©CIFOR/Nick Hogarth

BURGOS, Spain (March 24, 2011) _ Hundreds of scientists, policymakers and others attended the Symposium on Ecosystem and Landscape-Level Approaches to Sustainability held in Spain this week.

The thematic sessions of the first day (possible to follow online at, with videos still available on focused on ecosystem goods and services, and the relationship between the socio-economic nature of landscapes and biodiversity, as well as on inventory and monitoring challenges with respect to the biophysical condition of landscapes. The interest in integrative landscape approaches is clearly growing, from the field to the international level (we were reminded the CBD COP decision X/32 that goes in this direction). At the same time, all recognize that we still need innovations to embrace social-ecological systems, and more consistent inter-institutional collaborations.

Talking about innovations, this meeting guided us far beyond research and the classical forestry world. We were offered surprising pieces of history and art.

Prehistory first: Did you know that the Spanish city of Burgos, which hosted the conference, is home to a museum representing a landscape… full of fossils and stone tools of the earliest known Hominins in West Europe, dated to 1.2 million years ago? The Atapuerca Mountains is an ancient karstic region that contains several caves, where they have been found. In one of the site, an excavation team has located more than 5,500 human bones representing around 28 skeletons of the species Homo heidelbergensis, together with remains of Ursus deningeri. They suggest that the concentration of bones may represent an initial practice of burial by the inhabitants of the cave.

More recent history (and the linkages between Burgos and USA): Spanish hospitality is extraordinary. The opening occurred in Casa del Cordón, where the Catholic Monarchs received Christopher Columbus after he returned from his second trip to the New World.  Jan McAlpine, Chair of the United Nations Forum on Forests, seized the opportunity to highlight the importance of networks, illustrated by the renewed and good relationships between New York, where she is based, and Burgos!

Art: Ronnie de Camino, who was on the first CIFOR board and is the chair of the Ibero-American Forest Network, in a very innovative presentation, proposed to reconcile us with nature through art. Playing on several slides including projections of famous paintings (Miro, Picasso, Dali, van Gogh, etc) on trees, one of his suggestions was to celebrate the International Year of Forests by organizing events mixing tree painting with music in various countries of the network.

Hosny El-Lakany, CIFOR’s Board Chair and Adjunct Professor at the Forest Resources Management Department at the University of British Columbia, chaired the final panel discussing the future of ecosystem- and landscape- approaches, and said that future was not what it used to be.

CIFOR co-organized the event and it was an initiative of the International Model Forest Network.

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