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ALTER-Net: A Long-Term Biodiversity, Ecosystem and Awareness Research Network

Europe’s ecosystem research network


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Information about ALTER-Net's 4th Summer School

Summer school - excursionALTER-Net held its 4th Summer School in September this year (5-17 Sep 2009). The 27 participants came from 14 countries, mainly European but also Australia, Indonesia, India and South Africa and spent two weeks looking at aspects of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Once again it was organized in the small village of Peyresq, situated about 1500 m above sea level in the French Alps in Southern France. The village is managed by the “Association Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc”, a Belgian foundation dedicated to art and science, which has assigned it as a location for scientific and cultural meetings. This place has been proven to be simply ideal for this endeavour and therefore all the ALTER-Net summer schools have taken place there.

This summer school strived towards an integration of natural and social science aspects of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The aim was, besides the aspect of environmental awareness, the dissemination and critical review of the approach of integrated assessment of vulnerable ecosystems and their services under global change. The summer school presented state-of-the-art scenario techniques, ecosystem modelling approaches for selected ecosystem services and allowed intensive dialogue between the participants and the lecturers. Target groups were graduate students and young scientists from environmental and social sciences from ALTER-Net partner institutes and universities.

VerdonThe structure of the summer school included two morning lectures till noon, daily teamwork by the participants, followed by an “aperitif talk” in the late afternoon. A half-day hike to visit a shepherd nearby allowed the students to question a local stakeholder and also to get an impression of the local landscape. A full-day excursion exemplified land-use change on the Plateau de Valensole where wheat has been partly replaced by lavender and recently by oak trees for growing truffels. Lunch was taken at the Lac de Ste. Croix which is a reservoir dammed in the 1960s. A discussion with a local shepherd and a short walk into the Gorges du Verdon completed this long and exciting day.

After each presentation, time for discussion was available which nurtured good contacts between the students, tutors and speakers. The students formed three working groups, each working on a case study of different sectors in the nearby region of the Verdon catchment, i.e. agriculture, nature conservation and tourism. One delegate from each group and four permanent members formed a synthesis group who summarised the results of the three case studies for policy-makers. The case study was prepared as a project funded by the EU with the acronym MASSIF: Mapping Regional Vulnerability in the Southern Alps – Evaluating Trends and Developing Sustainable Adaptation Strategies for the Verdon Catchment. At the end of the summer school the working groups presented the results of their case study and then all groups prepared a press release of their results which were announced at the final dinner.

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