PRESS RELEASE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF UNESCO CHAIR IN EASTERN MACEDONIA AND THRACE INSUTUTE OF TECHNOLOGY – DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY AND NATURAL ENVIRONMENT MANAGEMENT

We are delighted to announce that the UNESCO Chair on Conservation and Ecotourism in Riparian and Deltaic Ecosystems (Con-E-Ect) was established in the Department of Forestry and Natural Environment Management of the Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Institute of Technology in Drama.

The UNESCO Chairs Programme was first established in 1992 following the relevant decision of the General Conference of UNESCO taken at its 26th session. The program was conceived as a way to advance research, training and programme development in higher education by building university networks and encouraging inter-university cooperation through transfer of knowledge across borders. As of end of 2013, the Programme involves 700 institutions in 116 countries.

The UNESCO Chair Con-E-Ect is located in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, a region of a unique, in Europe, ecosystem which spreads over an area of 200 km and comprises five major riparian and deltaic ecosystems.

The objective of the UNESCO Chair Con-E-Ect is to join forces with national, regional and international stakeholders, in order to elaborate an International Common Strategy Framework for the Conservation and Ecotourism of Riparian and Deltaic Ecosystems.

The Framework’s targets will be accomplished through promotion of research by collecting and assessing data, dissemination of research findings, training and awareness-raising activities addressed to various target groups, so that, finally, all stakeholders will harmonize their actions towards the sustainable management of the riparian and deltaic ecosystems via the development of ecotourism.

The creation of the UNESCO Chair Con-E-Ect, dealing with crucial humanity issues, will be of immense importance not only for the Balkan region, but also for the international scientific community.

The UNESCO Chair Con-E-Ect will be involved in actions regarding the education, scientific research, institutional development, as well as it will offer scholarships to students and visiting professors. Each implementation is based on the following four Axes:

  1. Research
  2. Conservation – Sustainability
  3. Dissemination – Education – Training
  4. Best Practices

The   Axis   entitled “Research” will   produce   as   outcome   the   development   and conclusion of research projects on issues related, among others, to Ecohydrology, Management of Riparian and Deltaic Areas, Ecophysiology, Aquatic Environments, Transport and Deposition of Organic and Inorganic Pollutants in and outside the River Channel, that will be published in SCI journals and presented at international conferences. This Research will be carried out by the Scientific Team of the Chair and will be funded under Research Programmes, which in turn are funded either by the EU or by national scientific bodies (such as the General Secretariat for Research and Technology,   GSRT).   The   research   results   will   definitely   enrich the   scientific knowledge worldwide in the field of deltaic and riparian ecosystems, which will lead to the adoption of guidelines and the publication of operational checklist references that   will   contribute   to   their   better   protection   and   their   ecologically-balanced development.

The   Axis   entitled “Conservation-Sustainability”   will produce   as   outcomes   the publication of a series of behavior codes on sensitive ecosystems, taking first into account the specific biogeoclimatic zone of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace and, as the Project progresses, the biogeoclimatic zones on a global level; at this second phase, the contribution of the Regional and International Network of Partners will be of crucial importance, for the knowledge and expertise of scientists from various research and scientific institutions from all the biogeoclimatic zones of the planet will be fully taken into consideration. These behavior codes will provide advice and guidance   on   the   maintenance   of   the   ecosystem   health   through   methods   of detoxification (phytoremediation) or through optimal management methods, which ensure that the ecosystems remain undisturbed within a context of a strong environmental sustainability. This axis also involves the creation, through research and recording, of a Culture Ark, which will include data related to the intangible cultural   heritage   of   the   region   of   Eastern   Macedonia   and   Thrace   (traditional occupations   and   professions,   local   know-how,   traditions,   literary   production, legends, oral history, local linguistic idioms, local vocabulary related to the specific ecosystems and the relevant local activities),   in an attempt to showcase and safeguard, on one hand, the cultural wealth of the region and to optimize it, on the other hand, to the benefit of sustainable environmental management. The role of local women as main practitioners of many of these traditional occupations and essential bearers of knowledge and know-how will be duly acknowledged and highlighted.

The Axis entitled “Dissemination – Education – Training” will generate both a series of educational material and a variety of training practices and procedures related to the ecosystems in question. In particular, the familiarization with these ecosystems, the establishment of a culture of respect towards them and the mild touristic development within the surrounding area of these ecosystems, will constitute the basic areas of interest. Special thematic sections will focus on civil protection assistance (addressed to those populations affected by different sorts of natural hazards and disasters, namely floods and wildfires), on ecotourism development (mainly addressed to youth and unemployed local populations who want to get involved in the field) and on awareness-raising activities concerning the conservation of these ecosystems (mainly addressed to school students).

The Axis entitled “Best Practices” will generate a series of text books, which will be presented either during awareness-raising events hosted at the EMMaTECH or in other relevant international events. The first in the series of text books will be based on the specific case study of the riparian and deltaic ecosystems of the region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace and will be accompanied by a relevant Manual Guide. Subsequent editions of text books will shed light on case studies of particularly disturbed and degraded riparian and deltaic ecosystems, which were gradually restored and managed to avoid ecological disaster, due to special handling and the use of Best Practices. Accordingly, case studies of balanced and optimally conserved ecosystems from the very beginning, which enjoy mild touristic development and management, will also be presented. In both cases, the text books will contain the relevant Manual Guides. The structure, style and form of these text books will be thoroughly elaborated and their dissemination will be orchestrated in such a way that the Best Practices, which they refer to, can be widely and individually used to ensure optimal results.

Last but not least, it should be mentioned that the UNESCO Chair Con-E-Ect is the first Chair in Greece awarded to an Educational Institute outside Athens or Thessaloniki (located in rural area).