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Sustaining the environment for the benefit of all

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Developing countries are looking for strategies to restore and nurture the many functions of ecosystems which, at the same time, allow them to meet the social and economic development aspirations of their people. International research co-operation with developing countries (INCO-DEV) promotes such sustainable benefits in its environment projects, whether in the fields of agro-forestry, greening the desert, or finding a way to protect and use aquatic resources.

In many developing economies, natural resources are still a large component of domestic product but they are often over-exploited for short-term gains. This leads to problems such as deforestation that, in turn, causes water run-off into river basins creating flooding which damages economic infrastructure and the environment and causes human suffering. INCO's remit is to bring together scientists from developing countries and their European counterparts to solve such interrelated problems, and enable progress through the 'whole system' approach which the sustainable use of ecosystems demands. Working as research teams on specific projects, scientists can mobilise a broad array of competencies from across the regions to provide the required inputs to address both local and global problems. These competencies range from knowledge about climate impact on the environment and access to technological innovation, to more local know-how on the social and cultural conditions of using such knowledge.

Caring for tropical forests

New ways of evaluating timber harvesting in tropical forests are being adopted courtesy of an INCO project with scientists in four Southeast Asian countries. By developing remote-sensing techniques and harnessing on-the-ground research, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia can now balance the need for timber production with a greater understanding of how it impacts on issues of sustainability such as land degradation, forest recovery, and soil and water management.

 

Preserving marine treasures

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FishBase is an electronic encyclopaedia detailing biological information on 25000 species of fish from across the world. It has been created over the last ten years through a combination of development and science competencies and has evolved into the most-used public information system on fish biodiversity (http://www.fishbase.org/). Linked with state-of-the-art ecosystem modelling from INCO research (http://www.ecopath.org/), these systems allow users to identify reductions in fish numbers, show how marine food webs function, and explore alternative use options and restoration strategies. Collaborators come from around the globe.

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Confirming the international role of community research