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In order to deal with the current biodiversity crisis, the policy and scientific choices made over the past 20 years have led to the development of global assessment, management and conservation tools for living organisms. Such
standardisation of environmental policies and instruments tends to marginalise cultivated tropical ecosystems and their related practices. This state of affairs was criticised by a multi-disciplinary team of the IRD and its partners(
1) in the Conservation Letters
journal, based on work conducted in Laos and Madagascar.
The researchers demonstrated how the standardisation of conservation methods leads to a decline in species diversity and local knowledge. Agroecosystems( 2), which are reservoirs of biodiversity and account for 30% of the earth's surface, should receive far more attention from international programmes.
Leptospirosis is a water-related bacterial disease with a high incidence in Southeast Asia. People usually become infected through exposure to water contaminated by the urine of infected animals, mainly rats and mice. In the framework of the CERoPath ( 1) program, IRD researchers and their partners ( 2) have revealed the relationship between rodents’ environment and infection by leptospirosis bacteria. They showed that, whereas people mainly get infected in rice fields, the bacteria are present in a variety of environments, and particularly at the frontiers of fields and forests. The use of remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has helped to expand knowledge on rodents’ habitats. These studies allow a better understanding of their behaviour, depending on land use changes, and infection risks caused by human activities, including leisure.
During the second half of the 20th Century, Asia South-East was the arena of a series of armed conflicts, direct consequences of the Second World War, decolonization and the Cold War, followed by political instability which continued up to the 1990s. The region’s history has left its scars: extensive forests razed from the map by bombing, populations displaced or obliged to emigrate, entire areas abandoned although vegetation is steadily taking over again . Research scientists from the IRD and its partners( 1) recently showed the discharge rate of the Mekong has oscillated in close correlation with the major events that had taken place. Runoff increased by over 50% in southern Laos between 1972 and 1975, at the height of the Vietnam War. Conversely, the north of the country saw it decrease by 30% between 1995 and 2004, following people’s exodus from the area to escape from the communist forces’ advance. Only the extensive changes in land-use and vegetation pattern can explain such variations in discharge of the Mekong.
A study conducted by an IRD team and its Laotian partners of the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI) in the undulating region of northern Laos has demonstrated that slash and burn cultivation rather favours storage of organic carbon. Examination of the first centimetres ...