Sciences au Sud issues
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Cities of the South in the XXIth Century
Considering the city of the future, especially in the countries of the South, requires investigation now of the various trends at work in urban areas. The
surging development of the megapoles is raising enormous and highly varied challenges. But research is shedding light on some of them…
Panoramic viewpoint on the tropical forest
For several decades, the forest has been at the centre of international debate on the environment. Concepts about them change. In the past they were considered as the “lungs of the Earth”, then as a reservoir of biodiversity, and currently they are central to climate-related negotiations. But what exactly is a forest? There is no straightforward answer, but a multitude of points of view: an ecosystem dominated by trees for some, the product of relations between societies and nature for others, a reserve of timber for international trade or the very basis of ways of life of local populations.
Yet the choice of definition is essential, the foundation on which are built the political, economic and social relationships which determine what happens to the world’s forest areas. The paradigm on which to lay a framework for the relationships, in particular in the countries of the South, is that of a forest largely instituted and administered by the public powers. This heritage-based representation of the forest, placed under the supervision of public authorities, is found throughout history: in the name of protection of resources in wood, water or fauna, more recently biodiversity and now climate.
Along with this came a weakening of the domestic heritage of local populations, crop farmers or pastoralists, whereas today global-scale forest heritages are emerging. Tropical forest or sites such as the Arganeraie in Morocco, an area with argan-trees, become “world heritage” biosphere sites. However, the areas they cover are receding and they are slipping away from the populations who use them and carry out their day-to-day management. The question of conflicts around the proprietorship of the world’s forests is a major issue for the human and social sciences. With the mounting concern for the climate, it is more fundamental than ever to know what is meant by “forest”.
On the trail of migrants
The importance of migration flows in geopolitical, economic and environmental terms in this early XXIth Century represents a renewed field of investigation for human and social science research.
The major trends of the past will continue within the great migratory systems.
Yet movements of populations between countries of the South are increasing and rapid economic growth of emerging countries is prompting new thought on the subject.
The IRD is one of the players in international research on this theme, using a strongly multidisciplinary approach.
When invasive species encroach in the South
Invasive exotic species represent the second cause of erosion of biodiversity on the world scale, according to the International Union for Conservation of
Nature. Although the subject now receives wide media coverage in the industrialized countries of the North, the South is also confronted with this phenomenon , one of the accelerators of which is globalization.
Apart from the environmental significance, there are significant impacts on the economic sphere and public health. A multitude of questions arise which relate to many different disciplines. One of the major challenges for which the IRD applying its competences is to achieve an understanding of the factors behind the success of invasive species. The research work undertaken should provide the tools for rapid identification of the invasive species and contribute to the development of methods for their surveillance, control, or even eradication, especially in the islands.
Interview with Philippe Busquin Philippe Busquin, Chairman of STOA, Science and Technology Options Assessment Panel of the European Parliament and former European commissioner for scientific research, gives his thoughts on scientific cooperation between Europe and countries of the South. ...
- Dengue and chikungunya combine
Dengue and chikungunya hit Gabon in simultaneous outbreaks from March to August 2007. That resulted in 20 000 or so victims. An IRD team traced the spread of the two viruses. The agent responsible? The mosquito Aedes albopictus. Since 2005, this species has been stealing the limelight from its cousin, Aedes aegypti, in the role of leading vector. As Eric Leroy, IRD director of research on guest assignment at the Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville (CIRMF) deplores, “Aedes albopictus is much more aggressive than its predecessor”.
- « Overfishing : a global and sistematic issue »
Interview with Daniel Pauly, fisheries biologist, professor at the University of British Colombia at Vancouver in Canada. He was awarded the Cosmos Prize in 2005 for research in ecology. Resident guest of the IRD at the Centre de Recherche Halieutique Méditerranéenne et Tropicale in Sète for several months, he talks to Sciences au Sud about his findings on overfishing-related issues question.