Based on the 3rd Event Ecosystem Protection, Agricultural and Rural Development, held on the 3rd of June, 2021. 

The work of V4SDG, since the beginning, has been hallmarked by the strive to lead the Visegrad region on a sustainable path with stakeholders from various sectors. Our new endeavour – V4@30 – encompasses this mission and will kick-off on 24 June with a grand event titled: Cooperation for Sustainability – The new purpose of the V4. 

The third session of V4SDG’s expert roundtable discussion primarily revolved around the state of our ecosystems; from identifying key challenges through mapping biodiversity to innovative solutions, the discussion provided a thorough look into environmental challenges. Luckily, the invited experts conveyed their views on the environment through a scientific perspective which, we believe, must be translated into policy-making in order to facilitate a firm and joint response from the Visegrad region to environmental threats. It was our pleasure the welcome our guest experts:

  • Ferenc Jordan –  Scientific Advisor, Centre for Ecological Research
  • Pavel Cudlín – Scientist, Global Change Research Institute
  • Michal Fojtík – President, Aquaponic Farm Association

One of the esteemed invitee, Mr. Ferenc Jordan, working at the Centre for Ecological Research, was the first to address the biggest challenges for biodiversity in the V4 region. In his view, the biggest threat is not posed by the pollution emitted from the fossil fuel industry, at least not anymore, but from the reduction of natural habitats which is continuously growing due to the increasing demand for land in the agriculture, livestock farming and infrastructure sectors. The habitat fragmentation that follows from these human activities endanger the survival of, for example, big predators in Eastern Europe which is a less well-known aspect of the decline in biodiversity. However, there are viable solutions at hand: habitat mosaics could be managed efficiently to maintain biodiversity and there are good practices in designing landscapes, such as attracting pollinators with flower stripes. According to Mr. Jordan, the issue of biodiversity extends beyond borders which could best be handled in the regional scale, like Visegrad. He concluded that potential policy proposals for joint action must be based on science with a consideration for the economy, meanwhile translating scientific data into viable action plans for decision-makers remains a great challenge. 

So what kind of methods should decision-making rely on when it comes to managing our ecosystems? Mr. Pavel Cudlín introduced the audience to the tool used at the Global Change Research Institute called GLOBIO3 model. The system gives information about biodiversity of some habitat compared to original biodiversity (called MSA indicator assessment) and  calculates local terrestrial biodiversity intactness along six drivers of biodiversity reduction which are; land use, road disturbance, fragmentation, hunting, atmospheric nitrogen deposition and climate change. Hence, the model performs well in distinguishing between dangers in various areas. Although every country has their own system for biodiversity mapping, a common system could inform policy-making best on the Visegrad-level. Mr. Cudlín then brought wide-spread forest decline into the picture which remains a huge challenge due to monoculture practices and invasive species. While increasing the diversity of a forest block is proven to provide high ecological stability and could serve as a solution, the expenses of such forests are usually bigger than the yields, making this option economically non-viable. A common theme amongst the experts emerged in some instances, that even though we possess the knowledge of good practices to manage healthy ecosystems, the economic interests seem to repress large-scale initiatives.

Moving towards more promising waters, the experts wrapped up the session with agricultural practices. Such waters came to the discussion when Mr. Michal Fojtík brought the idea of aquaponics to the table, which is a combination of aquaculture (growing fish and other aquatic animals), and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). According to him, this complex system is fully circular as the plants are fed the waste of the fishes and in return the vegetables clean the water that goes back to the fish; “it can be applied anywhere, anytime, and there are no limits to it”. Hence, aquaponics could serve as an answer to sustainable crop production, as it is chemically free and operates with minimal water consumption. As part of the Aquaponic Farm Association’s agenda, projects in primary schools have been launched to teach children how to operate the system, approaching it through physics and biology. Education in aquaponics is very much to be praised, as Mr. Fojtík argued that spreading the idea and assembling competent experts to build big farms remains a difficult task. Although research is still at the beginning, transfer results into practice and production could go smoothly as companies are hungry for information from academia on how to grow a particular vegetable the most effective way. Overall, the speakers gravitated in accord towards the idea that if we give space for natural habitats to gain back power then ecosystems will flourish again, and introducing the above-discussed good practices to decision-making is central to this mission.

On the 24th of June, we will be holding our kick-off event for our #V4@30 Campaign: Cooperation for Sustainability – The new purpose of the V4. During the event, we will be discussing our mission and strategy to achieve greater cooperation in the field of sustainability in the V4 region.

Please do join us for what promises to be the beginning of an exciting journey! You can register via: https://forms.gle/rjsWFZbLTvxHGoKz8

Written by: Barnabás Pálffy