Practical Approaches for Environmental Awareness-Raising and Education to Protect Armenia’s Rich Biodiversity

Practical Approaches for Environmental Awareness-Raising and Education to Protect Armenia’s Rich Biodiversity

Practical approaches for environmental awareness-raising and education are critical nowadays, as, more than ever, it is vital for people to acknowledge the importance of biodiversity, as well as to learn about the various ways of protecting it. Biodiversity conservation can only be achieved if people acquire knowledge and motivation, engagement and responsibility needed to protect the natural resources. The awareness-raising of the public can be increased with the help of such practical tools as digital applications, social spots, educational movies, and engaging mini-campaigns. Taking this into consideration, the RA Ministry of Environment jointly with GIZ recently launched an environmental awareness-raising campaign in Armenia, which included mass media, presentations and screenings, talks, exhibitions, and other interactive techniques, addressing the public. In the framework of the campaign, visualized and practical approaches were effectively used to clearly show the importance of biodiversity, such as rare and threatened plant and animal species, and of nature protection in general.

Text : IBiS    Photo : GIZ

 

 

Biodiversity in Armenia is very rich with exceptionally high rate of endemism. This is explained by the country’s location at the junction of three biogeographic zones (the Lesser Caucasus, Iranian, and Mediterranean zones), a broad altitude variation (from 375 to 4090 m above sea level), and the presence of ten distinct landscape-climatic zones in a relatively compact area. All the main natural ecosystems of the Caucasus are represented in Armenia except the humid subtropical zone. Every part of this mountainous area is home for unique species of animals and plants. To conserve these unique ecosystems, there is a need for societal outreach beyond regular PR campaigns.

One of the key elements of the campaign: raising awareness through education

 

In the framework of the Programme “Integrated Biodiversity Management in the South Caucasus” (IBiS), multidimensional campaigning has been introduced, which targets broader audience to cover various topics related to forests and other ecosystems. A forest movie and three spots related to forests were filmed to show the importance of forests and how to effectively use forest resources without harming them. The Green Bus mini-campaign was a successful component of the overall campaign. It travelled around Armenia stopping in the regions of Aragatsotn and Shirak, and actively engaging school children into environmental seminars on Armenia’s biodiversity, endangered species, waste management, forests, nurseries, and other related topics with a strong focus on outdoor activities and practical games. It is important to mention that prior to the bus tour, community school teachers, within the Green Bus mini campaign, were trained to develop their knowledge and environmental teaching skills for further use in the classrooms, and the teachers’ manuals were reprinted.

Community school teachers were trained to develop their knowledge and environmental teaching skills

 

In 2010, the updated Red Book was approved by the Government of the Republic of Armenia and was given legal status. Criteria of IUCN Red List of Threatened Species served as a basis for the assessment conducted for the Red Book. The Red Book of Armenia comprises the lists of rare and threatened plant and animal species and, thereby, aims at the preservation and recovery of the country’s rich biodiversity.

 

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The Red Book mobile application, another highlight of the overall campaign, aims at raising public awareness of the endangered species and averting their extinction. The mobile application, unlike the hardcopy version of the Red Book, gives everyone direct, instantaneous access to all species recognized in endangered status with the possibility to quickly filter them out according to their types and/or geographic location at Marz level. The Red Book application is a user-friendly resource with its target audience being mobile phone users including students of all ages, their parents and educators, other community members, and foreign visitors.

 

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Based on the device’s GPS coordinates, the app displays icons indicating the nearby protected areas and the species of animals and plants. All the essential information, including pictures, are only a touch away. It works offline as well, which makes it usable in the wilderness with no internet access. To make the experience even more satisfying, the application has a feedback feature and a questionnaire. Since ensuring the safe exploration of endangered species and their habitats is the ultimate goal of the application, the exact coordinates of the species abundance were altered. The administrative component of the app is dynamic, and the RA Ministry of Environment can add new species or edit the existing information as needed. The application can be on a par with other biodiversity related online games and mobile apps since it appeals to the user’s natural curiosity, is easy to use and has a friendly, intuitive user interface.

 

The Red Book presents rare, disappeared, declining, or uncertain-status species of animals and plants. The first edition of the Red Book of Animals of RA, published in 1987, included features of each species, its quantity trends, distribution areas, and morphology. In the 2010 edition of the book, 308 species of animals were included. The Red Book of Plants of RA, designed in 1989, has a similar structure. The latest edition of the book (also published in 2010), was based on 2007 data on around 452 plants and 40 mushroom descriptions, and separately listed 223 species of plants with concerning status or trends.

Red Book Armenia application interface

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