Back to nature on Chongming Island

Experts and scholars from home and abroad gathered in Chongming District on Sunday to share experiences on bringing nature into cities and sustainable development.

Chongming Island was the venue on Sunday for a high powered meeting on nature.

About 20 experts and scholars from home and abroad gathered in Chongming District to share experiences and expertise on bringing nature into cities, sustainable development and the development of Chongming Island  at a conference.

The three topics were:

— The role of nature conservation in the sustainable development of mega cities;

— How might zoos, botanical gardens, natural history museums, eco-themed museums, NGOs, and business and art circles play a role in "rebuilding nature in the city."

— How to move forward in the construction and development of Chongming as an international eco-island.

The experts and scholars come from countries that included China, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

The conference accounted for one of nine themed events during the Shanghai International Nature Conservation Festival.

Shanghai should increase the diversity of plants to lift the ecological value of greenery, said Wang Tianhou, director of Ecology Research Program of the East China Normal University.

In the past decade, Shanghai's greenbelt vegetation expanded 10 times, while its bird diversity just increased onefold, which is not proportionate, Wang said.

"Behind the scenes, most plants planted during the urban construction process in the city are camphor trees instead of an ecologically mixed variety of shrubs, arbors and other vegetation," he said.

"The greenery size has been increased, but the ecological quality and value is not lifted as a result."

He called on a vegetation and greenery design based on the principle of nature and biodiversity during the design and construction process of Shanghai's suburban parks, which requires the involvement of ecologists.

Aphiya Hathayatham, vice president of the National Science Museum in Thailand, talked about spurring the public's interest in nature conservation.

"We should think about how to make the public particularly the younger generation get involved and make them feel it is their responsibility to protect nature through the design of activities and social media," she said.

She suggested activities such as letting the public design communities where they want to live and to encourage competitions for doing this.

Stephen Lougheed, a professor of biology and environmental studies, highlighted the role of neighborhoods in Shanghai in nature conservation.

He said in his hometown in Canada, there is a citizen group that is voluntarily formed by people who are interested in nature to raise funds to support all kinds of free activities like planting trees in parks, bird watching, music festivals and scholarships to encourage students to study nature.

Shanghai International Nature Conservation Festival raised its curtain at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum on Saturday. 

At the launching ceremony, Chinese dancer Huang Doudou was appointed as the image ambassador of this year's festival. He called on the public to join hands to protect "beautiful nature." 

After the ceremony, experts and scholars from home and abroad shared their experiences in nature protection at a celebrity forum. 

"We need botanic gardens to take a lead in establishing consortia to systematically conserve and manage exceptional species in their living collections such as magnolia, camellia and orchids," said Paul Smith, secretary general of Botanic Gardens Conservation International. 

They should also duplicate their important conservation collections with other gardens and fill the gaps in living collections, prioritizing wild origin rare and threatened species, he said. 

A variety of events including lectures, films, a photo exhibition, water environment protection activities and a walking tour are held during the festival running until Friday to raise public awareness of nature and environmental protection.

Throughout the festival, a number of museums and botanic parks including Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, Shanghai Natural History Museum, and Shanghai Chenshan Botanic Garden, will screen nature-themed documentaries about the globe, oceans and wildlife.

A water environment protection event will be held at Suzhou Creek Mengqingyuan Environmental Protection Park on Friday with more than 100 photos and painting works created by primary and middle school students in the city that showcase Shanghai's river courses.

The festival is in its third year. 


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