Global karst science and technology innovative cooperation initiative starts strong

An Initiative Concerning Global Karst Science and Technology Innovative Cooperation was launched on Tuesday during the opening ceremony of 2024 International Training Course on Karst and Climate Change.

Launched by International Research Center on Karst under the UNESCO, the initiative aims to realize karst science and technology innovative development and protect the fragile karst environment.

Karst dominates about 15 percent of the land in the world, supporting about one fourth of people's drinking water. Though fragile, it is rich in water, landscape and mineral resources.

The karst-related scientists proposed to put more attention on karst critical zones, which is crucial to understand the matter cycles in karst systems for finding out more accurate circulate process of carbon.

More cooperation should be conducted in the early warning of Karst water and geohazards to find the hidden groundwater or potential risks, according to the initiative.

The initiative proposed to pay more attention to karst geoheritage sites, it said. "We should work together to popularize the knowledge of different types of karst geoheritages to the public, helping them understand why and how we should protect these precious sites," it said.

Scientists also called for efforts to the biodiversity of special karst ecosystem by large-scope sampling and monitoring, which is important to the earth's biodiversity system with calcic plants in karst areas and visual degraded animals in caves, it added.

The 2024 China-Slovenia (China-Central-Eastern European Countries) Half Month Event for Karst Science Innovation Cooperation kicked off on the same day, aiming to forge alliances to meet environmental and scientific challenges.

UNESCO Representative to China Shahbaz Khan said the innovation and development in karst geology not only supports regional and global sustainable development, but also provides critical insights into climate adaptation strategies and biodiversity conservation.

"The role of karst landscapes in carbon sequestration and their significance in maintaining ecological balance underscore the critical nature of our discussions and endeavors," he said.

Alenka Suhandolnik, Slovenia's ambassador to China, said as one of the countries with the strongest standing Karst research tradition, Slovenia has a 30-year cooperation with China in this field.

The China-Slovenia Joint Laboratory on Karst Geology established in 2020 is a crucial platform to research and protect natural landscape.

Fan Li, deputy head of the Ministry of Natural Resources' Department of International Cooperation, said the laboratory is the ministry's first joint lab approved to be established with countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

The international cooperation in the scientific research of Karst areas should both pursue cutting-edge knowledge in a global view and solve practical problems, Fan said.

Chinese and Slovenian karst scientists shared achievements and experiences of joint research projects in recent years during the event, such as the ecohydrological study of spatiotemporal dynamics in Karst critical zones under different climate conditions.

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