History, Press Releases and Reports

History. Finding back old and new linkages with rivers

In a nutshell: The Unesco Chair River Culture/Fleuve et Patrimoine has 3 different roots: Karl M. Wantzen’s research on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of rivers, Aziz Ballouche’s work on the development of riverine landscapes under human influence, and the activities of the Mission Val de Loire to establish colaborations between UNESCO world heritage sites near rivers. to learn more…

The UNESCO Chair „River Culture – Fleuve et Patrimoine“ wants to overcome the alienation between mankind and river. It promotes an approach to harmonize the coexistence of man and river, not by trying to turn back the wheel of time (which is impossible) but by creating new linkages and technologies, and by transforming traditional cultural linkages into modern-world feasibility. Transcontinental and transcultural comparisons provide new perspectives and approaches.

When accepting the call for a chair on applied aquatic ecology at the interdisciplinary research center CITERES at Tours University in 2010, my ideas about „River Culture“ fell on fertile grounds. Corinne Larrue and Jean-Pierre Berton from Tours University, together with Isabelle Longuet and Vincent Rotgé from the Mission Val de Loire (the institution that manages the UNESCO World Heritage Site „Middle Loire Valley“), and senator Yves Dauge, had been working on a concept of collaboration between UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Loire and the Niger (at Mali) for a long time. Our team was completed by Aziz Ballouche, professor in geography and leader of the research team LETG-Angers LEESA (UMR CNRS 6554) at Angers university and long term expert on North-Western Africa. Aziz is an landscape archeologist studying how past human use forms shaped the landscapes, especially fire. Our studies can be seen as complimentary on the same issue, Aziz working on the human aspect of landscape modification, whereas my work is on how riverscape structure interacts with biological diversity and ecosystem functions. Isabelle, with a strong background in cultural heritage of rivers, gives us a third perspective on rivers as cultural conveyors or cultural dividers.

The project of the UNESCO Chair ist therefore the result of the these three origins: the interest in establishing contacts between UNESCO and other heritage sites along rivers worldwide, the desire to save biological and cultural diversity at rivers, and to understand better the relationship between man and river deeper.


River Culture – The „philosophy“ of the Unesco Chaire „Fleuve et patrimoine“

The seminal paper by Vörösmarty et al 2010 has brought it to the point: In the same way we drive riverine species to extinction, we are are driving the human race to extinction, because safety of water supply is menaced by the same threats as riverine biodiversity, just in different proportions. Thus, whatever we do to counteract extinction will improve human wellbeing and our quality of life.

In our recent paper on River Culture, we have established five tenets to re-harmonize man and river for the sake of conservation of biological and cultural diversity in and near rivers. The term „conservation“ as it is used here does not mean the maintenance of a given status but rather the maintenance of the capability of evolving further, both in terms of animal and plant species and of the cultural development of human beings.



Press and other media releases 

15-07-13"Rivers and heritage" UNESCO Chair created


Interview with Karl M. Wantzen about the future work of the UNESCO Chair