The project “Corridor Talk: Conservation Humanities and the Future of Europe’s National Parks” is funded jointly by the German Research Council (DFG) and the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the first bilateral annual funding call. A total of 19 projects were funded during this first round.
Featuring a team of six researchers, three based at the University of Leeds and three at LMU Munich, this three-year project applies interdisciplinary perspectives derived from a new field partly pioneered at Leeds, conservation humanities, which examines the humanistic aspects of biodiversity loss. These perspectives will be used to consider the past, present, and future of four of Europe’s most iconic national parks: Wadden Sea National Parks, Pyrénées National Park, and the Bavarian Forest and Šumava National Parks.
Case Study Areas
Wadden Sea National Parks
This case study will consider the importance of the imagination in creating and maintaining the coherence of the transnational, physically unstable space of Wadden Sea National Park. The territorial boundaries crossed by the park are one form of boundary; the shifting border between land and sea constitutes another. Spreading as it does across the intertidal zone, much of the park is inaccessible to humans, or accessible only under specific conditions and at particular times. The mobility of the land itself—the shifting sandbanks and rising seawater levels, accelerating now under climate change—presents a further challenge. We will explore how the bounded ecology of the Wadden Sea has recently been represented and perceived, and how these representations serve to reinforce or interrogate the management of the park. How do cultural artefacts inscribe value onto a space that is inaccessible to humans? How do texts and images relating to the park serve to foster the human imagination of its dynamic ecology, and in particular of its bird life? How is this imagination affected by the challenge of rising seawater levels, and what are the implications for cultural imaginaries of global environmental change?
Bayerischer Wald & Šumava National Parks
Here, the main issue to be addressed is invasive animals that are causing damage to natural ecosystems, in this particular case the bark beetle, periodic outbreaks of which have destroyed large areas of spruce forest in the transboundary region of Bavarian Forest and Šumava National Parks. Extensive practical work has already been done on ways of controlling beetle invasions: in this case study, the focus of the research will be on how bark beetle incursions in this cross-border area have historically been managed and imagined from both sides of the border, and with what consequences. An accompanying aim will be to look at bark beetle infestations in multispecies terms, as complex interactions between different ecological agents, with a broader view towards assessing histories of encroachment, incursion, and invasion in and across these two national parks.
Pyrénées National Park
The main aim of this case study is to consider how people move through wild spaces, and how they experience the wild species they encounter in these spaces. A focal point of the research will be a controversially reintroduced species in the French Pyrenees, the brown bear. Brown bears migrate between France and Spain although we will adopt a multispecies approach that examines different kinds of interspecies (human-predator, predator-prey) exchanges, both within and beyond the immediate parameters of national parks. Key informant interviews and participant observation, particularly as people move through bear-inhabited areas, will build a picture of how people understand bears and attempt to live in and move through their spaces along different paths, such as transhuman and tourist routes. Interviews and observations will capture a range of relations with bears, from those that may be antagonistic, such as herders whose flocks may be preyed upon by bears, to potentially more positive relations, such as tourist guides.