On 22 January 2008, Prof. Donald Gabriels was appointed chairholder for the new UNESCO Chair on Eremology (desert studies) at Ghent University. Prof. Gabriels is the director of the International Centre for Eremology (Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University). He works closely with UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme in the context of the project on "Sustainable Management of Marginal Drylands" (SUMAMAD) as well as with UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP) on the "Water Centre for Arid and Semi-Arid Zones of Latin America and the Caribbean" (CAZALAC).
The inauguration ceremony was attended by several high-level persons, including Paul van Cauwenberge (Rector of Ghent University), Geert Bourgeois (Flemish Minister for Administrative Affairs, Foreign Policy, Media and Tourism) and Walter Erdelen (UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences). The festive ceremony included the presentation of several papers on desertification and climate change, such as by Filippo Giorgi (Vice-Chair of IPCC Working Group 1), Michel Verstrate (Joint Research Centre of the European Commission) and Thomas Schaaf (UNESCO-MAB Programme).
The following day, an international conference on desertification was held at Ghent University in a back-to-back manner with the inauguration ceremony. Organized by Prof. Donald Gabriels, this conference was attended by nearly 100 participants, many of whom are also members of the European DesertNet (E-DN) which was launched in October 2006 as a network of scientists involved in land degradation/desertification studies and as a think tank to provide a platform for scientific discussion and exchange of ideas.
:: People, Biodiversity and Ecology
:: Sustainable Management of Marginal Drylands (SUMAMAD)
:: Water Centre for Arid and Semi-Arid Zones of Latin America and the Caribbean (CAZALAC)