[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 13-Feb-2009
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Contact: Beth King
kingb@si.edu
202-503-6010
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

AAAS Symposium: Emerging threats to tropical, temperate and ocean ecosystems

Three outspoken conservation scientists will present the AAAS Symposium, "Emerging Threats and Research Challenges for Global Ecosystems" on Friday, Feb. 13 at 10:30.

William Laurance, senior staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and symposium moderator, recently co-organized a major event, "Debating the Tropical Extinction Crisis" at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, which was featured in the New York Times, Science and The Economist. Laurance's research focuses on assessing the impacts of intensive land-use, such as habitat fragmentation, logging and wildfires on tropical ecosystems. He is broadly interested in climate change, global warming and other global change processes. A prolific author of both scientific and popular articles, Laurance is a major advocate for tropical forest conservation.

On Jan. 30, Laurance, with Thomas Lovejoy, research associate at STRI and Biodiversity Chair at the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, received the prestigious 2008 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Ecology and Conservation Biology, including a cash prize of 400,000 euros, largely for their contribution to the understanding of forest fragmentation, which they have effectively communicated to policy makers, resulting in significant conservation advances.

Jeremy Jackson, emeritus staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and professor of oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, has worked closely with the media to create public awareness of the effects of historical overfishing on the world's oceans and the importance of marine reserves. Jackson won the 2006 BBVA prize for Ecology and Conservation Biology.

Bruce Stein, formerly vice president and chief scientist at Natureserve, and now with the National Wildlife Federation, will use long-term research and practical conservation experience in North America to synthesize current and emerging threats to temperate regions, focusing particularly on climatic change and large-scale land-use and land-cover change.

The speakers will identify new and emerging threats to terrestrial and marine ecosystems and highlight the research challenges they raise. On land, the causes of habitat loss and perils to biodiversity are shifting. Industrial drivers of forest conversion—such as logging, large-scale agriculture, biofuel production, and oil and gas development—are escalating in importance, buoyed by rapid globalization and rising demands for commodities. Much is unknown about how climate change will affect biota on land and in the sea, and how this will interact with other environmental changes. Information on environmental synergisms is meager at best. The speakers will highlight these and other challenges on the horizon of global conservation science.

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STRI, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, is a unit of the Smithsonian Institution. The institute furthers the understanding of tropical nature and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems. Web site: www.stri.org.



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