Public Release: 

Nicholas School hosts 'Landscape Legacies' conference to examine long-term impacts of humans on landscapes

Duke University

DURHAM, N.C. -- Throughout history, humans have brought about sweeping ecological change as they have altered the landscape for agricultural and urban uses. They have converted forestland and wetlands into plowed fields and parking lots, turned arid environments into green spaces by diverting water, and opened barrier islands and montane forests to development.

On Monday, some 150 historians, ecologists and land managers from across the country will gather at Duke University to examine the role of humans in ecosystem change and to define the long-term impacts of humans on landscapes and their implications for land management.

The two-day "Landscape Legacies" conference, which is open to the public, will be held at the Geneen Auditorium of the Fuqua School of Business. It is being sponsored by Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, and by the USDA Forest Service, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Forest History Society.

Keynote speakers include:
Bruce Babbitt, U.S. Secretary of the Interior;
Daniel Botkin, research professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California-Santa Barbara, and president of the Center for the Study of the Environment;
Michael Dombeck, chief of the Forest Service;
William Reilly, founder and CEO of Auqa International Partners; and
Michael Williams, professor, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford.

"Although we increasingly understand the historical impacts of humans on landscapes, relatively little of that understanding has been considered in regards to conservation and management," said Norman L. Christensen Jr., dean of the Nicholas School and conference chair. "This conference will bring together some of the leading ecologists, historians and land managers to create a dialogue on this complex and important topic."

In 1987, Christensen spearheaded an earlier conference on this topic, bringing together at Duke ecologists and historians to look at "Land Use History and Ecological Change." Landscape Legacies adds land managers to the dialogue, Christensen said, because it is time to look at the implications that our past actions have on managing the land in the future.

The forum will open on Monday with a talk by Botkin on "An Ecologists View of Landscape History." He will be followed before lunch by Williams, "Landscape History and Forests," Babbitt, "Changing Demands on Our Natural Resources," and Dombeck, "Landscape History and Ecosystem Management."

The afternoon will feature overview presentations by a group of distinguished professors and environmental advocates. Following an evening dinner, Reilly will discuss "Use of Land: A Perspective." Tuesday will be devoted to case study presentations.

A complete agenda and on-line registration is available at For conference information, contact Sara Ashenburg in the Nicholas School's Center for Environmental Education at (919) 613-8082. Admission is $85 for the meeting, with an additional $45 for the reception and banquet on Monday.


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