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EcoSummit 2012 E-Newsletter: May 2012

Ecological Sustainability: Restoring the Planet’s Ecosystem Services

From September 30 through October 5 this year, the world’s preeminent leaders in ecological sciences will convene in Columbus, Ohio, for the international EcoSummit 2012. Their purpose: to present their cutting edge work and to lead symposia, workshops and discussion groups on the themes of sustainability and restoration of the earth’s ecosystem services. Already, more than 1,400 people from 75 countries, including ecologists, environmental scientists, engineers, policymakers and business leaders that provide ecosystem services, are registered to attend.

EcoSummit 2012 is co-hosted by The Ohio State University, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the Ecological Society of America, the Society for Ecological Restoration and INTECOL. Conference attendees are encouraged to make pre-conference field trips to such places as the Everglades in Florida to see, firsthand, large-scale restoration efforts taking place. Other pre-conference field trips will be held near Washington, D.C., New York, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago and Columbus. Mid-conference field trips will allow conference attendees to learn about ecosystem restoration projects in Ohio and across the region, including the Cuyahoga River Watershed Restoration and the Coastal Lake Erie Wetlands.

This is only the fourth time EcoSummit has convened. The first conference, in Copenhagen, Denmark, was held in 1996, the second in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 2000 and the most recent was in Beijing, China, in 2007. Planning has already begun for the fifth EcoSummit that will take place in 2016. The location will be announced during the conference’s closing ceremony.

Never has a gathering of thought leaders in this field been so critically well timed.

It’s estimated that 40 percent of the world’s economy and 80 percent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources: plants, animals, and microorganisms from different ecosystems like deserts, wetlands, forests and coral reefs.

The richer the variety of those resources, the greater the opportunities for medical discoveries, economic development and adaptive responses to challenges such as climate change.  Rich biodiversity provides ecosystem services like the protection of water resources and soil, the breakdown of pollution, and climate stability.

And yet, human activity continues to cause major degradation of our ecosystems. The 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment reported that 10 to 30 percent of animal, bird and amphibian species were threatened with extinction. The International Union for Conservation of Nature reports that 75 percent of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost, and that up to 70 percent of the world’s known species risk extinction if global warming continues. As a result of decreasing biodiversity, some 350 million people are faced with severe scarcity of water.

The loss of biodiversity is tightly linked with climate change. Scientists project that the threat of climate change will become more significant over the next decades.

“The conference is about nature,” says Bill Mitsch, EcoSummit 2012 Chair. “It’s about human beings having a sustainable relationship with the environment. Our lakes and rivers are more than routes of transportation and sources of drinking water. They are habitats for all sorts of animals and organisms that support human life. It is the same for wetlands, which can also be sinks for pollutants and especially carbon, and places for floodwaters to go instead of our basements. For our survival, our natural environments must thrive.”

EcoSummit 2012 will provide a high-profile platform for dialogue among researchers, planners and decisionmakers to develop a better understanding of the complex and interconnected nature of ecological systems and the means to protect and enhance their services.

Many of the plenary speakers will drive home the message that there is a strong dependency between humankind and Mother Nature. Those speakers include two-time Pulitzer Prize winning biologist E.O. Wilson, Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond and Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom. The Honorable Olafur R. Grimsson, President of the Republic of Iceland, will address the conference about his ongoing efforts related to renewable energy and climate change. Other speakers include Sven E. Jorgensen from the University of Copenhagen, William J. Mitsch of The Ohio State University, Wolfgang Junk from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Robert Costanza of Portland State University, Rattan Lal of The Ohio State University, Simon A. Levin of Princeton University and Lester Brown, one of the world’s most widely published authors and founder of the Earth Policy Institute.

The summit also includes an International Film Festival, featuring short films on environmental themes. Filmmakers from around the globe are submitting “language-independent” shorts, so that any viewer can understand the film, regardless of the first language of the producers. Categories of submissions include: professional, amateur, student, Ohio amateur and Ohio student.

Information regarding EcoSummit 2012, including the conference program, registration information and hotel accommodations, can be found by visiting the conference website at

See other articles in the May 2012 newsletter:

- Nobel Winner to Address EcoSummit 2012
- Welcome to Columbus
- Connecting a City to its Natural Treasures
- The Role of the Business Community in Restoring our Ecosystems

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