The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology category goes to the ecologists Marten Scheffer of Wageningen University & Research and to Gene Likens (USA). Both researchers receive the prestigious award for contributing decisively to what the jury describes as ‘one of the major challenges’ of this scientific discipline: to understand and, where possible, anticipate ecosystem responses to human-induced alterations of the natural environment. The award will (in June) consist of €100,000 prize money, a diploma and a commemorative artwork. The announcement took place on February 7th.
During the announcement Marten Scheffer, professor of Aquatic ecology and water quality management, showed that human action, though gradual, can trigger abrupt and fundamental ecosystem shifts of a potentially irreversible nature. Likens, a professor at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York, revealed the impact across North America of acid rain. The work of the American and Dutch ecologists is today instrumental in informing decisions on how to confront pollution risks, and policies to manage ecosystems safely, and even successfully restore them after serious deterioration.
Working independently, Likens and Scheffer have, the jury says, contributed to understanding and finding solutions for ‘gradual, abrupt and potentially irreversible ecosystem change’ in response to pollution and other ecological threats. Together, the two scientists ‘have transformed our understanding of how human activities are changing the structure and function of natural ecosystems, and provided tools to inform ecosystem management,’ the prize jury mentioned.
The Frontiers Awards honour fundamental disciplinary or supradisciplinary advances in a series of basic, natural, social and technological sciences. The BBVA Foundation expresses the engagement of financial group BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria in Spain) with the cause of social responsibility in the societies where it does business, in pursuit of a better quality of life for all citizens. The central planks of BBVA's corporate culture and strategy are the promotion of knowledge and innovation, and respect for the ethical principles that characterize the plural society of the 21st century, which it views as key contributors to ongoing value creation and the opening-up of new opportunities and choices for individuals and groups. Premios Fundación BBVA Fronteras del Conocimiento, in Spanish, are an international award scheme recognizing significant contributions in the areas of scientific research and cultural creation. The BBVA Foundation promotes scientific research of excellence by funding research projects, disseminating the results to society through diverse channels including symposia, workshops, lectures, publications and exhibitions, and providing advanced training and research awards.