Professor's essay is 1 of 10 in special issue of Daedalus

July 24, 2012

Cambridge, Mass - Bren professor David Tilman's essay on the role of biodiversity in environmental sustainability is one of only ten essays in a new volume of the journal Daedalus, titled "Science in the 21st Century. Released on July 19 by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the issue included the thoughts of ten prominent scientists, each exploring emerging advances in their fields and respond to the question, "What secrets will science unlock in the coming decades?"

Acknowledging that predicting the future is an inherently unscientific enterprise, guest editors Jerrold Meinwald, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Chemistry Emeritus at Cornell University, and May R. Berenbaum, Professor of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, asked ten physical and biological scientists to answer the question that guided the writer's responses.

"I am deeply honored to be chosen to contribute to this special issue," Professor Tilman said. "Although none of us can predict the future, it is critically important that all of us consider how our ways of life may impact the sustainability of earth's ecosystems."

Professor Tilman's essay, "Biodiversity & Environmental Sustainability amid Human Domination of Global Ecosystems," echoes many of the themes presented by during a colloquium he delivered at the Bren School on February 6 and emphasizes the challenges to Earth's biodiversity in the face of demands of a rapidly growing world population.
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The abstract of the essay reads:

Concern about the loss of Earth's biological diversity sparked two decades of research of unprecedented intensity, intellectual excitement, and societal relevance. This research shows that biodiversity is among the most important factors determining how ecosystems function. In particular, the loss of biodiversity decreases the productivity, stability, and efficiency of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. These research findings come at a time of rapidly increasing threats to global biodiversity resulting from agricultural land clearing, climate change, and pollution caused by globally accelerating demand for food and energy. The world faces the grand, multifaceted challenge of meeting global demand for food and energy while preserving Earth's biodiversity and the long-term sustainability of both global societies and the ecosystems upon which all life depends. The solutions to this challenge will require major advances in, and syntheses among, the environmental and social sciences.

Professor Tilman joined the Bren faculty earlier this year and will teach his first classes at the Bren School during spring quarter of 2013.

To order the special issue of Daedalus or to find out more about it and the other authors who contributed essays, visit the American Academy of Arts and Sciences website.

University of California - Santa Barbara

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