PR — Outstanding leaders in tropical biology and conservation, William F.
Laurance, senior staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research
Institute and Thomas E. Lovejoy, research associate at the Institute
and Biodiversity Chair at the H. John Heinz III Center for Science,
Economics and the Environment, have won the coveted 2008 BBVA
Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Ecology and Conservation
Biology, announced on 30 Jan. 2009 in Madrid, Spain.
The pair received the award for their contributions toward
understanding the consequences of habitat fragmentation and the impacts
of global change on tropical forests, and for the development of
fundamental political strategies to stem the tide of tropical
"Laurance and Lovejoy, a dynamic scientific team, promote
conservation research in imperiled tropical forests in the Amazon and
worldwide, catalyzing the efforts of countless others to achieve
conservation goals," said Cristián Samper, director of the
Smithsonian´s National Museum of Natural History, who nominated them.
"Their clear communication of research priorities and findings inspires
decision-makers and the broader public to establish and conserve the
large, interconnected forest reserves vital to life-supporting
ecological processes at both local and global scales."
Nearly three decades ago, Lovejoy convinced the Brazilian government
to support the establishment of the Biological Dynamics of Forest
Fragments Project (BDFFP) in central Amazonia. Today, the project,
managed by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Brazil’s
National Institute of Amazon Research, INPA, continues to supply direct
scientific evidence that small patches of forest do not sustain the
same diversity of plants and animals as do larger patches and to
elucidate the processes leading to the demise of fragmented forests.
Laurance and Lovejoy also work tirelessly to promote training of
Amazonian students and conservation professionals, and are actively
engaged in ongoing conservation efforts in the region. In 2001 Laurance
led an effort to project the future condition of forests in Brazilian
Amazonia, which led to widespread international alarm about planned
road-building projects for the region.
"Our work would not have been possible without close collaboration
with scientists and government officials in Brazil, across Latin
America and in other countries," said Lovejoy.
The project and affiliated researchers, students, and visiting
scientists have produced over 520 technical and popular
publications—many of which were authored or co-authored by Laurance and
Lovejoy—as well as 55 doctoral dissertations, and 63 master´s theses.
Among these are more than twenty articles published in the leading
journals Science and Nature, and eight major edited books, including
such seminal works as Tropical Forest Remnants by William Laurance and
Richard Bierregaard, Lessons from Amazonia by Richard Bierregaard,
Thomas Lovejoy, and others, Climate Change and Biodiversity by Thomas
Lovejoy and Lee Hannah, and Emerging Threats to Tropical Forests by
William Laurance and Carlos Peres.
Finally, Lovejoy and Laurance have initiated and promoted some of
the most important and creative conservation initiatives in Amazonia
and elsewhere in the tropics, such as the debt-for-nature swaps
promoted by Lovejoy, which have become models for tropical forest
management and international conservation programs across the planet.
The Ecology and Conservation Biology Award is one of eight awards
granted by the BBVA Foundation each year. The size of the cash awards,
totaling 3.2 million Euros, and the range of disciplines in the arts
and sciences they represent, place the BBVA prizes in the same category
as the Nobel prizes.
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.