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Plenary speakers

Umar Anggara Jenie

Former Chairman, Indonesian Institute of Sciences; Indonesian National Bioethics Commission (KBN)

20 July, 09:30-10:00

Bioethical-friendly strategy for biodiversity exploration

The term “Bioethics” refers to the systematic, pluralistic and interdisciplinary study and resolution of ethical issues raised by medicine, life and social sciences as applied to human beings and their relationship with the biosphere, including issues related to availability and accessibility of scientific and technological developments and their applications.

In the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (UDBHR), which was approved on October 2005 by the UNESCO 33rd General Conference, shows that the principles on bioethics consists of 15 articles, and includes interconnection between human beings and other form of life. The Article-17: “Protection of the Environment, the Biosphere and Biodiversity”, states that ‘Due regard is to be given to the interconnection between human beings and other forms of life, to the importance of appropriate access and utilization of biological; and genetic resources, to respect for traditional knowledge and to the role of human beings in the protection of the environment, the biosphere and biodiversity’. By inclusion of human responsibility to other living organisms and protection of environment, biosphere and biodiversity, the UDBHR becomes comprehensive bioethics document, not only concern with human beings but also with other form of living organisms and their environment. Based on those bioethical principles set out in the UDBHR, strategy for biodiversity exploration must be designed and carried out. A harmony between exploration and conservation of biodiversity must be taken as prime strategy on treatment to the nature.

Michael Donoghue

G. Evelyn Hutchinson Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University; Member of US National Academy of Sciences (website)

21 July, 08:30-09:30

Reconnecting ecology and evolution to cope with global change

I will argue, using examples, that our understanding of global change and its consequences will be greatly enhanced by better integrating ecological and evolutionary/phylogenetic perspectives. I will focus special attention on broad biodiversity patterns that stem from the relative rarity of major niche shifts that entail substantial physiological adjustments. As a consequence, the functions and responses of ecological systems depend in important ways on which lineages happen to be present/absent as a function of their historical biogeography. The vulnerability of ecosystem services in the face of global change can be gauged by taking into account the phylogenetic distribution of key ecological functions in relation to the distribution of traits that govern responses to particular global change drivers. Proper unification of these disciplines requires us to re-think our approach to education in these areas.

Daniel Murdiyarso

Senior Scientist, Center for International Forestry Research (website)

21 July, 16:30-17:30

Coping with multiple-stressors of our time: how tropical biodiversity survive?

Human well-being is confronted with increasing demand for food, fiber and energy. Natural and man-made production systems have been overly extracted to meet such demand causing detrimental effects that threaten the sustainability of the systems themselves. Moreover, economic-driven behavior of man-kind, often termed as development, has extensively eroded vulnerable biotic and as well as abiotic components of the ecosystems. Loss of biodiversity, reduced productivity, and declining ecosystem resilience are resulted.

Diverse biological constructs is only one of the indicators of how stable ecosystem would survive. It is in our time that we experience a dramatic loss and degradation of biological diversity at all levels. These are mainly associated with extensive land-use change that one single generation can observe. The situation is worsened by the adverse impacts of anthropogenic climate change which takes place in a gradual trend. However, dramatic abrupt changes due to climatic variability and extreme weather events are getting more frequently experienced. It is timely that collective actions should be promoted. Strategies to cope with the impacts and mitigate the causes need to be governed at both ends, globally and locally. There is no single recipe that cures everything. Knowledge has been generated by science and yet a lot more need to be done. Linking science and communicating science-based knowledge to policy community and practitioners is both challenging and but also demanding. Likewise, fine tuning policy-relevant research agenda would eventually lessen dichotomous views on development and conservation.

Charlie Veron

Former Chief Scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (website)

22 July, 08:30-09:30

Climate change and coral reefs

Temperature-induced mass coral bleaching causing mortality on a wide geographic scale started when atmospheric CO2 levels exceeded ~320ppm. When CO2 levels reached ~340ppm, sporadic but highly destructive mass bleaching occurred in most reefs world-wide, often associated with El Niño events. Recovery was dependent on the vulnerability of individual reef areas and on the reef’s previous history and resilience. At today’s level of ~387ppm, allowing a lag-time of 10 years for sea temperatures to respond, most reefs world-wide are committed to an irreversible decline. Mass bleaching will in future become annual, departing from the 4-7 year return-time of El Niño events. Bleaching will be exacerbated by the effects of degraded water-quality and increased severe weather events. In addition, the progressive onset of ocean acidification will cause reduction of coral growth and retardation of the growth of high magnesium calcite-secreting coralline algae. If CO2 levels are allowed to reach 450ppm (due to occur by 2030-2040 at the current rates), reefs will be in rapid and terminal decline world-wide from multiple synergies arising from mass bleaching, ocean acidification, and other environmental impacts. Damage to shallow reef communities will become extensive with consequent reduction of biodiversity followed by extinctions. Reefs will cease to be large-scale nursery grounds for fish and will cease to have most of their current value to humanity. There will be knock-on effects to ecosystems associated with reefs, and to other pelagic and benthic ecosystems. Should CO2 levels reach 600ppm (by the 2050s in worst case scenarios) reefs will be eroding geological structures with populations of surviving biota restricted to refuges. Domino effects will follow, affecting many other marine ecosystems. This is likely to have been the path of great mass extinctions of the past, adding to the case that anthropogenic CO2 emissions could trigger the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

Kathy MacKinnon

Former Lead Biodiversity Specialist in the Environment Department of the World Bank (website)

23 July, 08:30-09:30

Why Biodiversity Matters in a Changing World

The three key environmental concerns of coming decades will be biodiversity loss, water shortages and climate change. These three environmental challenges are inextricably inter-linked; together they will impact on agricultural productivity and food security, influencing our ability to address poverty alleviation and influencing national economic growth in many of the world’s poorest and least developed nations. Global attention to climate change has rightly focused attention on reducing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases from transport and energy sectors and adopting new technologies. Unfortunately this has often diverted attention away from support for other simpler, and already available, natural solutions. The great rainforests of Indonesia, the Congo Basin and Amazon as well as tropical wetlands and coastal habitats serve as carbon stores and sinks. Healthy ecosystems maintain essential water services, reduce vulnerability to climate shocks and natural disasters, protect the web of life, support local livelihoods and increase local and national resilience, helping communities to adapt to climate change. A key challenge for conservationists is how to increase awareness, political support and funding for biodiversity conservation as an essential, proven, cost-effective and sustainable part of local and national climate change strategies.

Frans Bongers

ATBC President; Professor Tropical Forest Ecology, Wageningen University (website)

23 July, 16:30-17:30

Surviving the crises: not by biodiversity alone

The food, energy and climate crises pose serious challenges for the conservation and sustainable use of tropical biodiversity and tropical ecosystems. In this Biodiversity Year 2010, and also during this weeks conference, much focus is on the most diverse tropical ecosystems. And yes, in many cases the most diverse ecosystems are also the most undisturbed ecosystems. But also other systems deserve our attention, and in many cases less diverse systems have great importance for human populations as well. I will give examples of such systems. I will plea for more new forests (but not replacing old growth forests), question the paradigm “the more biodiverse, the better” (do less diverse ecosystems value less?), and ask if common species are worthless because they are common. If we want to survive the crises we will have to diversify our thinking as well. We will need both high ánd low diverse ecosystems, both rare ánd common species. Diversification also means that we need to develop close collaboration with specialists from a wide array of other fields as well. Do we, tropical biologists and conservationists, collaborate wide and well enough? Only then tropical biodiversity may survive the crises.