150 Years of Ecology

Alberto Basset, Sara Montinaro, Università del Salento, Italy

In 1866, the German scientist Ernst Haeckel formalised for the first time a concept, already present in its time although not completely expressed yet, the ecology one, as the science studying “the interactions among organisms and with the biotic and abiotic conditions of the environment they live in”.

The European Ecological Federation (EEF) promotes the 150th anniversary of ecology through an initiative designed to analyse the cultural, scientific and socio-economic context, which determined the foundation of such new science, and the essential steps ecology has been making so far, discussing perspectives and challenges set by the current context.

The official launch of the celebrations took place in Leipzig on 14 April, where an international conference gathered the most prominent scientists from all over Europe to celebrate Haeckel and draw next research perspectives. The closing ceremony will be on 14 September 2016, date of issue of Haeckel’s preface and will feature a series of parallel events to mark the day. In between, promoters and supporters (such as LifeWatch and LTER, WWF, UFZ, University of Salento and many others) are organising many activities in research sites, or citizen science actions, linked to trips in nature, bioblitzes, meetings with schools, conferences, seminars, etc. (www.ecology150anniversary.net).

The aim is to inform and involve citizens on a theme, Ecology, which has actually become the interpretation key of the context in which all todays’ society actions take place. We could dare saying that we all live in an ecological context.

Why then is it so important to celebrate this anniversary? Because, for the first time, our society faces a condition of resource limitation never occurred before, to which we are not used to and, least of all, strategically adapted. Today, mankind uses 30% of the resources produced by the biosphere providing well being and good life expectancy to less than a quarter of the global population. This strikes our sense of justice, but, on the other hand, the ecosystem we live in does not seem to be able to pay an even greater cost for guaranteeing a high standard of living to all the world’s population, So we are forced toward a new cultural revolution that could change the current socio-economical paradigms to cope with a paradox that sees social justice and resource limitation one against the other. Johan Rockstrom, executive director of the “Stockholm Resilience Centre”, has been driving the attention on planet limits and the need for all sciences to go ahead of the current interdisciplinary discussion and move towards a unified approach to tackle the problem of conjugating the sustainability of a widely spread well-being with the limits of resource exploitation. Celebrating the 150 years of ecology becomes then a crucial step to move forward a new frontier of integrated ecological sciences, where ecology, meant in its classical sense, could become a driver of aggregation and cultural reference. In this framework, the H2020 project ECOPOTENTIAL, with its achievements for improving the knowledge and the management of ecosystems using an array of state-of-the-art methodologies, could become a building block of the new integrative science of ecology.

Would you like to join us in building this celebration? Contact the organising committee ecology150anniversary@gmail.com