10th International Conference on Ecosystems and Sustainable Development
3 - 5 June 2015 - València, Spain
The 10th International Conference on Ecosystems and Sustainable Development took place in Valencia, organised by the Polytechnic University of Valencia, represented by Prof Jose Luis Miralles i Garcia, and the Wessex Institute, UK, represented by Prof Carlos A Brebbia. The meeting was supported by the International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics.
This successful series of conferences started in Peniscola, Spain (1997) and continued in Lemnos, Greece (1999); Alicante (2001); Siena (2003); Cadiz (2005); Coimbra (2007); Chianciano Terme, Italy (2009); Alicante (2011) and Bucharest (2013).
The meeting provided a unique forum for the presentation and discussion of recent work on different aspects of ecosystems and sustainable developments.
The progress of our society depends on the proper functioning of ecosystems. However, their continuous degradation makes it impossible to achieve sustainable development. As the world population continues to grow and cities continue to expand the resulting urbanisation threatens ecosystems. The Conference encourages and facilitates interdisciplinary communication between scientists, engineers, economists and other professionals working on ecosystems and sustainable developments.
12th Prigogine Gold Medal Award
The Conference events included the award of the 12th Prigogine Gold Medal at the Aula Magna of the Polytechnic University of Valencia. The award was presented by the Rector, Prof Francisco Jose Mora Mas and the Dean of Engineering, Prof Vicent Estaban Chapapria, with the participation of the Conference Chairmen, Professor Jose Luis Miralles i Garcia of the same Institute, and Prof Carlos A Brebbia of Wessex Institute, UK.
The delegates were welcomed by Prof Mora Mas who referred to the importance of the award and his University being honoured by the event taking place at the Valencia Polytechnic. He also thanked Prof Carlos A Brebbia for the opportunity to know Prof Larry Li from the University of California, Riverside, USA.
Prof Brebbia then explained the importance of the award.
The Prigogine Medal was established in 2004 by the University of Siena and the Wessex Institute to honour the memory of Prof Ilya Prigogine, Nobel Prize winner for chemistry. Ilya Prigogine was born in Moscow in 1917, and obtained his undergraduate and graduate education in Chemistry at the Free University in Brussels.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his contribution to non-equilibrium thermodynamics, particularly the theory of dissipative structures. The main theme of his scientific work was the role of time in the physical sciences and biology. He contributed significantly to the understanding of irreversible processes, particularly in systems far from equilibrium.
The results of his work have had profound consequences for understanding biological and ecological systems. Prigogine’s ideas established the basis of ecological systems research. The Prigogine medal to honour his memory is awarded annually to a leading scientist in the field of ecological systems. All recipients have been deeply influenced by the work of Prigogine.
Previous Prigogine Laureates were:
- 2004 Sven Jorgensen, Denmark
- 2005 Enzo Tiezzi, Italy
- 2006 Bernard Patten, USA
- 2007 Robert Ulanowicz, USA
- 2008 Ioannis Antoniou, Greece
- 2009 Emilio Del Giudice, Italy
- 2010 Felix Müller, Germany
- 2011 Larissa Brizhik, Ukraine
- 2012 Gerald Pollack, USA
- 2013 Vladimir Voeikov, Russia
- 2014 Mae-Wan Ho, UK
The 2015 Medal was awarded to Bai-Lian Larry Li, Professor at the University of California, USA.
B Larry Li is Professor of Ecology and Director of three research centres at the University of California, Riverside, ie the International Centre for Ecology and Sustainability, the International Centre for Arid Land Ecology, and the US Department of Agriculture – China Joint Research Centre for Agroecology and Sustainability.
Professor Li has a broad inter-disciplinary background and experience in mathematical, statistical and computational modelling applications in ecological studies. Professor Li is a Fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology, USA; Chair Professor of the Chinese Academy of Science, Honorary Professor of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among other important recognitions.
He currently presides over the Eco-Summit Foundation and is a member of NSF Scientific Panels. He has been the founder and editor of the prestigious International Journal on Ecological Complexity and the Journal of Arid Land. He organised many symposia and courses with other institutions, including the Max-Planck and Santa Fe institutes.
Prof Li has worked on a wide variety of ecological projects including recent involvement in energetic and thermodynamic ecological systems and restoration of ecological patterns for formations and long-term ecological research in the USA and internationally.
He has published more than 200 refereed journal articles, and numerous conference papers, in addition to 30 book chapters and eight books or edited special issues.
Following these introductory remarks, Professor Mora Mas awarded the Medal to Professor Li and invited him to give his Prigogine lecture entitled “Towards an energetically and thermodynamically-sounded approach to ecological complexity, modelling and sustainability”.
B Larry Li started his inaugural address with the following introduction:
“Life is based on cycling of matter and consumption of energy. The spatial and temporal scales of these processes transcend from the micro-world, where living cells meet their energetic demand with nutrients diffusing through the cell wall, to the planetary scale, where continental vegetation cover and oceanic biota profoundly impact the global cycles of life essentials like water and carbon. On the basis of a holistic systems view and Prigogine and Haken’s theories, my research has been focusing on addressing the following key questions: How do biological and ecological systems self-organize? What are the origins and mechanisms of emergence of scaling from individual to landscape levels (especially on emergence of dynamic scaling)? And what are the physical bases of non-equilibrium biological and ecological systems? I use mathematical, statistical, and computational modelling approaches as a way of exploring and answering these questions. These modelling approaches help identify general principles and basic mechanisms governing emerging properties of biological and ecological systems at multiple temporal and spatial scales based on energetic, thermodynamic and information considerations and allow us to have better understanding and modelling of ecological complexity, services and sustainability.
“One of my earliest English papers entitled ‘Pansystems analysis: a new approach to ecosystem modelling’ was published in Ecological Modelling in 1986. In that paper, I proposed a new pansystems approach to study complex and strongly interacting dynamic processes in ecological system, ie the social-economic-natural complex ecosystems, and a rough framework of ecological complexity – modelling complex or large-scale ecosystems. This work, to large extent, reflected in part of my earlier views to apply Prigogine’s far-from equilibrium thoughts to ecological systems.
“In this lecture, I will start with re-examination of the classic logistic equation in population ecology, from the energy conservation law. We found that there exists a conservation of energy relationship comprising the terms of available resource and population density, jointly interpreted here as total available vital energy in a confined environment. We showed that this relationship determines a density-dependent functional form of relative population growth rate and consequently the parametric equations are in the form depending upon the population density, resource concentration, and time. Thus, the derived form of relative population growth rate is essentially a feedback type, ie updating parametric values for the corresponding population density. This resource dynamics-based feedback approach has been implemented for formulating variable carrying capacity in a confined environment. Particularly, at a constant resource replenishment rate, a density-dependent population growth equation similar to the classic logistic equation is derived, while one of the regulating factors of the underlying resource dynamics is that the resource consumption rate is directly proportional to the resource concentration.
“Secondly, I will talk about energetic and thermodynamic foundation of ecological systems. A fundamental but unanswered biological question asks how much energy, on average, Earth’s different life forms spend per unit mass per unit time to remain alive. Here, using the largest database to date, for 3006 species that includes most of the range of biological diversity on the planet – from bacteria to elephants, and algae to sapling trees – we show that metabolism displays a striking degree of homeostasis across all of life. We demonstrate that, despite the enormous biochemical, physiological, and ecological differences between the surveyed species that vary over 1020-fold in body mass, mean metabolic rates of major taxonomic groups displayed at physiological rest converge on a narrow range from 0.3 to 9 W kg-1. This 30-fold variation among life’s disparate forms represents a remarkably small range compared with the 4000 to 65000-fold difference between the mean metabolic rates of the smallest and largest organisms that would be observed if life as a whole conformed to universal quarter power or third-power allometric scaling laws. The observed broad convergence on a narrow range of basal metabolic rates suggests that organismal designs that fit in this physiological window have been favoured by natural selection across all of life’s major kingdoms, and that this range might therefore be considered as optimal for living matter as a whole.
“Thirdly, I will show how we can use this foundation to scaling up, from primary producers to primary consumers, to second consumers, and so on in ecological networks. This approach opens a new view to re-examine species diversity-stability-productivity relationships in ecological systems.
“Fourthly, I will examine the emergence of scaling properties and self-organisations in ecological systems, such as species-area curve, self-thinning law, etc. My talk will also include applications of this framework to study ecotone phase transitions, biological invasion, scaling from genomes to ecosystems and global change biology.
“Based on my own study and near 35 years working experience in this field, I have been so much inspired by Prof Ilya Prigogine’s works and his thoughts. I met him in person only once, in 1992 Chaos Conference at Texas A&M University, College Station, USA; I showed him how I used his theory: nonlinear Markov non-equilibrium thermodynamic stability theory to study ecological phase transitions and predict the tree-grass dynamics of savannah in southern Texas landscapes. I believe that his work and view will continue to inspire new generations of ecologists to study not only fundamental issues of ecology but also applied ecological problems in conservation biology, biological invasion, restoration ecology, ecological monitoring and assessment, global change, and sustainable development.”
Prof Li’s excellent presentation was followed with great interest by all participants. He demonstrates a command of many disciplines, such as mathematics, statistics, computational mechanics, in addition to biology and ecosystems. His address gave a comprehensive picture of the diverse ecosystems behaviour and the importance of understanding them to achieve sustainability.
Prof Mora Mas closed the event and invited all participants to drinks and tapas as refreshment before the participants went back to the conference venue.
The papers presented at the conference were classified under a series of topics, as follows:
- Ecosystems modelling
- Natural resources management
- Natural resources in peri-urban spaces
- Environmental management
- Sustainable development and planning
- Sustainable development studies
- Energy issues
- Sustainable indicators, monitoring and assessment
- Ecosystems restoration
- Waste management
A series of invited lectures helped to enhance the conference, ie
“Application of ecological models for assessment of sustainability”, by Sven Jorgensen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
“Hyper planning and the construction bubble on the northern coast of the Valencian countryside (or how the unwarranted scenarios of planning have contributed to the present urban disaster)”, by Fernando Gaja i Diaz, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain.
“Ecology as a complex system”, by George Rzevski, The Open University, UK.
“The role of landscape aesthetics in the total economic value of landscape”, by Maria Vallés-Planells, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain.
“A theoretical model of the circuit of empty chemical containers from production to reuse”, by Yolanda Villacampa, University of Alicante, Spain.
“Environment tax as an instrument of economic stimulation to improve the quality of motor fuels”, by Elena Magaril, Ural Federal University, Russia.
“Effect of sediment load reduction in tidal entrance channels”, by Ashish Mehta, Nutech Consultants Inc, USA.
“Models to estimate the mechanical resistance to penetration in Argentine agricultural soils”, by Monica Cortés-Molina, University of Alicante, Spain.
“Environmental impact assessment of the employment of methane-run buses: a case study analysis for Padua, Italy”, by Petra Amrusch, University of Vienna, Austria.
“Environmental management of peri-urban natural resources: L’Horta de Valencia case study”, by Jose Luis Miralles i Garcia, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain.
The Polytechnic University of Valencia arranged for a special organ concert to take place during one of the evenings. The concert was held in the Jesuit Church located in the old town. The Church dates from the XVIII century, fronting the most important heritage building in Valencia, the famous medieval Lonja.
The organ has 5000 pipes and four keyboards which make a unique instrument, in so far as it can mimic different types of European organs and hence it can play a wide repertoire.
The organist was Arturo Basa Sevillano who completed his studies in many different European institutions. He is a Professor in the Valencia Conservatory, as well as a qualified architect. He has played in numerous locations and has carried out work in the European music of the XVI and XVII centuries.
His recital included pieces by Cabanilles (1644-1712); Bach (1685-1750); Bruna (1611-1679); Zipoli (1688-1726) and ended with music by Boellmann (1862-1897). The high standard of his performance were most appreciated by the audience.
The International Advisory Committee met over dinner to discuss reconvening the meeting in 2017 with an enhanced Call for Papers. New members for the Committee were nominated and a few locations discussed.
The Conference banquet took place in the unusual setting of the Aquarium restaurant, located under a distinctive hyperbolic paraboloid structure built by Felix Candela. The glass walls of the restaurant are part of the Aquarium itself and a continuous stream of fish swims constantly along. The excellent food was accompanied by good local wines creating a convivial atmosphere.
The restaurant was located near the hotel from where the delegates proceeded, alongside renowned new buildings, including two famous Calatrava buildings, ie the Museum of Science and Technology and the Agora. The pleasant walk added to the attraction of the event.
Closing of the Conference
The Conference was closed by Carlos who expressed the appreciation of Wessex Institute for the delegates’ support of its activities.
He hoped that they will consider also publishing some of their work in the International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics, and other series produced by WIT Press.
Finally he invited them to visit the WIT Campus next time they are in the region to allow a better appreciation of the work of the Institute.
Papers from the conference will also be hosted online at the WIT eLibrary in Volume 192 of WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment (ISSN: 1746-448X Digital ISSN: 1743-3541). For more details visit the WIT eLibrary at http://witpress.com/elibrary