SIL Presidential Lecture 2004: Providing Limnological Leadership in Tomorrow's World
SIL Presidential Lecture 2004
GENE E. LIKENS
President, Societas Internationale Limnologiae
Director, Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Millbrook, New York 12545 USA
Providing Limnological Leadership in Tomorrow's World
Kiitos Kutsusta SIL'ille [Thanks for the invitation to SIL]
On Hauska Tulla Suomeen Tänne Kauniiden Vesien Maahan [It is a pleasure to come to Finland, to this beautiful, watery land.]
It is my great honor to serve as your eleventh President and to address this opening session of the 29th SIL Congress in Lahti, Finland. The excellent efforts and planning by the local Organizing Committee, chaired by Professor Timo Kairesalo, and the excitement of all attendees at the Congress, bodes well for an outstanding and productive meeting.
A recurrent theme of several recent SIL Presidential Addresses has been concern about the role, reach ("not globally representative") and influence of SIL, as well as the very future of SIL itself (Vallentyne 1981; Löffler 1988; Burns 2000, 2002). Part of this concern is prompted by the new millennium, and part by a concern that the organization not stagnate in a rapidly changing world. I continue this theme.
SIL was conceived and founded by Einar Naumann and August Thienemann more than eight decades ago (Wetzel 1974, Rodhe 1974). Thienemann laid out three primary aims in his founding address to SIL's (then Internationale Vereinigung für Limnologie - IVL's) first "Foundation Assembly" in Kiel, Germany in August 1922. These aims were: (1) to foster international limnological communication and cooperation, indeed to be "übernational", (2) to integrate theoretical and applied limnology, and (3) to bring limnologists working in hydrographical and biological fields close together in our Association and to encompass "all phenomena pertaining to the fresh water on the whole" (italics mine) -- to be as comprehensive as possible, i.e. currently all inland waters (Rodhe 1974). Thus, from the beginning SIL has really been SILTA (theoretical and applied), which provided this international, professional society with a rather unique mission. For more than eight decades, there has been a rich history and great traditions of congresses, publications, activities and friendships promoting understanding and management of inland waters worldwide.
For example, the Congresses have played a critical role for the organization including:
- an update on aquatic research being done around the world
- a forum for discussion of issues vital to the use and protection of aquatic resources
- an opportunity to gain new prospectives and insights from limnological colleagues working on diverse aquatic systems, where different issues of environment, culture and politics can affect research
- a focus and rejuvenation for working groups dealing with international limnological issues
- an opportunity to meet friends and acquaintances and renew discussions about aquatic science
- an opportunity to visit inland aquatic ecosystems and discuss aquatic resource problems of the host country through scientific excursions. (Likens 2001b)
There are meters of the Verhandlungen shelved in offices and in libraries around the world providing valuable information about this planet's inland waters.
SIL has had some great successes, and wonderful traditions have developed during the past 82 years (Table 1). But, the world is not like it was in 1922 at the end of WWI, or in 1950 when we had ~ 600 members (Fig. 1) and Congresses were held biennially, or in 1971 when membership was increasing (~ 2200 members) and major environmental regulations were becoming enacted throughout the world. Does our "new world" in 2004 mean that SIL also needs to change significantly in form and function to meet the aims of our founders? Do we need new or revised aims and goals to guide us in the upcoming decades? What is (or should be?) SIL's leadership role in international limnology in tomorrow's world?
What does SIL do
- Convenes triennial Congresses and conducts pre- and post-Congress scientific excursions;
- Publishes Verhandlungen (Proceedings) and Mitteilungen (Communications);
- Gives awards recognizing excellence and scholarly contributions: Naumann-Thienemann Medal, Baldi Memorial Lecture, Kilham Memorial Lecture, Tonolli Fellowships (to postgraduate students in developing countries, ~70 awarded)
- Publishes SILnews;
- Maintains a web site (www.limnology.org);
- Initiates training centers for limnological analysis in developing countries (Asia, South America, Africa);
- Initiated book series on Limnology of Developing Countries (R. G. Wetzel and B. Gopal, Editors - 4 volumes published so far);
- Publishes Occasional Publications of SIL (largely teaching manuals for workers in developing countries);
- Initiates Working Groups (currently about 15, e.g., Plankton Ecology);
- Appoints Committees (e.g., Limnology in Developing Countries);
- Sponsors memberships in developing countries from the Endowment Fund (about 50-70);
- Maintains a directory of limnologists and inland aquatic scientists in developing countries.
Figure 1. Membership trends for SIL and other ecological and limnological professional societies. ESA = Ecological Society of America; ASLO = American Society of Limnology and Oceanography; NABS = North American Benthological Society; ASL = Australian Society of Limnology.
A Rapidly Changing World
Currently, major issues of Human-Accelerated Environmental Change (Fig. 2; Likens 1991) affecting our planet include: global climate change, stratospheric ozone reduction, land-use change, loss of biodiversity, invasion of exotic species, toxification (pollution) of the biosphere and infectious disease. These changes are intensified and grossly complicated by their interactions. The human population is now more than 6.3 billion and increasing at about 80 million/year. Never before has one species so dominated our planet, and we clearly have our foot on the accelerator!
Figure 2. Components and interactions of Human-Accelerated Environmental Change (after Likens & Bormann 2003).
Since 1922, the population of humans on the Earth has increased by more than 3.3 fold. Moreover, human use of aquatic resources has increased even more dramatically, for irrigation, for recreation, for sanitation, for fisheries, and for various industrial purposes. As a result, there have been increased pressures to "look beyond the shoreline" (e.g., Likens 1984), for comprehensive answers to limnological questions in large, complex catchments/landscapes and to develop, so-called "Integrated Catchment Management" (e.g., Pearce et al. 2000). But, such management of aquatic resources requires that we learn a "difficult dance" among diverse partners in science, policy, management, politics, economics, culture, often with each partner dancing to a different tune. Like an orchestra, we need leadership.
Most scientific assessments of environmental change are done at small scales (lake or pond, few hundred hectares of a catchment), but management needs often are at large scales (e.g., entire catchments, landscapes, regions), requiring some form of integrated catchment management. Piecemeal approaches just will not provide lasting solutions to environmental problems, even though knowledge about the "pieces" is vital for the overall solution. Tactics like integrated catchment monitoring and management or ecohydrology (see Zalewski & Robarts 2003) provide hopeful, but difficult and usually very expensive approaches for providing comprehensive knowledge and solutions for such complicated problems in aquatic ecosystems. Such comprehensive management requires "buy-in" from diverse stakeholders, but must be based on scientific knowledge. It is a particularly difficult dance because some stakeholders may not achieve all they want because their desires have unsound scientific basis, which could lead to a collapse of the system. Fortunately, many limnologists are familiar with the need to work with many disciplines simultaneously (teams), and often at large scales, but we need much better training in these critical approaches to research and management (Likens 2001a).
Inland waters are impacted by all components of human-accelerated environmental change, and there is a clear and urgent need to resolve the conflicts of use and abuse of aquatic ecosystems within the context of our planet's finite aquatic resources, and especially, relative to issues of ecological harmony and sustainability (Likens 2001a). For example, eutrophication and acidification continue to degrade both standing and running waters, and global climate change is likely to add even greater stresses on freshwater resources through changes in the amounts, events and distribution of water throughout the world.
Water shortages for human use now are common in many areas of Australia, the Middle East, Africa, and even in areas such as the United States, long perceived to have abundant water. Water shortages have occurred all across the United States, even in the unlikely places of the upper Midwest and New England (Ness 2003). Serious water-quality problems have occurred in many unsuspected places because of pollution of surface waters by Cryptosporidium spp. and Giardia spp., and NO3-pollution of ground water. And, there are new water problems on the horizon: For example, antibiotics, steroids, hormones and other pharmaceuticals are used increasingly by humans and potentially active forms are released widely to surface waters, ground waters, catchments, and to the atmosphere.
About 11,200 metric tonnes of antimicrobials per year are used for nontherapeutic purposes on livestock in the United States, or estimated to be some eight times more than used in human medicines (Mellon et al. 2001). Apparently, many of these components can pass through waste water treatment plants and domestic septic systems to the environment (Likens 2004). A recent illuminating study showed such organic contaminants in 80% of 139 streams sampled across the United States (Kolpin et al. 2002). Found most frequently in these streams were fecal steroids, cholesterol, insect repellants, caffeine, antimicrobial disinfectants, and fire retardants. Unfortunately, there is yet no inexpensive methodology for routine measurement of these compounds in natural waters. These contaminants potentially represent a huge environmental problem regarding the biogeochemical function and degradation of freshwater resources in the future, particularly as a "legacy" in ground water (Likens 2004).
Members of SIL have done superb research on inland waters, but there continues an urgent need for knowledge about human-impacted lakes, rivers, wetlands, and ground waters. For example, there are desperate needs for availability of high-quality water in rapidly growing cities, the largest are now called "urban agglomerations." Currently 48% of world's population (~ 3 billion) lives in cities, by 2007, > 50% will (United Nations Report 2003). The world's urban population is expected to rise to ~ 5 billion by 2030 (United Nations Report 2003). Between 1950 and 1990, U.S. metropolitan areas grew from 538,720 km2 with 84 million people to 1,515,159 km2 with 193 million people (Alberti et al. 2003). The density and sprawl associated with these increasing urban agglomerations represent huge demands/challenges for freshwater resources.
The human species has developed, largely through agriculture and technology, the dominance to embrace life at a freer level, including the enjoyment of the arts and gourmet food and drink, rather than just scrambling to find the sustenance to survive. Unfortunately, because of differential access to wealth, all humans do not share equally in this opportunity to embrace life so freely.
Consider the following paradox: On the one hand -- The sale of bottled water currently is increasing by ~ 12%/yr in the world (www.wateryear2003.org). People in the U.S. drink about 48 liters of bottled water/person/yr, partly because it is a fad and partly because of a desire for so-called "pure" water. Coca-Cola's fastest growing brand of bottled water grew at a compound annual rate of 59% during 2000-2002 (Coca-Cola Corporation Annual Report 2004). Currently, we can choose from more than 700 brands of bottled water produced worldwide (Maclean 2004), and the price is frequently higher than an equivalent quantity of refined oil.
On the other hand -- many humans have neither enough food to eat nor clean water to drink or in which to bathe, and therefore, must scramble to survive. Some 20% of people on this planet lack quality drinking water and 40% do not have access to basic sanitation services (Anonymous 2003), and some 50 to 120 million people are projected to die in the next 15 years from preventable water-related diseases (Gleick 2002). On the basis of current conditions and projections, it is clear that availability and quality of fresh water will be the critical natural resource issue during this decade (e.g., Francko & Wetzel 1983; Likens 1992; Population Action International Report 1994; Postel, Daily & Ehrlich 1996; Gleick 1998; Vörösmarty et al. 2000). What are the ethical obligations for SIL and its members in dealing with such issues, both theoretical and applied?
Members of SIL, orientated either toward theoretical or applied limnological issues, can provide comprehensive knowledge about this vital resource and about its protection, conservation, and use. From our beginnings, the founders of SIL called for a comprehensive and inclusive understanding from "hydroecologists" and "hydrogeographers"; possibly never before has this call been so urgent. Yet, we now have fractionated as a discipline to a far greater degree and possibly to the point where a comprehensive understanding is very difficult, if not impossible to obtain (see Likens 1992). How can SIL help orchestrate this difficult dance in the future? Likewise, our professional discipline is fractionated and highly focused at a national level. Is there a role for SIL more as an "umbrella organization" for international limnology in tomorrow's world?
Despite the demonstrated successes and continuing need for investigator-driven research (so-called, curiosity driven) there is increased pressure from funding sources for research "relevant" to management as well as for multidisciplinary (hopefully interdisciplinary; Likens 1992) research done at large scales. So, increasingly we must look comprehensively beyond the shoreline for knowledge and for answers to management questions, but this must be done with rigor and creativity, using the integrative skills from our limnological training.
Of the numerous professional societies that I belong to, SIL is my favorite. I have been a member continuously since 1962 when the Congress was held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I prize very highly the international connections and friendships that I have developed over the years as a result of SIL. The communication and trust that result from these interactions are invaluable to me both scientifically and personally. Science often makes major advances through personal connections and friendships. So, I care deeply about maintaining the vitality and value of this truly international Society, and as President, I take seriously my duty to do what I can to sustain and strengthen the organization.
SIL, as the international society for limnology, has many and diverse activities (Table 1) and, overall, does them well. But, there are obvious problems for SIL, including a relatively small membership (Fig. 1), an aging demography (Fig. 3), increased costs and level or decreasing income, not publishing a regular scientific journal, fractionation and poor interactions with national limnological societies. Thus, Robert Wetzel and I have proposed a new Mission Statement for SIL (Table 2), which will be discussed and hopefully adopted at this Congress.
Figure 3. Membership trends for SIL.
Proposed Mission Statement
The International Association for Theoretical and Applied Limnology works worldwide, to understand inland aquatic ecosystems and to use knowledge, gained from research, to manage them.
Objectives and Goals of SIL
- to study all inland waters, e.g., lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, wetlands, ground waters,
- to understand how these ecosystems arose, function and are maintained,
- to educate everyone about the value of these aquatic systems for the well-being and survival of all organisms, including humans on Earth, and
- to protect and conserve these ecosystems by promoting and fostering only sustainable use.
Also, I have appointed an ad hoc SIL Futures Committee, chaired by Professor Brian Moss, Executive Vice President of SIL (Table 3). I believe that this important Committee will be vital for guiding the future of SIL. This committee has begun its work and will bring initial recommendations to the National Representatives and to me during this meeting. I will report on the Committee's progress during the closing session of this Congress, and by the next Congress in Montreal in August 2007, I hope that we may have a widely agreed upon new vision for SIL to lead us into tomorrow.
Membership on SIL's ad hoc Futures Committee
|Gene Likens, Ex Officio
|Brian Moss, Chair
|Robert Wetzel, Ex Officio
But, can we and should we, as a successful and very traditional organization, really "think outside of the box"? Issues, such as developing "virtual meetings" on the Internet, developing special fora (with funding) primarily for younger members, developing a more popular-based journal to accompany the Verhandlungen, holding more frequent Congresses, promoting and sponsoring limnological activities in developing countries, becoming more of an "umbrella organization" for national limnological societies to facilitate international cooperation and to produce a "louder voice", all need to be discussed and evaluated.
Scientific endeavor is mostly apolitical and for the past 82 years, SIL has been essentially apolitical. This position is a major strength, particularly in our currently unsettled world, and gives SIL, with members from 80 countries, a unique opportunity for broad scientific leadership relative to inland waters. Unfortunately, frequently it is the poor and politically voiceless that have the least amount of clean water to use. How can we meet this ethical challenge?
Last year SIL officially participated in the 2003 International Year of Freshwater, but didn't participate in the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto in March 2003. SIL had knowledge and experience to contribute to the World Water Forum, but no one was requested to carry SIL's message. It could be debated whether this forum was successful or just another conference (Kuylenstierna 2003), but I would argue that we needed to be at the table. How do we meet these challenges in the future, yet maintain our fiscal and scholarly responsibilities? How do we develop more and better interactions with other relevant international organizations?
SIL's leadership and programs are run by dedicated individuals (for example, Secretary General and Treasurer Professor Robert G. Wetzel is an extraordinary example, providing outstanding and dedicated service for the past 35 years), but is it time to raise the funds to put us on a higher level of activity and influence? Do we need paid administrative support? Where would we find these funds? It is often said that "there is no free lunch." Most of SIL's activities are led "for free" by volunteers. Little happens "for free" in today's world. Do we need a different model of priorities for tomorrow?
A seductive trap of success is, if it (the organization) has functioned well in the past it should function well and serve its members just fine in the future. Or, as Professor Peter Cullen has stated relative to the water industry of South Australia, "Because it has worked in the past there is a view that there is no need to change. Yet the demands change, the situation changes and our knowledge and understandings change." (Cullen 2003). We certainly don't want to discard the successful traditions and activities built over the past 80 years, but instead we must build on them in adapting to the future.
I have no intention of second guessing the work of the Futures Committee that I have appointed, but because I believe that a professional, international (übernational) society for limnology (inland waters) is badly needed in tomorrow's world, here is my vision for some of its major needs and components:
- Foster the highest level of limnological scholarship and communication;
- Produce excellent publications in a timely manner covering limnological issues worldwide (e.g. maintain the Verhandlungen, possibly electronically, and Mitteilungen and develop a new, peer-reviewed journal featuring current topics in limnology);
- Significantly increase the membership by 2007, with younger limnologists representing a significant proportion (25% ?) of the total;
- Significantly increase (double?) the endowment by 2007;
- Promote limnological initiatives in developing countries - for example: 1) Sponsor limnological workshops and conferences for younger scientists; 2) Elect an Executive Vice President from a developing country; 3) Enhance and expand Working Groups and Committees, focusing on limnological issues in developing countries;
- Promote high-quality, triennial Congresses, whose attendance is broadly affordable;
- Remain apolitical in our science and personal interactions;
- Promote healthy mixes of investigator-initiated and relevancy-directed research (theoretical and applied);
- Promote the importance of science-based, system's thinking (not piecemeal) in dealing with change, incorporating the views of diverse stakeholders;
- Provide information, understanding and guidance for public policy based on science, particularly "good" science; and
- Promote the importance of acting ethically to maintain the health and well- being of our professional society and of our planet (at the least, develop an ethical code of conduct for SIL and its members).
Of course, any vision is hollow without implementation. Once a collective vision for SIL's tomorrow is established it will take much hard work and dedicated effort to achieve it. SIL's future is worth what it takes to make this vision happen. I ask for your constructive ideas, support and good efforts toward this end.
I thank Arne Salli and Timo Kairesalo for help with the Finnish greeting, and Robert Wetzel for discussions, historical insights and trend data for SIL membership. I acknowledge membership data from American Society of Limnology and Oceanography (Helen Schneider Lemay and Erika De La Fuente), Australian Limnological Society (Margaret Hart), Ecological Society of America (Carolyn Klocker from Bulletin of Ecological Society of America), North American Benthological Society (Lucinda Johnson and Rosemary Mackay). I thank Phyllis Likens and Carolyn Klocker for administrative and research support in the preparation of this manuscript.
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