Sustainable Pathways: Learning From the Past and Shaping the Future
In anticipation of the 100th Annual Meeting in 2015, the 98th Annual Ecological Society of America Meeting will look to the past as guidance in understanding and predicting future trends in ecosystem dynamics and services. With the backdrop of the beautiful city of Minneapolis, this meeting will capture the long influence of the ESA on ecology, and will set the stage for events leading to the centennial meeting. Long-term data, from fossil and pollen records, environmental proxies and observations that date in some cases from the early 1900s, provide the historical context and an important baseline for future trajectories. However, the future of Planet Earth is far from certain or predictable based on its past. Global drivers are changing in slope, magnitude, and direction, novel organisms are being introduced or developed, no-analog communities are forming, and humans continue to modify and interact with their environment. Historic legacies provide the template for these complex interactions. Developing and maintaining sustainable trajectories in the midst of these certain, yet highly unpredictable, changes that affect and interact with ecological systems is a critical challenge for ecologists, and provide the theme of the 98th meeting.
Minneapolis provides an excellent venue for ecologists to meet and discuss sustainable trends in the future of Planet Earth. From green cuisine to green buildings, transportation, and an emphasis on local agriculture, the city is an exemplar for sustainable living. Minneapolis is a good place to learn from past insights of city leaders. Circa 1883 the city (then with 50,000 people) created a parkway system that encircled the city with walking and bike paths, making most of the city’s waterfront on its chain of lakes and the Mississippi River into public space. Today these parks comprise one of the world’s greenest inner city environments, in a metro area with 3,300,000 people, including such gems as the Eloise Butler wildflower garden, and a quaking bog. Minneapolis is set in the midst of a transition across three biomes. There are few cities where one can, within a few hours, reach vast areas of grasslands, deciduous forests, boreal forests, and at least 10,000 lakes. The sustainability issues dealt with by Minnesotans thus range from agricultural practices and water quality to fisheries management and sustained yield forestry.