Christopher Field wins the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award for revealing the utility of ecosystem management as a weapon against climate
Monday, Jan 13, 2014

MADRID, Jan. 9, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Climate Change category has gone in this sixth edition to U.S. biologist Christopher Field, Director of the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science and a professor at Stanford University (United States), for discovering the importance of ecosystems and their effective management in the battle against climate change. Field's work has allowed to quantify the global climate impact of deforestation, agriculture and other changes in vegetation cover. And vice versa. It has helped predict how climate change will impact on land ecosystems.

CO2 exchange between ecosystems and the atmosphere is a full twenty times greater than human-induced emissions. Field's insights have brought this evidence to light by quantifying how ecosystems influence the amount of carbon circulating in the atmosphere. Not only that, they have shown that terrestrial vegetation plays a part in global climate control by modifying water evaporation and the solar radiation absorbed by the planet.

It was this, the jury explains, that led to the conclusion that effective ecosystem management can aid in mitigating climate change.

In the words of the jury, the award recognizes "Field's fundamental contributions to understanding the interactions between the dynamics of plants and land ecosystems and CO2 released through human activities."

"His visionary research on the global carbon cycle demonstrated that projections of future climate require the explicit consideration of land ecosystems and their management," the citation continues.

Among the achievements singled out by the jury is that Field has crossed the boundary from basic science to climate change impact research, and cut a leading path in liaison between scientists and policymakers.

Field is currently co-chairing Working Group 2 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), assessing impacts, adaptation and vulnerability in the face of climate change. This group will shortly release its fifth report – the fourth was published in 2007 – a key document which, like the rest of the IPCC's reviews, aspires to serve as input to subsequent policy decisions.

Field, who was informed of his win during an IPCC Working Group meeting in the Netherlands, declared himself "quite overcome", adding that he sees the award as "a recognition for the whole community of climate scientists, because science advances through the work of thousands of individuals." The honor, he believes, will confer more visibility on the field:

"It's tremendously important for the world community to realize the importance of climate change and climate science."

In the IPCC, Field coordinates the work of hundreds of scientists all over the world, and must also debate with those responsible for signing off the report; a task he describes as "complicated but enriching." "The IPCC," he explains, "is a unique institution. Right now we are hundreds of scientists working very hard to understand what is known and not known about climate impacts and adaptations, those that have already occurred but also those predicted for the future."

The BBVA Foundation is aided in the organization of the awards by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the country's premier multidisciplinary research organization. The CSIC is responsible for appointing the Technical Evaluation Committees that undertake an initial assessment of candidates and draw up a reasoned shortlist for the consideration of the juries.

In the Climate Change category, Committee members were Jordi Bascompte, CSIC Research Professor at Donana Biological Station; Xavier Querol, CSIC Research Professor in the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research; Rafael Simo, a CSIC researcher in the Institute of Marine Sciences; and Fernando Valladares, CSIC Research Professor in the Spanish Museum of Natural Sciences.

The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards, devised and organized from Spain, provide an international showcase for the best qualities of Spanish science. Their credibility, the stature of the institutions, research centers and scientists nominating and assessing candidates, and the excellence of the laureates in all editions have earned them a firm place among the world's foremost award schemes.

Climate Change jury

The jury in this category was chaired by Bjorn Stevens, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (Germany), with Carlos Duarte, Research Professor of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and Director of the UWA Oceans Institute at the University of Western Australia, acting as secretary. Remaining members were Miquel Canals, Professor of Marine Geology in the Geology School at the University of Barcelona (Spain); Sandrine Bony-Lena, senior scientist at the Laboratoire de Meteorologie Dynamique (LMD), run jointly by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and University Pierre et Marie Curie (France); Kirsten Halsnæs, Head of the Climate Program at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU); and Edward Rubin, Professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University (United States).

SOURCE BBVA Foundation

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