A prestigious Spanish award was given to U.S. ecologist Gene Likens and Dutch scientist Marten Scheffer for their work in helping understand the responses of ecosystems to human-induced alterations of the environment, it was announced Tuesday.
Likens and Scheffer was granted the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology.
Two Chinese members were on the jury -- Lei Guangchun from the Beijing Forestry University and Lu Yonglong from the Department of Environmental Studies at the Chinese Academy of Science.
The jury decided that Likens and Scheffer had "contributed to understanding and finding solutions for "gradual, abrupt and potentially irreversible ecosystem change", in the face of the threats caused by pollution.
Likens and Scheffer have also "transformed our understanding of how human activities are changing the structure and function of natural ecosystems, and provided tools to inform ecosystem management".
Likens' key study showed the impact of acid rain across North America and is considered "instrumental" in developing "effective policies to reduce the acid rain problem".
He is also a pioneer in carrying out long-term experimental studies of a decade or more across entire ecosystems.
Martin Scheffer, who works at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, has worked to identify the risks of abrupt changes to ecosystems.
His work showed the existence of moments known as "tipping points", which are literally points of no return after which "catastrophic and irreversible change" is bound to occur. Endit