INTECOL Wetlands in Asia after 36 years

On September 19-24 2016, about 800 wetland scientists, including myself, gathered in the beautiful city of Changshu (Jiangsu province, China) to share their findings and relative interpretations on a variety of topics: from biodiversity to pollution, from Ramsar-based wetland conservation to carbon sequestration and much more, including socio-ecological dimensions linked to wetland sustainable / unsustainable management.

Whilst participating in the 10th INTECOL Wetlands conference, it was such an honor to share ideas with, among others, Dr. Brji Gopal (photo below), who organized the 1st edition (attended by about 100 scholars) in New Dehli (India) in 1980.


With Dr. Brji Gopal in the INTECOL Wetlands plenary room.

A team of leading experts wrote the Changshu Declaration, a two page document with clear demands for policy makers on wetland conservation and sustainable management in the global environmental change era, otherwise called the Anthropocene. This was signed and approved by acclamation in the final plenary, after an important talk on wise use in Ramsar sites by Dr. Max Finlayson, another key leader of this international community of wetland scientists.

The following are a few other highlights of my 10.5 day trip (+ 2.5 travelling) to China:


The cross-Pacific route from the United States to China.

1) I was invited by my friend and University College London colleague Dr. Xuhui Dong to give a seminar at the Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology (NIGLAS) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. I ended up presenting a 1hr summary of my last 8 years of research on the algal communities of the Okavango Delta (topic of my PhD), and Everglades, which I am investigating for my post-doc at FIU. [What a great challenge it is to compare the biodiversity and ecology of microscopic algae in such amazing ecosystems!]. My Chinese colleagues’ great discussion points and friendly hospitality made this experience unforgettable: XIEXIE! (‘thank you’ in Chinese).


Starting my seminar at Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology (NIGLAS).

2) I gave my talk on my comparative research in subtropical wetlands, and co-moderated, with Guodong Wang (Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences), the “Wetlands: Monitoring and Management” session. It was the last day…but there was a very good participation, and we had the chance to discuss (& get advice from Max Finlayson), and share contact details, for about 45 minutes at the end!

3) The International Network for Next Generation Ecologists (INNGE) workshop went very well, with about 30 attendees who participated in a lively discussion about ecosystem services and disservices (for example, polluted urban wetlands with their poor water quality negatively impact homeless people living around it), the challenges of mixing anthropocentrism and ecocentrism to take care of people and the Nature, and innovative wetland research and technologies, such as the Waterharmonica initiative. Kudos to Jorge Ramos (Ph.D. Candidate at Arizona State University, ASU) for leading the team of organizers, also including Dr. Xin Leng (ASU), and myself.


During our INNGE workshop “The Next Generation of Wetland Science: Ecosystems, Applications, and Engineering”

And, for what I could experience in less than 2 weeks, China is a stunning country with a multitude of colors, places, peoples, incredible food, beautiful temples, and natural surroundings, such as the Shanghu Lake (below), part of excursions to other wetlands such as the Shajiabang National Park, where we were welcomed by a gigantic video-screening of its beautiful Nature that was set up just for us, lucky INTECOL attendees!


During the excursion to Shanghu Lake, water lotus leaves a prominent feature of this waterscape.





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