Professor Alan Covich of the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology will present a keynote address on “Sediments and Biodiversity: Bridging the Gap between Science and Policy” at an international conference sponsored by the European Sediment Network in Venice, Italy, on April 7, 2011.
Covich, the current president of INTECOL, the International Association for Ecology, will speak on freshwater sediments and the importance of biodiversity. He is co-editor of the book Ecology and Classification of North American Freshwater Invertebrates, published in 2010 by Academic Press.
“The role of species diversity in sustaining freshwater ecosystem processes and natural ecosystems services is well understood by ecologists but not widely appreciated by policy makers and the general public,” Covich said. “Native filter-feeding invertebrates and others that break down organic matter and recycle nutrients are essential in provisioning clean drinking water. Many of these species live in or on sediments and actively influence the quality of over-lying waters.”
Covich said that comparative, long-term studies of freshwater biodiversity at sites ranging from temperate to tropical ecosystems are providing insights about how to sustain freshwater biodiversity in the face of increased disturbances due to climate change. “Climatic changes are altering the frequency and intensity of disturbances that directly and indirectly affect freshwater ecosystem processes,” he said. “Floods, droughts and hurricanes are predicted to increase in frequency, variability and intensity. Sea level is already rising in many coastal zones and disrupting food webs and supplies of water resources. Cumulative effects of these widespread changes will add new challenges in sustaining ecosystem services provided by rivers, lakes and wetlands.”
The European Sediment Network focuses on freshwater, estuarine and marine sediment resources at the river basin scale. The group, which includes representatives from science, industry and government, holds international workshops and conferences addressing scientific, policy and management issues relating to sediment-based ecosystems and sediment contamination.