American Ecologist Awarded Stockholm Water Prize

March 24, 2011 – Merlin Miclat

The Stockholm Water Prize this year will be presented to American environmental scientist, Stephen Carpenter for his research on lake ecosystems and how human activity and activity from the surrounding environment can affect freshwater ecosystems.

Carpenter’s most significant work is his research on trophic cascades, a concept that explains how the effects on any species in an ecosystem will move up or down the food chain. For example, excessive fishing of larger fish will decrease the population of larger fish, which will result in an increase of population of their prey, smaller fish. An increase in population of these smaller fish will decrease the population of their prey, zooplankton.

Another example would be the effect of nutrient loading, which is the introduction of nutrients from various sources from the surrounding environment, such as fertilizer from runoff water, human and animal waste, and even pollution from automobile and power plant exhaust. Fertilizer may increase the growth of algae in lakes. This algae can accumulate and block light which is needed by some aquatic plants to live. Additionally, the bacteria that decomposes the algae when they die consumes oxygen. The depletion of oxygen in the water can force species to move away from this habitat or even kill them off.

Carpenter’s work and contributions has increased awareness and our understanding of how lake ecosystems are impacted. As the Stockholm Water Prize Nominating Committee notes, “Professor Carpenter has shown outstanding leadership in setting the ecological research agenda, integrating it into a socio-ecological context, and in providing guidance for the management of aquatic resources.” Carpenter’s findings have proven to be useful to establishing guidelines in the management of not only lakes but can also apply to other types of ecosystems.

A professor of Limnology and Zoology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Professor Carpenter is one of the most respected and influential ecologists in the world and one of the most cited researchers in environmental science. He is considered by peers as a creative and enthusiastic individual and also as an inspiration to many both in and outside the field of ecology. His work involves different fields and scientific disciplines and he has been successful in collaborating and gaining the support of people both within and outside his field. He has participated in many research projects pertaining to freshwater ecosystems. He has also led and assisted students over the years in developing field experiments.

The Stockholm Water Prize is the world’s most prestigious award in water-related science and is given to those who have made significant contributions to the preservation of water resources. It was first awarded in 1991 and Carpenter will be the recipient on the prize’s 20th anniversary. The announcing of the prize winner takes place every March during the United Nation’s World Water Day. The royal award ceremony, where the winner will receive a special crystal sculpture trophy crafted by Orrefors and a monetary prize of USD 150,000, takes place during World Water Week in Stockholm every August. H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden will present the prize to Carpenter on August 25, 2011 in Stockholm City Hall during World Water Week.

Upon hearing the news of receiving the Stockholm Water Prize, Professor Carpenter said, “I am thrilled. Many great people have received the prize over the years, and there are many others whose work is worth rewarding. It is a great honor to be selected. The prize will increase my resolve and sense of obligation to work on emerging issues of freshwater, such as climate change and the connections of food and water security.”

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