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Society of Environmental
Toxicology and Chemistry
Sunday, 15 May, 18:30–19:00
Ecotoxicology examined: current issues and trends
In the second half of 20th century ecotoxicology developed to a large extent through “jumping” from one urgent issue to another. We had thus the bioconcentration and biomagnification boom in 1970s through 1980s, standardization of ecotoxicological tests took our minds mostly in 1990s, and we entered 21st century diving enthusiastically into the ‘omics’. While this picture is probably typical for any young science, the grown-up fields let the scientists harvest many crops. I believe that ecotoxicology is just entering its maturity. Hence, when asked by the conference organizers to give a plenary lecture on “New trends in ecotoxicology”, I realized that it is not as easy to identify them today as it used to be in the past. The ‘omics’ is still with us but can hardly be called now the “new trend”. At the same time, we have come back to problems noticed already years ago, like toxicity of complex mixtures and influence of natural factors on toxic effects of pollutants. We are also looking beyond simple standard tests and urge the decision makers to consider more elaborate methods of ecological risk assessment. Not being quite sure whether this is just my personal viewpoint – possibly a reflection of loosing the track? – I made a short poll among colleague ecotoxicologists. The result was the same: none (sic!) of the responders was eager to name just one novel trend, and the responses were widely spread across different topics. Almost equal number of researchers found the most important issues in toxicokinetics and toxicodynamics, landscape and ecosystem ecotoxicology, interactions between chemicals and natural factors, population-level modeling, or chemical mixtures. Further topics included nanoparticles – the only problem that can be indeed called reasonably novel, and methods for extrapolating results of laboratory tests to real-field scenarios. Is that a bad sign that top scientists are not able to identify novel trends in the subject of their interest? I do not think so: as mentioned above, I believe that this is the sign of maturation (of ecotoxicology, not the scientists...). Despite the difficulty with naming novel issues, there are, however, some very interesting trends and processes undergoing in ecotoxicology nowadays, certainly deserving a closer look and a discussion. Among them are both purely scientific ones and societal, and both groups will be addressed in my lecture.
Monday, 16 May, 16:30–17:15
Ecosystem services, environmental protection and SETAC: preventing and adapting to the "perfect storm"
Ecosystems provide us with the essentials for life – food to eat, water to drink, fibre for clothes and shelter, fuel to keep us warm. However, they do more than that; they play a key role in climate regulation through carbon sequestration, flood prevention through water retention and runoff regulation, and water purification through filtration processes and microbial activity. They are places where we go to relax, to participate in recreational activities or simply to be inspired by the wonders of the natural world. Moreover, ecosystems perform essential processes such as nutrient and water cycling and the production of biomass. These benefits to people are termed ecosystem services and they are provided by all ecosystems.
The growing human population is putting increased pressure on ecosystems and their ability to provide the services we require. It is estimated that by 2030, world food demands will increase by 50%, energy demands will rise by 50%, water demands will increase by over 30% and 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Overlay climate change and you have the ingredients for what was described by John Beddington, the UK government’s chief scientist, as the “perfect storm”.
Managing landscapes for the provision of the ecosystem services we require (e.g. food, water, energy, minerals), whist at the same time protecting the biodiversity on which many of these services depend, is a major challenge, but one to which the SETAC community can make a valuable contribution. This keynote presentation will consider this challenge and the opportunities it provides for environmental scientists.
Tuesday, 17 May, 16:30–17:15
Exposure science - the link between hazard and risk
We are facing the challenge of assessing the exposure to a huge number of chemicals and other stressors. Exposure science is the platform for generating better exposure information which is highly needed for reliable risk assessment and protection, prevention and sustainability of the environment and human health. The lack of relevant exposure information is often a problem in regulatory decision-making and risk reduction. Development and harmonization of methods for characterizing, estimating, modelling, measuring, and quantifying exposure will result in more efficient risk reduction in the future. Toxicologists, epidemiologists, environmental and human health scientists, risk assessors and risk managers are all using a number of different data sources and methods to estimate and analyse exposure information. It is time to start working together, and to learn from each other. Together we can identify data gaps and shape the future of exposure science for more reliable decision-making. Exposure science is the crucial link between hazard information and risk. It has a great potential to meet the need for suitable methods to obtain the exposure information required by new chemical legislations and regulatory frameworks.
Wednesday, 18 May, 16:30–17:15
Toward sustainable solutions
A high and sustainable quality of life is a central goal for humanity. Our current socio-ecological regime and its set of interconnected worldviews, institutions, and technologies all support the vision of unlimited growth of material production and consumption as a proxy for quality of life. However, abundant evidence shows that, beyond a certain threshold, further material growth no longer significantly contributes to improvement in quality of life. Not only does further material growth not meet humanity’s central goal, there is mounting evidence that it creates significant roadblocks to sustainability through increasing resource constraints (i.e., peak oil, water limitations) and sink constraints (i.e., climate disruption). Overcoming these roadblocks and creating a sustainable and desirable future will require an integrated, systems level redesign of our socio-ecological regime focused explicitly and directly on the goal of sustainable quality of life rather than the proxy of unlimited material growth. This transition, like all cultural transitions, will occur through an evolutionary process, but one that we, to a certain extent, can control and direct through the process of shared envisioning. Visions and models of integrated sets of worldviews, institutions, and technologies are needed to stimulate and seed this evolutionary redesign. The process of creating a shared vision of the future is also a key element of real democracy.