Species or ecosystem? Science as a basis for priorities in nature conservation
Georgina Mace will receive the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences for developing scientific criteria for the world’s most comprehensive list of threatened species and for establishing priorities for nature conservation. She made a major contribution to the notion that healthy ecosystems and biodiversity are natural capital that render important services to humans, which is now a central concept in the nature management debate.
Since the early 1990s, Mace has been researching the complicated relationships between the extinction or survival of flora and fauna species and the condition of the ecosystems in which those species live.
• What effect does the extinction of a species have on the ecosystem?
• How does a change to the habitat affect the survival chances of individual species?
• What are the priorities in nature management?
These are issues that prompt a great deal of debate, also because economic factors play a major role.
Mace responds to these arguments not with new opinions, but rather with the power of logic and objective scientific methods.
A system of scientific criteria developed by Mace for ecosystems and species at risk was adopted in 2000 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as the basis for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The system has now been applied to more than seventy thousand species. Many countries and regions use the system to measure the seriousness of ecological changes as a basis to draw up policy priorities.
Consequently, Mace’s work has become a model of research that is effectively transformed into objectively substantiated policy advice. It has established her huge international reputation as a leading nature conservation researcher.
Georgina Mace was born in London (UK) in 1953. In 1976, she gained her bachelor degree in zoology at the University of Liverpool. Three years later, she was awarded a PhD at the University of Sussex for a study of the evolutionary ecology of small mammals.
Mace subsequently researched the impact of inbreeding on animal populations in zoos at the Smithsonian Institution in the US. In 2000, she became scientific director of the Institute of Zoology in London. In 2006, she was appointed director of the NERC Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London.
Since 2012, she has been Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystems and director of the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research at University College London.
Mace has received various awards for her work. In 2002, she was admitted to the Royal Society in the UK and in 2007 she received the International Cosmos Prize in Japan. In 2007, she was also appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her contributions to environmental sciences and in 2016 she became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to science in general.