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Volvo Awards Stanford Professor Annual Environment Prize

Stockholm, Sweden-based Volvo Group last week named Professor Harold Mooney of Stanford University in California the recipient of its 2010 Volvo Environment Prize. Mooney is one of the world’s leading researchers into biodiversity and ecosystem services, an area currently attracting global attention.

The Volvo Environment Prize is an annual scientific award now presented for the 21st time. This year’s prizewinner has for many years been a leader in biological diversity research and especially how important it is for the functioning of ecosystem services. This concept has been widely acknowledged in recent years, perhaps mainly due to an international research program, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, where Professor Mooney played a leading role.

Ecosystem services are the functions of an ecosystem that in some ways benefit mankind. The most obvious are food or materials that most people recognize as delivered by ecosystems: wood, fish, fruit and vegetables, or other things that we can more or less extract directly. But other functions are also of vital importance, such as pollinating insects or the cleansing of air, soil or water. One example is when oil released into the Gulf of Mexico after the explosion of the BP oil-drilling rig, was digested by oil-consuming microorganisms. Another example is adjustment of the atmosphere’s chemical composition by the organisms in the biosphere.

“We take these functions for granted, but they are exposed to great threat today,” said Harold Mooney. “Water is being polluted, soil is being degraded and biologically rich seas and forests are being depleted. This brings the risk that ecosystem services will increasingly fail to provide for and protect us.”

Several internationally prominent scientists serve on the Volvo Environment Prize jury. Their citation says, in part: “He has championed the idea that biodiversity is a key piece in ecosystem functioning, contributing to the shift in perspective from a species-centered approach to one based on ecosystems and the services they provide to humanity.”

“I feel very honored at this news,” said Mooney. “The Volvo Environment Prize has extremely high status in scientific circles and I look forward to coming to Sweden later in the fall for the prize ceremony and to meet Swedish research colleagues.”

Mooney is a professor of Environmental Biology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and senior fellow of the Institute for International Studies, at Stanford. His scientific production includes 35 books as well as articles in Science and Nature. He is one of the most frequently quoted researchers in ecology and environmental sciences.

The Volvo Environment Prize is an annual award given to people for outstanding scientific discoveries or inventions within the area of environment and sustainable development. The prize is funded by Volvo but awarded by an independent foundation. The prize consists of a diploma, a glass sculpture and a cash sum of SEK 1.5 million (about U.S. $200,000).

For more information about the Volvo Environment Prize, visit www.environment-prize.com.

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