Osvaldo Sala, a professor at Arizona State University and a drylands expert, has been elected president of the Ecological Society of America, the largest group of ecologists in the world. Sala — the Julie A. Wrigley Professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences and in the School of Sustainability and who is the founding director of ASU’s Global Drylands Center — is the first Hispanic president of the ESA.
ESA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit community of more than 9,000 scientists, researchers, policy makers and educators dedicated to understanding life on Earth and all of its complexities and interdependencies.
“It is an enormous honor to serve the largest body of ecologists dedicated to understanding ecological systems and devising the best practices for sustaining biodiversity and the ability of ecosystems to provide vital services to humans,” Sala said.
Sala was elected to a three-year term on the ESA governing board. He will serve as the president-elect beginning in August 2018, as president in 2019 and as past-president in 2020. Knowing that humans are at a key moment in their relationship with the planet, Sala said the time for communication and thoughtful action is now.
“I want to listen and engage ecologists so that together we can devise mechanisms that effectively address the challenging environmental issues of relevance not only to research but also environmental policy and management,” he explained. “As rollbacks on environmental protections threaten natural resources, the Ecological Society of America is playing an increasingly important role highlighting the links between human well-being and nature while continuing to strengthen our understanding of ecological systems. I want to concentrate my efforts in anticipating challenges and opportunities for the ESA in a world in which the traditional role of scientific societies is evolving rapidly.”
Sala helped launch the ASU Global Drylands Center in 2017 to engage key stakeholders in dryland stewardship and develop solutions for arid ecosystems around the world. Sala’s research has similarly focused on the functioning of arid ecosystems and their ability to provide ecosystem services, and encompasses several scales from local to global.
Climate change affects arid ecosystems primarily through changes in water availability. Sala has focused a large part of his research on understanding the effects of precipitation patterns in space and time on the production of ecosystems. His research has contributed to understanding the biogeochemical and structural mechanisms that lead to lags in water availability.
Sala has also explored the consequences of changes in biodiversity on the functioning of ecosystems. At the global scale, he has developed scenarios of biodiversity change for the next 50 to 100 years. Sala is particularly interested in working with scenarios as a way of simplifying, understanding and communicating the complex relationships that emerge from social-ecological systems.