Scientists should react much more quickly to acute environmental threats

25th Anniversary Prince Bernhard Chair of WWF and Utrecht University

Scientists should analyse the consequences of critical natural threats, such as the drivers of deforestation, much more quickly. This would enable nature conservation organisations to be more effective. The World Wildlife Fund and four international professors made this appeal during the 25th anniversary of the Prince Bernhard Chair for International Nature Conservation at Utrecht University.

“Scientists can't just watch from the sidelines as forests disappear at an alarming pace. Research increasingly has to aim at acute problems that demand a rapid but well-grounded solution”, asserts Professor Bill Laurance, the current chair holder of the Prince Bernhard Chair.

Detrimental effects

“Scientific research into nature conservation has developed strongly in the last 25 years,” observes WWF Director Johan van de Gronden. “It has resulted in nature conservation organisations working more evidence-based. However, due to increasing economic pressure, developments such as deforestation have accelerated. We cannot afford to wait for years for the results of scientific research.”

Van de Gronden names Gabon, Malaysia and Suriname as examples of countries that are constructing roads in jungles at a rapid pace for activities such as oil development and mining, while hardly any research is being conducted into the detrimental effects.

"If we want to be able to influence such far-reaching decisions, organisations such as the WWF need swift scientific analyses, which outline the consequences of policy proposals. All four chair holders of the Prince Bernhard Chair are examples of visionary scientists who have succeeded in influencing policy."

The Prince Bernhard Chair

The Prince Bernhard Chair was founded in 1986 at the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Prince Bernhard. The chair was initiated in honour of Prince Bernhard’s crucial role in international nature conservation. The objective of the chair is to enhance the scientific bases of nature conservation, stimulate the interaction between science and practice, and to train students in international nature conservation.

Chair holders

Four international icons of scientific research in the area of nature conservation have held the chair in the past 25 years:

1987-1992: Prof. Norman Myers: Professor Myers was the man behind the policy to use funding for the most vulnerable 'hot spots' instead of dividing it over several projects. This notion has become the basic concept of several major nature conservation organisations.

1994-2003: Prof. Jeffrey Sayer: Professor Sayer worked both in the science division and in the policy and practice of nature conservation, which makes him the personification of the relationship between those fields. He is a strong advocate for research into social, economic and ecological aspects of nature conservation.

2004-2009: Prof. Francis (Jack) Putz: Professor Putz was the founder of sustainable forest management and the scientific basis for certification of tropical hardwood. He is an influential advocate of sustainable use of nature instead of just protecting vulnerable nature reserves.

2010-present: Prof. William (Bill) Laurance: Professor Laurance is one of the most influential researchers into man's influence on vulnerable eco-systems. This year, he received the prestigious International Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences for his research into the consequences of logging, hunting and forest fires on the Amazon rainforest, and for the way in which he stimulates the social debate on the protection of tropical eco-systems.

More information 

Monica van der Garde, press officer of the Faculty of Science, +31 6 13 66 14 38,