Tom Lovejoy, prominent conservation biologist, dies at age 80


  • Tom Lovejoy, a prominent and influential conservation biologist who helped catalyze a global movement to save life on Earth as we know it, has passed away. He was 80 years old.
  • Lovejoy was known as a pioneer of modern conservation efforts, a passionate advocate for wildlife and wild places, and a great thinker who came up with bold and innovative ideas.
  • Lovejoy is credited with coining the term ‘biodiversity’, developing the concept of ‘debt-for-nature’ swaps and being one of the first to sound the alarm bells about the global extinction crisis.
  • “Tom was a beloved icon in the conservation field: a mentor to many, a friend to all,” said Mark Plotkin, conservation biologist and ethnobotanist. “He fought for biodiversity and against climate change through his ideas, his writings, his projects, his initiatives and everything he shaped and inspired.

Thomas E. Lovejoy III, a prominent and influential conservation biologist who helped catalyze a global movement to save the Amazon rainforest and served as an advisor to a wide range of world leaders on environmental issues, has passed away. He was 80 years old.

Lovejoy was known as a pioneer of modern conservation efforts, a passionate advocate for wildlife and wild places, and a great thinker who came up with bold and innovative ideas to protect the planet. He is credited with coining the term “biological diversity”, developing the concept of “debt-for-nature” swaps, and being one of the first to warn of the extent of loss of species in the world and to elevate the issue of climate change as a global problem. problem.

“Tom, more than anyone in history, has been responsible for placing Brazil, the Amazon and all of South America on the international conservation agenda,” said Russell Mittermeier, a conservation biologist who has worked with Lovejoy for almost 50 years. “On top of that, he was among the very first to bring the world’s attention to climate change and was arguably the greatest of all to link biodiversity and climate change, which he has continued to do until ‘nowadays. “

Tom Lovejoy with Regina Luizao from INPA in the Amazon. Photo credit: William F. Laurance

Lovejoy led the Minimum Critical Size of Ecosystems in the Amazon project, which dramatically improved biologists’ understanding of the impacts of habitat fragmentation and helped raise global concern about deforestation in the Amazon. He also helped transform the World Wildlife Fund from what was then a small NGO into a conservation giant working on issues on a global scale and founded the public television series Nature, which has informed and inspired countless people.

“In many ways he was the original ‘biopolitician’ – a leading scientist who was just as comfortable being around prime ministers and senators as he was being a field biologist in the United States. muddy knees, ”said conservation biologist William F. Laurance, who took over the leadership of Lovejoy’s Minimum Critical Ecosystem Size project before the initiative was renamed the Forest Fragment Biological Dynamics Project (BDFFP). “BDFFP has become one of the world’s most important field research and experimentation stations and Tom has used it as a platform to introduce politicians, dignitaries and celebrities to the wonders of the Amazon rainforest. . “

The Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments project examined the effect of habitat size and fragmentation on forest health and ecology.  Image credit: Maxar Technologies.
The Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments project investigated how habitat size and fragmentation affects forest health and ecology. Image credit: Maxar Technologies.

Lovejoy was a prolific writer whose work ranged from articles published in prestigious academic journals to thought-provoking articles in the world’s most widely read newspapers. He has won numerous accolades, from the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement to the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award to the Blue Planet Prize.

Lovejoy has held many positions during his six-decade conservation career, including advising several Presidents, the World Bank, the United Nations Foundation, and numerous NGOs. He continued to be actively engaged in conservation during the last weeks of his life.

Thomas Lovejoy.  Photo credit: William F. Laurance
Tom Lovejoy. Photo credit: William F. Laurance

“Tom was a beloved icon in the conservation arena: a mentor to many, a friend to all,” said Mark Plotkin, conservation biologist and ethnobotanist, Amazon Conservation Team. “He fought for biodiversity and against climate change through his ideas, his writings, his projects, his initiatives and everything he shaped and inspired.

This is news in development. Mongabay plans to post a more detailed obituary on Tom Lovejoy.

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