Miller Lecture and Coffee Hour: Sustainability trade-offs in the Andes and Amazon of Peru

Friday, October 25, 2013 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm
Refreshments are offered at 3:00 p.m. in the E. Willard Miller seminar room, 319 Walker Building The lecture begins at 4:00 p.m. in the John J. Cahir Auditorium, 112 Walker Building

Sustainability Trade-offs in the Andes and Amazon of Peru


About the Miller Lecture

The department's Miller Lecture Series is designed to bring eminent geographers to Penn State and is a gift to the Department of Geography from the late E. Willard Miller. Miller was a Professor of Geography, department head, and associate dean emeritus in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

About the talk

Although sustainable use of natural resources is a desirable societal goal, in fact there are considerable challenges in implementing conservation strategies that are ecologically feasible while also respecting social and economic considerations. This talk will explore some of the trade-offs necessary for taking into account biological diversity and ecosystem services. This will be done across a range of natural and utilized landscapes in the tropical Andes and the western Amazon. Important external drivers include the effects of climate change, of infrastructure development, and of socio-economic transformations. For example, tropical montane cloud forests offer many biodiversity conservation opportunities because human settlement is limited, while their hydrological functions are assumed to provide downstream benefits. High Andean landscapes with glaciers are experiencing some of the world’s most dramatic climate-caused changes, with glacier recession driving shifts in land cover and behind increasing stress acting upon water supplies and demands. In Peru, the biophysical changes are accompanied by dramatic expansions of irrigated agriculture, tree plantings, hydroelectric facilities, mines, and urban areas, thus needing the consideration of the coupled effects of both biophysical and the socio-economic processes. Finally, the northern Peruvian Amazon is mostly forested and much of it is managed by indigenous groups or local communities; however, likely development scenarios include plans for petroleum extraction, oil palm plantations, and road building, implying that deforestation and environmental degradation by external drivers of change are predictable, unless biodiversity and ecosystem services were to be included in environmental planning.  


About the speaker

Ken YoungKenneth Young's Ph.D. is from the Department of Geography, University of Colorado at Boulder. Previously he obtained a M.S. in botany (University of Florida) and a B.S. in ecology, ethology, and evolution (University of Illinois). He has spent extended periods in tropical countries, including research in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru, in addition to U.S. Peace Corps service in Guatemala. He came to the University of Texas in 2000, after being an assistant and associate professor in the University of Maryland Baltimore County for seven years.

Young teaches a wide range of courses in physical geography and human-environment interactions, including Biogeography, Climate Change, Comparative Ecosystems, Landscape Ecology, and the Natural Environment. He regularly teaches a topics graduate seminar in Biodiversity Conservation.

Kenneth Young does policy-relevant research that informs biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. He does this by linking biogeography and landscape ecology to questions of ecosystem dynamics and aspects of global environmental and socioeconomic change. He has worked in natural and utilized landscapes in tropical areas and aspires to understand the global tropics, especially as affected by humans. He studies protected areas in relation to conservation biology, to climate change, and to land use. Most recently he has been splitting his research efforts between high Andean landscapes and the tropical forests and floodplains of the western Amazon.