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In Memoriam of Dr. Sven Erik Jørgensen

By: , Posted on: April 5, 2016

sven jorgensen

Sven Erik Jørgensen was one of the world’s most distinguished figures in systems ecology and ecological modelling.  His worldwide contributions to the development of these fields have been very significant.  With missionary zeal he traveled to over 40 countries on six continents carrying the essential message that environmental science and management can become more effective by incorporating ecological models, a strong ecosystem theory, eco-technology, ecological indicators, and ecological informatics into its mainstream activities.  He was a leading proponent and contributor of building a bridge from ecology to environmental management. Thanks to Sven Erik Jørgensen’s contributions, our approach to environmental management today is more grounded in ecological quantification and models. He was one of the most tireless and prolific individuals in the field of environmental management.  The details of his accomplishments include the following:

1) Professor Jørgensen founded the International Journal of Ecological Modelling and Systems Ecology, in 1974/75 and was Editor-in-Chief until January 1, 2009, when he became honorable editor of the journal.  The journal has grown steadily and today publishes 4000 pages per year. The journal was a forerunner in the environmental field and spawned several offshoot journals such as: Ecological Economics (1988), Ecological Engineering (1992), Ecological Indicators (2001), Ecological Complexity (2004) and Ecological Informatics (2006).  As already emphasized above, Dr. Jørgensen was a main contributor to a bridge between ecology and environmental management. In this context, it should be mentioned that Dr. Jørgensen was the Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia of Ecology, published in 2008 (together with Brian Fath) and of Encyclopedia of Environmental Management, published December 2012.

2) Prof. Jørgensen has developed many ecological models: eutrophication models for lakes, lagoons and coastal areas, wetland models (constructed wetlands, use of natural wetlands for pollution abatement and restoration of wetlands), non-point pollution models and eco-toxicological models (heavy metals, pesticides and antibiotics). UNEP has launched software with models developed by him and others, namely for deep lakes, shallow lakes, constructed subsurface wetlands, removal of BOD5 and nutrients by surface wetlands, for restoration of wetlands and for assessment of non-point pollution in a drainage area. The wetland model was a result of a Danida supported project he had with Dar es Salaam University, Tanzania. It has been further developed by a cooperation with UNEP and Fleming College, Canada, and has been used to design wetlands in 11 cases in Tanzania, 4 cases outside Tanzania in Africa, in Iraq, in Brazil, and in Northern Canada.

3) Another important contribution in this area is the publication of the textbook Fundamentals of Ecological Modelling, whose fourth edition was published in 2011. This textbook has been translated into Russian and Chinese. Prof. Jørgensen used this textbook to give ecological modelling courses in 32 different countries.  He and co-editors published a Handbook of Ecological Parameters and Ecotoxicology in two editions (2nd edition, 1992) and in the third edition as a CD named Ecotox corresponding to 3800 pages of text and tables.  In 1995, Sven Erik Jørgensen and two coworkers published a handbook in Ecological and Environmental Modelling that gave an overview of 450 models that could be used by other modelers as a basis for development of their own models. With T.S. Chon (Pusan) and F. Recknagel (Adelaide) he edited a Handbook of Ecological Modelling and Informatics. This book gives an overview of all types of ecological models and contain a CD with an illustration of each model type.

4) Dr. Jørgensen founded, together with Asit K. Biswas, the International Society of Ecological Modeling (ISEM), in Copenhagen in 1978. He was society president from 1978 until 1996 and 2007 to until his death.

5) Prof. Jørgensen has been an international leader to advance ecology toward theory on one side and environmental management on the other.  He has long held that we have an ecosystem theory that can be applied to explain empirical observations and confront the common environmental problems we have today. His book on the Integration of Ecosystem Theory: A Pattern, first published in 1992 and as a third edition in 2002, was the first attempt to demonstrate such an ecosystem theory and that the various contributions to it form a coherent pattern.  A book entitled Toward a Thermodynamic Theory for Ecosystems (2004) with Svirezhev, Eco-exergy as Sustainability (2006), and Introduction to Systems Ecology (2012), followed in a similar theme.  These culminated in his last book, Flourishing within the Limits to Growth: Following nature’s way (with Fath, Nielsen, Pulselli, Fiscus, and Bastianoni).  This book was the collective effort of six member of the Club of Siena, but was largely motivated and championed by Sven’s tireless drive.  In this book, the application of ecological systems approaches is directly modelled into human economics and society with the intent to learn to make a better place and better way of doing things.

6) Sven Erik Jørgensen understood early that ecology and systems ecology have a strong potential to improve environmental management.  He contributed to ecological engineering and the use of ecological indicators for the assessment of ecosystem health.  His proposal to use exergy-based (work energy or work capacity) indicators has found good acceptance; see for instance Handbook of Ecological Indicators for the Assessment of Ecosystem Health, published by CRC as a second edition in 2010.  The nineteen ecological principles that he presented in the book Ecological Engineering and Ecosystem Restoration (Mitsch and Jørgensen, 2003) have also been used in papers and book-chapters on different ecosystems.

7) He was particularly involved in lake ecology. He has been member of ILEC (International Lake Environment Committee) from its foundation in 1986 and to 2006 and as chairman of the scientific committee from 1994–2006.

With all these activities and achievements, it would be hard to find a scientist more committed and effective in promoting the fields of ecological modeling and systems ecology, and in generally raising the level of theoretical ecology and making it available to the world’s empirical ecologists.  His work was always motivated by a need to improve environmental conditions and quality of living for all citizens of the world.

Sven was a great scientist, and those of us fortunate to say we knew him well, will also remember what a warm, generous person he was.  There was always a smile on his face and a curiosity for learning something knew.  He always found time for young scientists and was displayed youthful enthusiasm about new ideas – he had his own strong ideas but always wanted science to be an open forum.  He exhibited overwhelming fairness and the urge to reconcile differences among exiting theories and directions.  He welcomed different perspectives, yet was quick to see the common patterns and overlaps they shared.  His real passion was for integration and using scientific knowledge to improve environmental management.  Sven arranged so many projects, meetings, workshops, books, special issues, etc., that he touched many, many people.  He walked across the world and was welcome everywhere.  Sven, your legacy will persist, but you will be sorely missed.

Brian D. Fath, Towson, Maryland, USA

A note from Elsevier’s Acquisitions Editor

I only had the honor of getting to know Sven in the last year, when I started as the new Ecology and Environmental Science Acquisitions Editor here at Elsevier. I was struck with the energy, drive and fervor he had for his work.  He was a force of nature of his own, and I am glad I was able to know him, even if it was brief.


Laura Spence Kelleher

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