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The Frontiers Planet Prize announces 2024 International Champions

The Frontiers Planet Prize, endorsed by the International Science Council, announced its champions. Three International champions receive 1.1 million US dollars to accelerate their planet-saving research.

The Frontiers Planet Prize has announced its 2024 International Champions. The Prize recognizes and rewards scientists whose groundbreaking research accelerates solutions to help humanity remain safely within the nine planetary boundaries. The three winning scientists, Dr. Pedro Jaureguiberry, Instituto Multidisciplinario de Biología Vegetal (Argentina), Professor Peter Haase, Senckenberg Society for Nature Research (Germany), and Professor Jason Rohr, University of Notre Dame (USA), were each awarded 1.1 million (USD) / 1 million (CHF) to support their research.

The International Champions award-winning research articles for the 2024 Frontiers Planet Prize are:

Dr. Pedro Jaureguiberry, Argentina

What are the drivers that have the greatest impact on our biodiversity? Is it climate change, pollution, or exploitation of our natural resources?

Dr. Jaureguiberry’s award winning research explores the balance of our ecological systems, crucial for human well-being, and the impact of human activities leading to biodiversity loss. In a groundbreaking study, land and sea use change and direct exploitation of natural resources have been identified as the main drivers of this loss. Interestingly, these primary factors are subject to variations in different regions and types of ecosystems, with oceans being predominantly affected by direct exploitation and climate change. This revelation has been instrumental in shaping global sustainability targets for the forthcoming decade and has unveiled vital areas for future exploration. The aim of this research is to foster a deeper understanding of these impacts and pave the way for implementing the most important measures to secure the future of our planet.

Commenting on the impact of this research, Dr. Jaureguiberry said: “Our research’s insights on drivers of biodiversity loss are key to informing effective policies and for transformative action.”

Prof. Peter Haase, Germany

Did you know that our vital freshwater ecosystems are under serious threat, urgently demanding further actions for their recovery?

The vitally important freshwater ecosystems, although constituting just 2% of the Earth’s surface but amazingly sheltering 10% of all animal species, are found to be under tremendous threat caused by various human activities. These biodiversity-rich locales providing indispensable clean water have been heavily tarnished by pollution, dam construction, and climate changes. Some recovery had been witnessed due to mitigation measures, but regrettably this progress was halted around 2010. Professor Haase’s research highlights that further legislative action, such as improved wastewater treatment and reduced pesticide use, needs to be pursued. These measures, when implemented, not only safeguard freshwater biodiversity but also mitigate risks of flooding and drought. With the pressure mounting on these ecosystems, an immediate and collective response is deemed more essential than ever before.

Professor Haase reiterated the importance of policy in protecting the planet, saying: “Legislative measures can promote recovery in freshwater ecosystems, but recovery recently stalled, thus further action is critically needed.”

Prof. Jason Rohr, USA

Did you know changes in community-driven agricultural practices can impact the prevalence of schistosomiasis, a disease that puts over 800 million people at risk worldwide?

Poverty, health, and environmental issues, which are often seen separately, are being reimagined as intersections, marking a missed opportunity for “win-win” solutions. Professor Rohr’s award-winning research outlines an innovative, grassroots, initiative to highlight this novel stance though a project that tackles schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease putting more than 800 million people at risk around the globe. In this approach, invasive aquatic vegetation was removed from water access points, reducing the incidence of the disease. These plants were subsequently recycled as valuable agricultural inputs with use in compost, livestock feed, and biogas production. Overall health, wealth, food, and energy access in communities were improved due to this intersectional innovation, which is now being amplified to reach more beneficiaries globally. The project shines a spotlight on the pivotal lesson learned – that truly progressive strides towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require innovative, interconnected approaches that tackle multiple issues simultaneously. This marks a fundamental shift necessary in the scientific and socio-economic paradigms to effectively fulfill the SDGs.

Considering the interconnected nature of many climate-related topics, Professor Rohr said: “We hope that our innovation will serve as a prototype and inspiration for other planetary health innovations that address multiple SDGs.”

This year’s International Champions were revealed at the Frontiers Planet Prize Award Ceremony, hosted by the Villars Institute as part of the 2024 Villars Symposium in Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland. The International Champions were selected from a group of 23 National Champions chosen by the independent Jury of 100, a group of renowned sustainability and planetary health experts chaired by Professor Johan Rockström.

Launched by the Frontiers Research Foundation on Earth Day 2022, the Frontiers Planet Prize aims to mobilize science for a global green renaissance. The Prize is endorsed by the International Science Council in its efforts to accelerate the most impactful scientific solutions. Now in its second year, the Prize has engaged 475 leading universities and research institutions across six continents and 20 national academies of science.

The third edition of the Prize was also launched on this year’s Earth Day, with the aim to extend even further the participation of scientists, research institutions, and national academies across the globe.

Commenting on the Frontiers Planet Prize, Professor Johan Rockström, chairman of the Jury of 100 and pioneer of the Planetary Boundaries framework, stated:

The remarkable contributions of the three international winners underscore the critical importance of interdisciplinary research in safeguarding our planet’s future. Their innovative approaches exemplify the spirit of the Frontiers Planet Prize, fostering a deeper understanding of planetary boundaries and providing a roadmap for a more sustainable and resilient world.

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