Brief history of BIOGEOMON
The series of (BIO)GEOMON symposia was brought to life by the Czech Geological Survey, Prague, at a time when the Czech Republic was still behind the Iron Curtain. As early as in the 1970s, Bedrich Moldan and Tom Paces of the Survey's Geochemistry Department started hydrogeochemical monitoring of small catchments in the Central European region later known as "The Black Triangle". At that time, spruce die-back in the Erzgebirge Mts. was well under way. Nearly half of the world's soft coal was produced in the area, with most of the coal burnt in Soviet-style power plants lacking desulphurization. The coal contained 3 wt. % of sulfur. Between 1975 and 1990, over 1000 km2 of spruce stands died back in the area, mainly above the elevation of 700 meters. For most of the time, the Communist governments of the Czech Republic (then part of Czechoslovakia), East Germany and Poland were denying any problem, and pictures of the fish-bone silhouettes of dead spruce were hardly ever leaked to the West. It was unthinkable for local researchers to publish air-borne concentrations of pollutants, with the one notable exception of Tom Paces's 1985 Nature paper on sources of acidification in Central Europe. It was in this unfriendly environment when Bedrich Moldan and Tom Paces decided to invite the leading environmental geochemists, partly personal friends from the Prague Spring political thaw of 1968-1970, to Prague to discuss elemental mass balances in spruce-decline affected catchments. The meeting was named GEOMON. Over 150 participants, mainly Westerners, gathered in the sumptuous Art-Nouveau Municipal House in the Old Town of Prague in 1987. The authoritities were caught unprepared: A suprise field trip took symposium participants for an ispection of the critically-ill ecosystems of the Erzgebirge Mountains, and the word about severity of damage spead across Western Europe and North America. Right after the Velvet Revolution, which ousted the Communists in 1989 , Bedrich Moldan, the founder of GEOMON, became a Cabinet Minister in the new democratic government.
GEOMON was renamed BIOGEOMON in 1992 when the second meeting was held also in Prague. The meeting attracted 200 scientists from 27 countries of Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia. The focus shifted from long-term catchment monitoring to understanding the mechanisms behind changes in the source/sink behavior of catchments. As signalled by the change in name, the second meeting recognized that assesment of anthropogenic effects on ecosystem processes requires a combination of traditional monitoring with other appproaches, such as catchment-level manipulations, biogeochemical studies, empirical and process modelling and use of isotopic tracers. Full-length refereed papers resulting from the symposium were published as a Special Issue of Water, Air and Soil Pollution, the team of guest editors was lead by Jiri Cerny. Preparation of the scientific program was coordinated by Martin Novak of the Czech Geological Survey.
In 1997, the series continued when Kel Wieder of Villanova University, Pa., a biologist and a popular thesis supervisor of international students, agreed to chair the Organizing Committee. The third BIOGEOMON, held at Villanova in the U. S., was the largest meeting in the series sofar, with 240 participants from 28 countries on five continents, and broadest in scope. This first overseas BIOGEOMON concentrated on approaches toward minimizing future insults to the local, regional and global environment. By then, the black-box approach had been more or less substituted by studying field kinetics of biogeochemical and hydrological processes. Attention was paid to predictions of potential ecosystem responses to natural and anthropogenic change in forcing functions. Local organizers were mainly graduate students, and their enthusiasm was contagious. An ecosystem science meeting has never witnessed as many fresh flowers arranged in the lecture halls.
BIOGEOMON 2002, the 4th International Symposium on Ecosystem Behaviour was held at the University of Reading in the U. K. A young postdoctoral fellow, Hannah Prior, took charge. She had been the winner of the Best Young Scientist Award at the previous symposium at Villanova. Paul Whitehead and Heather Browning helped to make the symposium a success, Kel Wieder and Martin Novak coordinated the preparation of the scientific program. The scope of the meeting was once again broadened to include archives of global change and scaling of biogeochemical processes. Other sessions included nutrient and metal cycling in natural and restored ecosystems, stable and radiogenic isotopes in the environment, catchment manipulations and models. For a third time, Water, Air and Soil Pollution published a Special Issue, dedicated to full-legth papers resulting from BIOGEOMON. Melanie Vile of Princeton University joined the team of guest editors for this 700-page volume. Similar to the previous symposium volumes, Kluwer Publishes successfully marketed a hard-bound spin-off book containing BIOGEOMON papers.
BIOGEOMON 2006, the 5th International Symposium on Ecosystem Behavior, was held at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Tom Bullen of USGS, a noted specialist in traditional and novel isotope systems, selected the venue and coordinated the early stages of symposium organization. Later, Weixin Cheng of the University of California, and the Villanova team (Kim Scott, Melanie Vile, and Kel Wieder) were in charge of both the scientific program and local arrangements. Over 200 delegates from all over the world participated. Most Europeans enjoyed their first visit to a giant sequoia forest, while not impressed by the nearly freezing temperatures of misty mid-summer mornings in California. As always, four concurrent sessions were held. Linkages between biogechemical cycles, chaired by Heleen de Witt and Myron Mitchell attracted some of the largest crowds. Lindsay Rustad spoke about the response of terrestrial ecosystems to climate change in her warmly received opening plenary address; Mary Firestone focussed on microbial genomics. For the first time, wildfires became a major theme. Biogechemistry published a special issue of BIOGEOMON 2006 papers (Merritt Turetsky, Melanie Vile and Martin Novak served as guest editors).
BIOGEOMON 2009, the 6th International Symposium on Ecosystem Behavior, was flawlessly organized by Liisa Ukonmaanaho, Martin Forsius, Michael Starr and Tiina Nieminen in Helsinki, the capital of Finland. The meeting was hosted by the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla), the University of Helsinki, and the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). There were altogether 430 participants representing 32 different countries, including both internationally renowned scientists and students. BIOGEOMON’s emphasis continued to be on biogeochemistry as an evolving and integrated discipline, including research at the watershed, landscape, and global scales. Emphasized themes included, inter alia, environmental impacts of bioenergy production, atmosphere – forest interactions, and biogeochemistry of micronutrients and trace metals. Steve Norton was invited to give an overview of exciting recent findings in the field of biogeochemistry in his opening lecture in the splendid 18th century Great Hall. Pleanary speakers included Kevin Bishop, Joshua Shimel, Pekka Kaupi, Cindy Prescott, and Wolfgang Cramer. The carbon session was convened by Kate Lajtha and Egbert Matzner, while Christine Goodale and Bridget Emmet were in charge of the nitrogen session, to name just a few. Mid-symposium field trips led the delegates to a number of research sites in the environs of Helsinki, for example ombrotrophic peat bogs. A lavish BIOGEOMON Dinner took place in the City Hall.
BIOGEOMON 2012, the 7th International Symposium on Ecosystem Behavior, was organized by Steve Norton and Ivan Fernandez of the University of Maine. The delegates spent a lovely week at the Point Lookout Resort in Northport, Maine, U.S., near a picturesque coastline. The participants were put up in luxurious wooden cabins hidden in sun-lit forests, and dined on red lobster. BIOGEOMON 2012 attracted over 200 participants from 18 countries. There were 20 invited speakers, 120 contributed talks and 90 poster presentations. Senator George J. Mitchell, former U.S. Senate majority leader, who had led the successuful reauthorization of the Clean Air Act in 1990, gave a keynote speech. The six symposium plenaries stressed the use of time-series data to define the trajectory of our past environments, and project ecosystem behavior into the future. The plenary speakers were: Paul Mayewski, Daniel Engstrom, Jiří Kopáček, Filip Moldan, Emily Berhhardt, and Kevin Boyle. To a great extent, it is the enthusiasm and hard work of individual session convenors, that make our symposium a success. To name just a few: Nancy Dise, Lucy Sheppard, Juul Limpens, Catherine Eimers, Tom Bullen, Jakub Hruška, Filip Oulehle, Tom Navrátil, Leon Lamers, and Knute Nadelhoffer. Most of them have been helping the organizers repeatedly.
BIOGEOMON 2014, the 8th International Symposium on Ecosystem Behavior, was hosted by the Bayreuth Center of Ecology and Environmental Research (BayCEER) at the University of Bayreuth, Bavaria, Germany. Work in the Scientific and Organizing Committee was spearheaded by Egbert Matzner, Gerhard Gebauer, Stefan Peiffer, Werner Borken, Klaus-Holger Knorr, and Birgit Thies. With 430 delegates, BIOGEOMON matched the all-time record set previously by our Helsinki colleagues. BIOGEOMON social events took place at various historical sites around the city. The Ice Breaker at the Ermitage was under way exactly at the time when the German soccer team won the World Championship. Extremely well attended sessions included, e.g., Linking biodiversity and biogeochemistry, Turnover of carbon and the fate of DOC, Phosphorus cycling, Wetland biogeochemistry, and Weathering and chemical processes as keys to ecosystem functioning. Pleanary lectures were delivered by Hjalmar Laudon, Susan Trumbore, Peter Reich, Luca Bragazza, Benjamin Turner, and Christine Goodale. Well done.
After 30 years, BIOGEOMON 2017 is returning to where it was born, the Czech Republic. One UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, Prague, is replaced by another UNESCO-listed site: the charming little town of Litomyšl. Our poster features the high-elevation plateau of the Krkonoše mountains (Giant Mts. National Park, northern Bohemia) to mark extreme environments as one of the focuses of BIOGEOMON 2017. Have you been able to identify Sněžka, the highest mountain of the Czech Republic, on the poster?