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Ecologists have a vital role to play in our increasingly crowded planet. But they must change the direction and implementation of their science if humans and the natural systems we depend upon are to continue coexisting.

These are the findings of an action plan for the next century released this week by the Ecological Society of America (ESA). It calls for ecological advances to be integrated into policy and for greater international linkage and sharing of ecological knowledge.

The report states that ecology only makes sense in developing countries when related to improving quality of life but that policy makers there have limited access to ecological information. "We have to build networks of ecologists in developing countries and produce ways to increase data access," it says.

To provide broad input into the report, the ESA consulted its 8,000 members, as well other scientific societies, government agencies, industry, and non-governmental organisations.

"We [identified] specific actions that we hope will ultimately result in strong regional and global partnerships to create a more sustainable future," says Margaret Palmer, chair of the ESA committee that wrote the report. It recommends more international collaborations and facilitation of exchange programmes to promote appreciation of local knowledge in developing countries by ecologists in the West.

Link to the full report Ecological Science and Sustainability for a Crowded Planet 

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