With this symposium we, the PhD students of the Zürich-Basel Plant Science Center , would like to open a discussion on the present day status of the interrelationship between plants and people. Plants are building blocks of global ecosystems, the survival of which people are equally responsible for as dependent upon and plants are vital in the every day lives of people, as food, medicine, shelter and as an energy source. We would like to show that just as plants themselves provide people with the fundaments of their needs, they are now also able to manipulate them to further suit their requirements, thus tightening the reciprocal link between people and plants. Plants and People - mutual dependence in the 21st Century will cover the major topics Ecosystem Services (bridging functional biodiversity and economics), Ethno – and Economic Botany (uses of plants by people) and Biotechnology (alteration of plants to increase efficiency of human use of plants). As the next generation of scientists, we would like to take this opportunity to explore current and future contributions from the research field of Plant Biology. We warmly invite you to join us in the discussion!
In the first part of the symposium, we would like to convey the role of plants in global health. ‘Conservation’ and ‘sustainability’ have become catchphrases for targets of biodiversity and ecosystem management programmes. In practice these targets may seldom be realized, due to the difficulty of arguing for alternative management practices for an area that has a high market value or upon which many people rely for their livelihood. ‘Ecosystem Services’ are the processes by which the environment produces resources that are often taken for granted and that are essential to human well being. These include clean water, timber, habitat for fisheries, and pollination of wild and cultivated plants. Valuating these non-market services economically offers the potential to manage the areas that provide them, such that local and global populations may benefit. In short, Ecosystem Services takes Conservation Biology beyond 'ethics'.
Plant Sciences research offers empirical insight into the differences for human well being that natural and modified ecosystems may play and evidence how plants interact and affect their environment.
The second part of the symposium focuses on the ways people use plants and the role of plants in human health. Throughout human history plants have been used for a long list of purposes: food, medicine, housing and shelter, furniture, forage, spiritual uses, weapons and as ornaments. People rely on many of these uses for their survival. In recent years, Ethnobotany, the study of plants and their uses by humans, has become increasingly popular with those concerned with documenting and conserving the world’s biodiversity. Further, understanding how people use plants is important for those in search of new medicines and sources of nutrition. Our symposium takes Ethnobotany further, into a contemporary, Western realm. Recently developed techniques allow plants to be manipulated for use as biofuels and for production of complex molecules, such as antibodies. With examples from various areas of the Plant Sciences, we aim to convey a vast range of anthropogenic uses of plants.
We will have 9-10 invited speakers, whose work highlights different aspects this interdependency. There will also be an open poster session, aimed primarily at the plant sciences students of the three research institutions, but contributions from elsewhere are warmly welcomed.