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UC-Riverside partners with Chinese university to address China's environmental problems

RIVERSIDE, Calif. According to the World Bank, China has one of the worst pollution problems on the planet, and is second only to the United States in emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas linked to global warming. China is also home to 20 of the worlds 30 most air-polluted cities.

To address Chinas increasing environmental challenges, such as smog, acid rain and water pollution, scientists at UC Riverside and China Agricultural University (CAU) have teamed up to launch a new center: the CAU-UCR International Center for Ecology and Sustainability.

Located in Beijing, China, the center will attempt to solve environmental and agricultural problems, restore damaged ecosystems, and ensure food safety concerns common not just to China and Southern California but the world at large.

This center brings together some of the leading researchers at UCR with colleagues at CAU, the premier agricultural university in China, to solve what is being recognized as the major challenge of the 21st century, said Charles Louis, vice chancellor for research at UCR. The proposed bidirectional exchanges of faculty and students will enhance both research and partnerships between California and China.

Besides doing collaborative research on key ecological and sustainable development issues, the center will promote public awareness of these issues and advise policy-makers at the local, regional, federal and global levels on important questions in ecosystem management.

The issues of ecology and sustainability facing China today are massive and, in many cases, mirror those faced by California, said Bai-lian (Larry) Li, a professor of ecology in UCRs Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, who joins Wenliang Wu, the chief scientist of the National Agroecology Program and provost at CAU, in co-directing the center. The center will utilize the combined strengths of UCR and CAU in ecology, agriculture and sustainability research to find viable and effective solutions to environmental problems.

The centers six initial research areas of focus are:

  1. ecosystem complexity and regional sustainability;

  2. management and treatment of agricultural nonpoint (indirect) pollution;

  3. conservative farming and ecological restoration;

  4. effective use of agricultural wastes and circulative agriculture (agricultural systems that recycle materials/resources);

  5. environmental security and food safety; and

  6. microbial ecology and molecular ecology.

These initial research foci reflect many of the hot-button topics that the faculty and researchers in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences are working on right now, said Donald Cooksey, dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Ecological issues today transcend national or even crop-level boundaries we all have similar sustainability problems, whether were growing rice or oranges.

Currently, the center includes six laboratories in China as well as two experimental stations, also in China, that are engaged in intensive agro-ecosystems and grassland ecosystems studies.

CAU initially plans to allocate about five of its graduate students to the new center. Thereafter it will offer research opportunities to visiting UCR faculty and students.

In addition, Chinese institutions other than CAU will participate in the centers research activities. The center also plans to include other international members in upcoming years.

We will soon have other Asian colleagues, as well as European researchers at the center, Li said. German, Italian and Dutch scientists have already expressed an interest in joining our efforts.

Each year, the center will host an annual international forum on the key issues related to ecology and sustainability, and arrange publication of the conference proceedings.

Plans are underway at UCR to establish an office for coordinating the centers collaborative efforts, including the exchange of research and education programs between UCR and CAU.

We are extremely pleased to be a part of this effort to finding solutions to an enormous problem, Louis said. We fully expect the research emerging from this center to benefit not only China and California but also the international community.


Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Riverside

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