Initiation and growth

It was both an opportune time and a stroke of luck that I was offered the opportunity to work under the influence of two limnological titans, namely Drs. Richard Vollenweider and Jack Vallentyne at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters (CCIW, Burlington) during the 1970s. Both of them were actively involved in the development of phosphorus abatement strategies for the Great Lakes, as well as the development and implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the United States. Later I would be exposed to Jack's “ecosystem approach” mission, as well as his environmental activism. Both of these great scientists influenced my ecological thinking significantly at a time when the Laurentian Great Lakes were experiencing serious eutrophication problems, especially Lake Erie. The company of these “Gurus”, and my own postdoctoral research led me to believe that these gigantic lakes had big problems which needed the “integrated and holistic” approach that Jack was championing at that time. Dr. Vollenweider's P-model was one of the parts of the puzzle which Jack was trying to tackle with his ecosystem-based approach which recognized humans as central components. It was obvious that an integrated, multi-disciplinary and multi-trophic strategy was necessary with diverse expertise for a top-down assessment and resolution of various problems.

A survey of the existing journals indicated to me that an integrated and multi-disciplinary primary journal with a broader ecosystem-based vision was necessary since most journals focused on a specific topic or discipline. In the summer of 1988, I approached both of these great visionaries, Drs. Vollenweider and Vallentyne, with a proposal to launch a scientific society (AEHMS) followed by a primary journal (AEHM). It was really exciting that both of them gave me their overwhelming support. As per their advice, a task force was established with scientists from the Great Lakes to gauge the response of the international scientific community. The task force decided to survey 300 scientists across the world concerning the proposal and they were even asked to vote on potential names for the society and the journal. The rest is history. Because of the response of the international scientific community, the AEHMS was launched in 1989 followed in 1992 by the journal, then called the Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Health. The following mission was recommended:

  • Promoting and adopting the concept of ecosystem health

  • Enhancing our knowledge and a better understanding of the health and management of marine and freshwater ecosystems

  • Exploring the structure, function and performance of aquatic ecosystems

  • Focusing on the application and practice of integrated management from multidisciplinary, multi-trophic and sustainable perspectives.

  • Advocating the development of new tools, techniques and strategies for the protection, remediation and restoration of aquatic ecosystems.

  • Encouraging interdisciplinary communication amongst scientists, managers, universities, politicians, industry and public sector.

Following its establishment, the Society developed its action plan, focusing on its mandate via international conferences/symposia (Figure 1) and publication of its journal and the Ecovision World Monograph series of books.

In 1998, the AEHMS changed the name of the journal from Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Health to Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management (AEHM) in order to focus on remediation and restoration. Since 2000, AEHM has been published by the society in collaboration with the well regarded academic publisher, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC of Philadelphia.

After more than 20 years of hard work, trials, and triumphs, it was decided to celebrate the accomplishments of the Society at the 10th biennial AEHMS conference, held in Siena, Italy, 2011. A portion of the conference program was devoted to invited honorary lectures by senior advisors such as Drs. Price (UK), Krupp (Germany) and Van der Knaap (Burundi).

While organizing this special issue, the AEHMS decided to invite additional contributions from advisors and members of the editorial board so that the occasion could be shared by a larger number of colleagues who have supported the AEHMS and its activities from the beginning. We are grateful to them for sending their commentaries on such short notice.

I must also acknowledge here well known ecologists Drs. E.P. Odum and J. Cairns, Jr., who enthusiastically supported the establishment of the AEHMS and the publication of its journal. Congratulatory messages were received for the first publication of the journal in 1992 from Drs. Vollenweider, Vallentyne, Odum and Cairns, demonstrating the strong advisory role they played in laying the foundation of the Society and its journal.

Conferences/symposia

Since its inception, the Society has partnered with many international institutions to organize numerous conferences, symposia, workshops and events. We have worked with many partners from across the world on diverse environmental issues, problems and anthropogenic stresses, sharing the common goal of aquatic conservation by applying ecosystem-based science and strategies. These include biennial AEHMS conferences (Table 1) as well as symposia on topics such as “State of Lake” ecosystems, Great Lakes of the World (GLOW), Health of the Arabian Gulf (GULF). We have also organized many conferences, symposia and workshops on various aspects of marine and freshwater ecosystem health. Figure 2 shows the global distribution of AEHMS activities.

Publications

The AEHMS has a long history of peer reviewed publications based on conferences/symposia for the benefit of international readers. The Society also organizes publications on topics/ecosystems that need more attention. Our two publications avenues—the AEHM with its special issues (43 and counting) and the Ecovision World Monograph Series (21 peer reviewed books)—have been quite successful (http://www.aehms.org). Figure 3 depicts the topics covered by these publications in a word cloud (wordle.net). The cloud covers over 300 articles published in 24 issues of AEHM from 2007–2012.

A few examples of the diversity of topics are shown below:

  • “State of the Lake” publications on each of the Laurentian Great Lakes

  • African and Russian Great Lakes

  • Freshwater fishes of South America

  • Ecology, health and management of Arabian Gulf

  • Changing Great Lakes of the World

  • Ecology of Lake Superior

  • J.R. Vallentyne and R. Vollenweider memorial issue

  • Marine environmental change in South China Sea

  • Ecosystem health of majestic River Ganges

  • Ecosystem health and recovery of the Bay of Quinte.

Advancing into the future

To celebrate this occasion the Society has undertaken the following activities:

  • Designing and launching a new website for the Society

  • Designing a new logo

  • Designing a new cover page of AEHM (Figure 4)

Our publisher, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC is responsible for the journal's production, distribution and marketing. The journal has been available online (in addition of printed subscriptions) for several years and has been indexed by ISI. Although it is a fairly new journal, AEHM has been receiving on average 100 manuscripts per year for publication during the past five years. Its impact factor is also showing increasing trend (five year average: 0.762).

The following highlights are extracted from the publisher's 2012 annual report:

  • Full text downloads of AEHM articles have increased by over 30% since 2008.

  • The journal is widely available via institutional subscriptions, member subscriptions, and Taylor & Francis online sales agreements.

  • Availability of AEHM has increased through inclusion in the following philanthropic initiatives to provide journal content to developing and emerging nations for free or at a significantly reduced price.

  • AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture)

  • OARE (Online Access to Research in the Environment)

  • Number of full text downloads of abstracts and tables of contents has increased.

  • Taylor & Francis Group, LLC markets the journal via electronic campaigns and conference exhibitions.

The AEHMS has been launching a variety of new projects and special issues. Special issues of global interest have been popular with the readers. Proposals for special issues now exceed the available space. The following special issues are currently in progress:

  • Protecting Great Lakes of the World

  • Managing exploitation with ecosystem-based science

  • State of Lake Vanern ecosystem, Sweden

  • Lake Ontario ecosystem: Status and future directions

  • Ecosystem health of Lake Naivasha, Kenya

  • Ecosystem health and remediation of Hamilton Harbour, Lake Ontario

Conclusions

It has been an honour to be a part of the successes of the AEHMS and to work with the amazing people that are a part of its history. You will find in this issue many kind words about the impact of the AEHMS from various colleagues and researchers who have been impressed by the scientific activities and publications of the Society spread across the world. We are grateful for the continued support and dedication of various editorial board members, advisors and referees who enhanced the Society via their reviews and comments which improved the quality of its publications. Of course the AEHMS secretariat and editorial office's continued dedication and support were extremely critical for the success of the Society. We’d sincerely like to thank, Iftekhar Munawar, Diane Malley, Nabila Munawar, Jennifer Lorimer, Susan Blunt, Lisa Elder and Mark Fitzpatrick for their efforts and assistance in various aspects of the AEHMS and its publications. Thanks are due to our publisher Taylor & Francis Group, LLC, namely, Sarah Cochran, Rebecca Corpier and Natacha Carter for their continued support. Thanks are also due to Ahmad Munawar and his team for designing the new AEHMS logo. Looking forward, the Society is expanding and appears to have a bright future. We look forward to many new adventures promoting ecosystem-based science across the world!