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International Cosmos Prize

The Prizewinner 2019

Name Prof. Stuart L. Pimm
Born on February 27, 1949
Nationality U.S.A
Title ・Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology,
    Duke University
・Saving Nature

Reason for Awarding

Professor Stuart L. Pimm’s mathematical models have established the theoretical basis for understanding the complexities of food webs, the speed of species extinction and other such factors critical to the conservation of ecological habitats worldwide. He has established the non-profit foundation, “SavingNature” (formerly called “SavingSpecies”) to take this work on conservation science into practical application in the field by supporting local groups in their habitat conservation activities and directing biodiversity conservation policy formulation based on scientific foundations. Pimm’s contributions through this marriage of theory and practice in the field of habitat and species preservation are most impressive.

Commencing with his pioneering work on in the late 1970 to early 1980s on Food Webs and its dynamics, the patterns they exhibit in different habitats and the relationship of these patterns to broader environmental processes, Pimm has gone on to verify the results of these pioneering investigations in the field. His works activated studies in the subsequent decades on food webs in ecological habitats. Being the meticulous scientist that he is, he has been described as the person who “put the science into environmental science”.

Moving on to ecological conservation in the 1990s, Pimm warned us that the global rate of species extinction was around 1000 times the rate at which it would be naturally expected to happen due to habitat destruction by humans. This figure was a pioneering calculation of the speed of species extinction, and led to estimations cited in the Global Biodiversity Outlook or the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Improved investigative methods, to which Pimm himself has also contributed, continue to show that estimation of the number of species worldwide, calculation of species extinction rates and the nature of human incursion are critical inputs for prioritizing ecological habitat conservation.

Indeed, there is no “one size fits all” solution to save species from extinction. Together with works on the conservation of flagship species (symbolic species for conservation), Pimm has shown that species with smaller breeding ranges and foraging habitats are more vulnerable to extinction, largely because they might go unnoticed and their smaller habitats more easily destroyed by the march of human civilization. Proof of this is evident in his early work along the Atlantic coast of Brazil, in the Amazonian rainforest and the tropical forests of Tanzania.

These works led him to establish the international non-profit foundation, “SavingSpecies” in 2007. The achievements of this foundation lie in directing Pimm’s rigorously validated contributions to conservation science to slow down the rate of species extinction pragmatically in biodiversity hotspots across the world. He sees habitat fragmentation as a major contributor to the rapidity of biodiversity loss. “SavingSpecies” has worked towards creating natural corridors linking fragmented habitats to form larger conservation areas by funding local communities to purchase the land required and empowering them to manage these areas. Through these efforts, he has shown that the rate of species extinction can be slowed down. “SavingSpecies” has been reborn (in July 2019) as “SavingNature”, expanding its mandate from “saving species” to “saving nature itself. “SavingNature” defines its activities with the tag line, “CPR for earth”, i.e. Connect (fragmented habitats); Protect (endangered species) and Restore (biological diversity).

As indicated above, Pimm has taken his scientific discoveries to shape policy formulation for ecological habitat conservation and to guide its practice in the field. His substantial achievements worldwide have contributed greatly to “The Harmonious Coexistence between Nature and Mankind”, the very essence of the International Cosmos Prize. This lies at the heart of his selection as the winner of the Prize for 2019.

Professional Preparation

1971 University of Oxford Zoology B.A.
1974 New Mexico State University Ecology Ph.D.


1974-1975 Assistant Professor,
Clemson University, South Carolina
1975-1979 Assistant Professor,
Texas Tech, Lubbock
1979-1982 Associate Professor,
Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech, Lubbock
1982-1986 Associate Professor,
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB), University of Tennessee, Knoxville
1986-1999 Professor,
EEB, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK)
1999-2002 Professor,
Center for Environmental Research and Conservation/Ecology, Evolution, & Environmental Biology,
Columbia University, New York
2001-2010 (Visiting) Extraordinary Professor,
Conservation Ecology Research Unit, University of Pretoria, South Africa
2002-now Doris Duke Chair of Conservation,
Nicholas School of Environment, Duke University

Major Honors

2010 John and Alice Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement
2006 The Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences 2006 on behalf of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

Selected Publications

1. Pimm, S. L. 1984. The complexity and stability of ecosystems. Nature 307:321–326.
  (A review article and it provided the cover for its issue of the journal.)
2. Pimm, S. L. 1986. Community structure and stability. In Conservation Biology,ed. M. Soulé. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA.
3. Pimm, S. L., H. L. Jones and J. M. Diamond. 1988. On the risk of extinction.
   American Naturalist 132:757–785.
4. Pimm, S. L., J. H. Lawton and J. E. Cohen. 1991. Food webs patterns and theirconsequences. Nature 350:669–674. 
  (A review article)
5. Pimm, S. L. and A. M. Sugden. 1994 Tropical diversity and global change.Science 263:933–934. 
   Cairns, John Jr., Hampton L. Carson, Jared M. Diamond,Thomas Eisner, Stephen Jay Gould, Daniel H. Janzen, 
   Jane Lubchenco, Ernst Mayr, Charles D. Michener, Gordon H. Orians, Stuart L. Pimm, Daniel Simberloff,
   John W. Terborgh and Edward O. Wilson. 1995. 
   Brief of Amici Curiae Scientists,in the Supreme Court of the United States, February 17.
   (The Supreme Court’s decision in this case (Sweet Home versus Babbitt) agreed with our arguments that a loss of 
    habitat constitutes a “take” of endangered species, just as does killing such species directly.)
6. Pimm, S. L., G. J. Russell, J. L. Gittleman and T. M. Brooks. 1995. The future of biodiversity. Science 269:347–350. 
   (A review article)
7. Pimm, S. L. and R. Askins. 1995. Forest losses predict bird extinctions in eastern North America. 
   Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (U.S.A.) 92:9343–9347. 
   (This paper was the subject of articles in the New York Times of Tuesday, Sept. 26th 1995 and Tuesday, June 10th 1997.)
8. Pimm, S. L. 1997. The value of everything. Nature 387:231–232. (The paper by Constanza et al. 
   that this article discusses was covered by many newspapers and radio programmes, worldwide. Pimm’s comments appeared 
   in several of these,including Newsweek.)
9. Brooks, T. M., S. L. Pimm and N. J. Collar. 1997. Deforestation predicts the number of threatened birds in insular southeast Asia.
   Conservation Biology 11:382–384.
10. Pimm, S. L. and 32 others. 2001. Can we defy Nature’s end? Science 233: 2207-2208.
11. Liu, Jianguo, Z. Ouyang, S. L. Pimm, P.H. Raven, X. Wang, M. Xiaoke, H. Hong, and N. Han. 2003. 
    Protecting China's Biodiversity. Science 300: 1240-1241
12. Pimm, S.L., L. Dollar, and O. L. Bass, Jr. 2006. The Genetic Rescue of the Florida Panther. Animal Conservation 9: 115-122
13. Pimm, S. L., P. Raven, A. Peterson, C. H. Sekercioglu, and P. R. Ehrlich. 2006.
    Human impacts on the rates of recent, present, and future bird extinctions.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (U.S.A.) 103: 10941-10946.
14. Montoya, J. M., S. L. Pimm and R.V. Solé 2006. Ecological networks and their fragility. Nature 442: 259-264. 
    (A review article and it provided the cover for its issue of the journal.)
15. Pimm, S. L. 2008. Biodiversity: climate change or habitat loss — which will kill more species? Current Biology 18: 117-119
16. Joppa, L.N, S.R. Loarie, and S. L. Pimm. 2008. On the protection of “protected areas.” 
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (U.S.A.) 105: 6673-6678.
17. Finer, M, C. N. Jenkins, S. L. Pimm, B. Keane, C. Ross 2008. Oil and gas projects in the Western Amazon:
    threats to wilderness, biodiversity, and indigenous peoples. PLOS ONE 3: e2932.’
18. Adeney, J. M., N. L. Christensen Jr., and S. L. Pimm 2009. Reserves protect against deforestation fires in the Amazon. PLOS One, e5014.
19. Joppa, L. N, D. L. Roberts, and S. L. Pimm (2011). How many species of flowering plants are there? 
    Proceedings of the Royal Society (B) 278: 554-559.
20. Forero-Medina, G, J. Terborgh, S. J. Scolar, and S. L. Pimm (2011). Elevational ranges of birds on a tropical montane gradient lag 
    behind warming temperatures. PLOS One e28535
21. Joppa, L.N., P. Visconti, C. N. Jenkins, and S.L. Pimm (2013). 
    Achieving the Convention on Biological Diversity’s goals for plant conservation. Science 341,1100-1103 (2013).
22. Jenkins, C. N., S. L. Pimm, and L. N. Joppa (2013). Global patterns of terrestrial vertebrate diversity and conservation. 
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (U.S.A.).
23. Pimm, S. L., C. N. Jenkins, R. Abell, T. M. Brooks, J. L. Gittleman, L. N. Joppa, P. H. Raven, C. M. Roberts, J. O. Sexton (2014) 
    The biodiversity of species and their rates of extinction, distribution, and protection. Science 344, 987. 
    (review article: full version online. DOI: 10.1126/science.1246752
24. deVos, J. M., L. N. Joppa, J.L. Gittleman, P. R. Stephens, and S. L. Pimm (2015). 
    Estimating the normal background rate of species extinction.Conservation Biology 29: 452-462
25. Pimm, S.L., S. Alibhai, R. Bergl, A.Dehgan, C. Giri, Z Jewell, L. N. Joppa, R Kays, and S. Loarie (2015). 
    Emerging Technologies to Conserve Biodiversity,Trends in Ecology and Evolution 30: 685-696.
26. Jenkins, C.N., K.S. van Houtan, S. L. Pimm, and J. O. Sexton, 2015. 
    U.S. Protected Lands Mismatch Biodiversity Priorities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (U.S.A.) 112: 5081-5086.
27. Li, B. V., A. C. Hughes, C N. Jenkins, N. Ocampo-Peñuela, and S. L. Pimm(2016), 
    Remotely-sensed data inform Red List evaluations and conservation priorities in South East Asia. PloS One 0160566.
28. Xu, W., X. Li, S. L. Pimm, V. Hull, J. Zhang, L. Zhang, Y. Xiao, H. Zheng, and Z. Ouyang. (2016). 
    The effectiveness of the zoning of China’s protected areas.
29. Ocampo-Peñuela, N., C. N. Jenkins, V. Vijay, B. V. Li and S. L. Pimm (2016). 
    Incorporating explicit geospatial data shows more species at risk of extinction than the current Red List. Science Advances 2: e1601367.
30. Newmark, W. D, C. N. Jenkins, S. L. Pimm, P. B. McNeallyd, and J. M. Halley (2017) 
    Targeted habitat restoration can reduce extinction rates in fragmented forests . 
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: 114: 9635–9640
31. Xu, W, A. Viña, L. Kong, S. L. Pimm, J. Zhang, W. Yang, Y. Xiao, L. Zhang, X. Chen, J. Liu and Z. Ouyang. (2017) 
    Reassessing the conservation status of the giant panda using remote sensing. Nature Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0317-
32. Pimm, S. L., Jenkins, C. N. and Li, B.V. (2018). 
    How to protect half of Earth to ensure it protects sufficient biodiversity. Science Advances, 4. eaat2616.
33. Pimm SL, Jenkins CN. Connecting Habitats to Prevent Species Extinctions. American Scientist. 2019 May 1;107(3):162-9.

Pimm, S. L. 1982. Food Webs. Chapman and Hall, London. 219 pp.
Pimm, S. L. 1991. The Balance of Nature? Ecological issues in the conservation of
species and communities. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. 434 pp.
Pimm, S. L. 2001. The World According to Pimm: a Scientist Audits the Earth. McGraw Hill, New York. 304 pp.
Sanderson, J. G. and S. L. Pimm 2015. Patterns in Nature: The Analysis of Species Cooccurrences. University of Chicago Press, Chicago IL