SETAC Latin America, Cumaná Venezuela: ¡Muy buen éxito!
Mairin Lemus, Leida Marcano, Edgar Zapata Vívenes, Universidad de Oriente, Núcleo de Sucre, and Terence Boyle, SETAC North America Desert Southwest Chapter
The Tenth Congress of SETAC Latin America (SLA) and the First Congress of Venezuelan Ecotoxicology was held in Cumaná, Venezuela November 10-15, 2011, with local hosting and organization provided by Universidad de Oriente (UDO) and Fundación Comunal de Toxicología Ambiental (FUNDACOTOX). Cumaná is home to one of five campuses of UDO and to FUNDACOTOX, a non-governmental organization that organizes the ecotoxicology community to solve problems caused by urban and industrial contamination in Venezuela and provides extension services to citizens concerning the toxicity of substances and their effects on ecosystems.
SLA has been active since 1997, beginning with short courses in Argentina, and has had nine continent-wide meetings since 1998 in seven Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Perú, Uruguay, and now Venezuela. In some cases, SLA has served as the initial organization to coalesce environmental scientists concerned with the problem of environmental contamination in their respective countries. In other cases, SLA became the forum for an existing national organization to address international problems.
Venezuela is a large country. Its territory covers around 916,445 square kilometers within the neotropic ecozone, with an estimated population of 30 million. Large portions of the country were originally covered by moist broadleaf forests. International non-governmental conservation agencies list Venezuela as one of seventeen most mega-diverse countries in the world. Venezuela’s ecosystems range from the Andes Mountains in the west to the Amazon Basin rainforest in the south, to extensive llanos plains, and Caribbean coast in the center, and the Orinoco River delta in the east. Important habitats include xeric scrublands in the extreme northwest and coastal mangrove forests in the northeast. Its cloud forests and lowland rainforests are particularly biologically rich. In 2007 there were 43 national parks: ~22% of Venezuela's total territory!
Cumaná, (305,000 inhabitants) is the capital of Venezuela's state of Sucre, located 402 km east of Caracas. It is located at the mouth of the Manzanares River on the Caribbean coast in the northeast of Venezuela. It was the first settlement founded by Europeans in mainland America, in 1501 by Franciscan friars, but due to successful attacks by the indigenous people, it was abandoned several times. In 1521 Spaniards under the command of Gonzalo de Ocampo re-established it, and again in 1569 Diego Hernández de Serpa rebuilt it. After Amerindian attacks became less of a threat, the city was destroyed by earthquakes on several occasions.
The two most pressing threats to natural resources in Venezuela are unregulated oil development and unrestricted mining. The theme of the Congress, "A promise with nature," is recognition of the value of the naturaleza of the country and the role of environmental science in addressing problems that threaten it.
Congress participants came from all over Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guyana, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, and, of course, Venezuela. In addition, environmental scientists from Canada, Great Britain, Italy, Nigeria, Scotland, and the United States attended. Twenty-one presentations were made by well-known invited scientists. Another 60 contributed oral presentations; 160 posters were presented as well. The Congress included sessions on aquatic, atmospheric, and terrestrial ecotoxicology; environmental chemistry; clean technology and bioremediation; global warming and climate change; standardization of toxicity tests; biomarkers and mechanisms of toxicity; and risk evaluation and environmental education. The meeting sponsored seven short courses of four to eight hours each with 65+ students registered. Seven formal round table discussions, each with more than 20 participants, lasted several hours each on specific announced topics of interest.
The diversity of presentations ranging from Antarctic to tropical, from global to regional to local, marked this as a very successful SETAC meeting, and one which the participants from Venezuela and Latin America can be justifiably proud.
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