Future Directions For Design

Ecological engineering is a growing field with many possible future directions. Most existing technologies, such as described in Chapters 2 through 6, are of relatively recent origin, and they can be expected to be improved upon. Whole new paths of developments also can be expected, especially as more young people are educated in the field. However, although the future appears to be promising, there is much to be done to bring ecological engineering into the mainstream of societal, academic, and professional arenas. The field does not yet even appear in the vocabulary of the U.S. National Environmental Technology Strategy (National Science and Technology Council, 1995), though several related applications such as bioremediation and restoration ecology are becoming widely recognized. Mitsch (1998b) has summarized the recent accomplishments of the field and has posed a number of questions about the future (Table 9.2). He concludes with several recommendations and a call for ecologists and engineers to work together for continued development of the field.

One critical fact about the future is that environmental problems will continue to grow and to multiply. These problems include global climate change and sea level rise, along with declining levels of freshwater availability, agricultural land and fossil fuels, and increasing levels of pollution. These pressures may lead society to focus on ecological engineering designs that "do more with less," that utilize natural energies and biodiversity, and that convert by-product wastes into resources. Several examples of possible directions are outlined below. These are selected to illustrate various dimensions such as size extremes from molecular to planetary and applications of biodiversity, technology, and social action. Some directions rely on futures

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