In the 1960's and early 1970's the growing recognition of the importance of major ecological problems, in part arising from the International Biological Programme, led ecologists to seek greater international links. Some countries had long established national ecological societies, others had only young fledgling ones, but one way to foster international participation in helping to address important ecological questions was to establish a new international society. The national societies were very supportive of this move, and in 1967 the International Association for Ecology (INTECOL) was established. The first International Congress of Ecology was held in the Hague in 1974. This proved a considerable success, and resulted in the series of congresses for which INTECOL is best known today.
At this time INTECOL helped to promote the successful founding and establishment of the then major new ecological journal Oecologia. The cover of the journal attests to this relationship to this day. In retrospect, it is perhaps unfortunate that the Association did not establish a financial involvement in this journal at that time because it could have provided a much needed source of funds to expand our activities. For whatever reason this did not prove possible, and the INTECOL's only direct involvement in publication so far has been through the occasional periodical Ecology International.
Following the founding of the Association, specialist groups were established in various areas of ecology. These mostly operated by arranging independent meetings or through organising sessions at the International Congresses. The best example is the Wetlands Working Group, which has run six highly successful international conferences around the world, with the seventh due to take place in Utrecht, The Netherlands in July 2004. Currently there are excellent opportunities to form new groups, and to re-activate dormant ones. This must provide opportunities for younger members of the Association, a group of members that the INTECOL Board is very anxious to encourage.
The national ecological societies have continued to be very supportive of INTECOL, and all the recent congresses have been organised jointly with the host country's national society. This continuing interest in INTECOL by the national societies is particularly important, and is something on which we must try to build in the future.
In addition to the national societies and INTECOL, a number of regional groupings of societies occur. Two examples of these are the now long standing European Ecological Federation and the much more recent East Asian Ecological Federation. It is particularly pleasing to note that the latter was launched at the VIII International Congress of Ecology in Seoul in 2002, and it is hoped that INTECOL can help stimulate more such groupings in the future.
There is much more that INTECOL can do to encourage ecological science and its application around the world. Up until now we have depended on modest membership income and small profits from meetings to support our activities. We hope in the longer term that our new web-based organisation will allow both our membership and our funds to grow, thus allowing us to be much more active between our major meetings. There is no sign that ecological issues are becoming less acute in the world today. Rather, the situation is very much the reverse. A strong international society devoted to ecological science and its application is more important today than it was 30 years ago when the International Association for Ecology was founded. We can do much more! If you are not already a member, join INTECOL today. Help us to shape the Association and to make a greater impact on decision makers around the world.