DURHAM, N.C. – Leading experts from four countries will take part in a two-day conference, “Conservation of China’s Tropical Biodiversity,” May 7-8 at Duke Kunshan University in China.

Scientists, social scientists and policy experts from Duke University, the Smithsonian Institution, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Peking University, The Field Museum, the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanic Garden and other research institutions are slated to take part.

“Despite making great strides over the last 35 years – including setting aside 18 percent of its land for conservation – China still faces huge challenges in protecting its biodiversity, which includes 15 percent of the world’s vertebrates and 12 percent of its plant species,” said Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation  Ecology at Duke University, who helped organize the conference.

Rapid economic development and increased natural resource exploitation – particularly the expansion of tree crops such as rubber – have significantly reduced or degraded the ecosystems vital to the survival of these species, many of which are concentrated in tropical areas, Pimm noted.

Speakers at the Duke Kunshan conference will present recent advances in conservation science and review a broad array of emerging technologies, management practices, and economic and social frameworks that may hold promise for addressing these challenges.  They will also discuss recent research about the role biodiversity conservation can play in human health, especially its impact on the spread of infectious diseases.

Jinfeng Zhou, chairman of the Beijing Western companies and general secretary of the China Conservation and Biodiversity Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) will present a keynote address, “The Role of the Nongovernmental Organization in Biodiversity Conservation.”

Peter Raven, president emeritus of the Missouri Botanic Garden, will present a second keynote address, “Plants and the Future of China.”

Duke-affiliated speakers will include Pimm, Erika Weinthal, William Pan, Jeffrey Vincent, Binbin Li, Chris Woods, Elizabeth Losos, Brian Hare and Aleah Bowie. Jingnan Liu, chancellor of Duke Kunshan, and Linfa Wang of the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, are also slated to take part.

The complete conference agenda is online here.

This is the third major conference to be held this year as part of Duke Kunshan’s new program in environmental studies.  Previous conferences focused on U.S.-China climate cooperation, and energy development and water quality in China.

The university will launch a new international master’s degree in environmental policy beginning in the fall of 2017. It will be offered at Duke Kunshan as a Duke University degree issued jointly by Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Sanford School of Public Policy.

China’s Ministry of Education approved the establishment of Duke Kunshan in 2013 as a joint venture institute of Duke and Wuhan University. The campus offers both degree and non-degree academic programs for students from China and around the world.