Call Number: SC1183
Mooney, Harold A.
Title: Harold A. Mooney papers
4.5 Linear feet
Language(s): The materials are in English.
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[identification of item], Harold A. Mooney Papers (SC1183). Dept. of Special
Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford,
Dr. Mooney entered the University of California at Berkley as a political science major,
but was forced to halt his studies for economic reasons and accepted a job on a
freighter traveling down the west coast of the Americas. While transiting the Panama
Canal, he read in a magazine about being a collector for the United States Department of
Agriculture's Plant Exploration unit, which lead to a major change in his career path.
Dr. Mooney, who had taken a strong interest in plants through his activities in the
mountains of California, was extremely attracted to an occupation in which he could both
study plants and go on adventurous travels. So he transferred to the University of
California's Santa Barbara campus, which had a plant ecology program.
In 1957, he researched the physiological processes of Arctic-Alpine plants over a vast
natural range extending from Alaska to the Rocky Mountains. He studied photosynthesis
and respiration of the plants using an infrared gas analyzer and equipment that he
helped to design and was able to demonstrate the physiological basis for ecotypic
differentiation by comparing the plants that were raised in controlled environments with
naturally occurring plants. He showed that plants adapted their physiological processes
to their local environments.
After he obtained his doctorate in 1960, he embarked on research into convergent
evolution that showed that different plant species develop the same physiological
characteristics in response to the same severe environments. He earned acclaim for
demonstrating that similarities between different species were not limited to form,
which had already been demonstrated, but also extended to function. He accomplished this
by comparing the ecology and physiological characteristics of plants in the
drought-limited Mediterranean climates in the geographically disparate California and
Chilean coastal regions and Mediterranean Basin.
In the 1970s, he took a broader approach to examine not only carbon gain but carbon use
by plants in an area of California ranging from the desert to the White Mountains and
applied a cost-benefit approach to clarify how carbon resources are allocated to
different sites in plants for photosynthesis, or various other functions. He had a
significant impact on later studies into plant physiological ecology and advanced
research into carbon gain and use in plants by showing in a detailed cost analysis how
plants obtain carbohydrates and nitrogen, and how they distribute and store them to
obtain the greatest effect with the lowest expenditure of energy.
Through these studies, Dr. Mooney showed how plant species and groups of species respond
to their environments, thereby contributing to the theoretical framework of plant
physiological ecology, and developed research methodologies for assessing how plants
interact with their biotic environments. To date he has authored over 400 scientific
books, papers and articles.
In the latter half of the 1980s, he pursued research into the effect of the invasion of
different plant species on naturally occurring species under the auspices of the
Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), setting up the first global
evaluation of invasive plant species. He regarded the acceleration of problems related
to invasive species due to increased international commerce with grave concern,
recognized the need for joint research between naturalists and social scientists, and
launched the Global Invasive Species Program with many international institutions as
partners. Through such programs, he has brought awareness to the topic of the impact of
human activities upon ecosystems through species introductions.
Dr. Mooney has played an international leadership role in recent years, especially with
problems related to biodiversity and global warming. In addition, he has been active in
building up worldwide communities and networks of ecologists and scientists in other
disciplines and arranging international conferences on the environment. He played a
central role in the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP), building up an
international organization of scientists and having an influential part in setting the
guidelines for the formulation of environmental policies. He has advanced numerous
international research programs as Secretary General and Vice-President of the
International Council for Science (ICSU). Furthermore, he is working to solicit the
interest of the general public in many scientific topics through the media and other
channels. As president of the Ecological Society of America he helped launched the
publication of a new journal called Ecological Applications that is intended to make use
of ecology as a useful tool for management, and worked to promote the designation of the
International Biodiversity Observation Year.
Dr. Mooney has demonstrated the importance of ecological studies in the research of
changes in the global environment and helped to build the foundation for the field of
global ecology. Now universities around the world are establishing global ecology
research departments. He continues to work toward the development of new environmental
sciences that will be required for the continued existence of humankind.
Environmental policy--United States.