In 2004, the Government of Catalonia established the Premi Ramon Margalef d'Ecologia as a tribute to this universal Catalan scientist. The purpose of this international award is to recognize people all over the world who have distinguished themselves in the field of ecological science.
Prof. Carlos M. Duarte has been awarded the 2019 Premi Ramon Margalef d'Ecologia. The jury of this award, the most important given by the Generalitat of Catalonia together with the Premi Internacional Catalunya, has decided that the prize goes to this oceanographer, born in Portugal but of Spanish nationality, for his discoveries and scientific advances.
The jury considered Duarte a "versatile scientist, with outstanding contributions spanning from the tropics to polar ecosystems, from large organisms to microbes, and from coastal systems to the open ocean". The jury also highlights that he is "an ecologist deeply committed to communicate the scientific findings to the broader public, emphasizing ocean solutions to some of the biggest environmental problems of this century".
Among many discoveries and scientific advances, Duarte has shown the global importance of shallow water marine ecosystems, the 'hidden forests of the biosphere', and that ecosystems such as seagrass beds, sequester large quantities of carbon, and their protection, maintenance and enhancement are key for the protection, maintenance and enhancement of the environment.
Professor Duarte has been particularly successful in combining fundamental marine ecology and societal needs to both explore problems in marine ecology, and seek solutions to societal problems. In this sense, he and his colleagues demonstrated that vegetated coastal ecosystems act as carbon sinks and subsequently the carbon is buried in coastal sediments. They coined this finding "Blue Carbon", which has been very influential in climate change negotiations and widely adopted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as a pivotal contribution to mitigate climate change.
He has also organized and led the Malaspina Circumnavigation Expedition to assess the status of the global ocean, involving over 400 scientists from all over the world. The expedition made key discoveries in the functioning and biodiversity of the dark ocean and provided an unprecedented collection of data and samples for further research.