Over the past few years, the cultivation of science in all its branches in Catalonia has reached the standards typical of a country of its size as well as its social, cultural and economic background. This has not always been the case, for various reasons, and only in some fields have scientific research, innovation and diffusion achieved global standards. One such science has been ecology, which found in Ramon Margalef a tenacious and brilliant scientist of international repute.
Ecology is a relatively young science whose object is the study of the relationships between organisms and their environments. As such a science, it is based on a body of knowledge obtained from the study of natural phenomena in the field or in the laboratory, often at a microscopic or mesoscopic scale, thus generating a reductionist approach to it which is consubstantial with modern science and has enabled it to progress to the level of other "hard" sciences. Moreover, ecology has also enjoyed a holistic, macroscopic approach, one embracing the workings of the entire biosphere, without forgetting its applied aspects at a time when our species is altering the natural environment in multiple ways - ecology can reveal the impact of these changes on natural communities and help to reduce it.
Professor Ramon Margalef i López (Barcelona, 1919-2004) was one of the first researchers and thinkers in the frame of this ecology, at once reductionist and holistic, that has its roots in pure science and has become essential to understand the way the world works and to solve environmental problems. His scientific and intellectual work, of the highest order, encompasses the fields of aquatic ecology (limnology and oceanography, especially plankton ecology) and theoretical ecology. Ramon Margalef made a decisive contribution to establishing modern ecological science to the point where he is regarded as one of the world's leading figures in the field. He achieved this recognition largely thanks to his ability to interpret natural systems in terms of information theory and to his research into the areas where natural sciences and physical sciences overlap. He was also one of the first ecologists who understood that the human species is just a species of the biosphere, with a huge impact on the environment, but dependent on it like the rest of the species of its natural environment. Margalef's scientific output was huge, including not only his research but also his equally important work as a teacher and a popularizer.
All this explains why, 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 recognise people all over the world who have distinguished themselves in the field of ecological science.