Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists collaborate to assess health of global environment

30.03.2005


For the first time, a group of scientists has accomplished the daunting task of evaluating the status of all of the ecosystems on Earth, and the outlook is troubling.



Commissioned by the United Nations in 2001, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment program will issue its primary report on March 30 during press conferences in London, Washington, D.C., Tokyo, Beijing, New Delhi, Brasilia, Cairo, Nairobi and Rome. More than 2,000 scientists from 95 countries participated in the assessment and concluded that the environmental benefits that human societies depend on and take for granted--basic necessities such as food, clean air, potable water and fuel--are rapidly being degraded.

"[The assessment] examines the state of the global environment, but it’s more than that," said Harold A. Mooney, the Paul S. Achilles Professor of Environmental Biology at Stanford University and co-chair of the assessment’s science oversight panel. "It relates goods and services that ecosystems provide to human well-being. And surprisingly enough, that’s never been done before."


Mooney will participate in the March 30 press conference in Washington, D.C., which will focus on the implications for the United States and international business institutions.

Funded by the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the World Bank and others, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment program also will evaluate future scenarios and give governments and institutions direction that Mooney described as a consensus of the scientific community and a synthesis of all available information.

Cause for concern

"If you look at all the indicators of human well-being, globally averaged we’re doing pretty well," Mooney said. "But in the last 50 years, we’ve changed the structure of the world’s ecosystems at a faster rate than any time in history."

The environmental degradation carried out to meet demand for food, fiber, timber, fresh water, fuel and other resources has begun to jeopardize more subtle services that nature has always provided free of charge, he said. Making matters worse, he added, the world’s poorest people stand to lose the most from environmental change, because they depend heavily on ecosystem services. In some places, such as sub-Saharan Africa, environmental change is the principal factor causing poverty, according to the assessment.

Implications

The assessment represents more than a catalog of environmental problems, Mooney noted. By evaluating the trade-offs that accompany decisions about ecosystem services, it will identify priorities on local, regional and global scales. In a particular area, for example, it can help policymakers decide whether the benefits of increasing food production will outweigh the effects on water quality and biodiversity by giving them the information they need to make tough decisions.

A substantial body of work addressing specific aspects of the assessment will follow this month’s release of the global synthesis report. A report on global biodiversity will be available in May; a report on desertification is due out in June; and reports related to wetlands, the role of the private sector and impacts on human health are scheduled for July. According to Mooney, these topics were chosen because the organizations that oversee major international treaties dealing with biological systems requested the information. The lack of adequate data to uphold such treaties is what helped convince the United Nations to initiate the program, he added.

Case studies

In September, the assessment team will release five technical reports totaling nearly 2,500 pages and focusing on the ties between ecosystems and human well-being. A set of 33 case studies, termed sub-global assessments, also will be released in late 2005 or early 2006. Each case study will focus on a particular area, Mooney said.

"This is really important because the global view gives averages, and global averages may be misleading," he said, noting that different ecosystems face different issues--overfishing in the Caribbean, for example, versus groundwater usage in Chile’s Atacama Desert or wood fuel harvesting in Zambia.

Overall, the diminishing capacity of services to meet human demands reflects a global problem, Mooney said. Fifteen of the 24 services the assessment considered have been degraded over the last 50 years--most notably fresh water, fisheries, air and water purification, and the regulation of climate, natural hazards and pests. Only four have been enhanced, and three of those pertain to food production.

Turning things around will require significant policy and institutional changes not currently under way, the global assessment will conclude.

Mark Shwartz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.stanford.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>