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 How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

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: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

Im Focus: Hydrogen Bonds Directly Detected for the First Time

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.

Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

Media accreditation opens for historic year at European Health Forum Gastein

16.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New approach to revolutionize the production of molecular hydrogen

22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences

Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus

22.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Experts explain origins of topographic relief on Earth, Mars and Titan

22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>