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ATEAM: Mr.T takes on ecosystems services

farmerlivlihood.jpg Worldchanging guest writers David Zaks and Chad Monfreda are graduate research assistants at the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at UW-Madison where they work on understanding how human activities affect the biological and physical systems of our planet.

The ATEAM (Advanced Terrestrial Ecosystem Analysis and Modeling) project (also here and here) is not made up of rogue soldiers of fortune, but academics in Europe. The scientific assessment correlates changes in human well-being with future changes in climate and land-use. Researchers combined global climate models and land-use scenarios using innovative interdisciplinary methods to show how ecosystem goods and services are likely to change through the 21st century in Europe. ATEAM paints a mixed picture of the continent divided into a vulnerable south and adaptive north. The results are freely available online as a downloadable (PC only) mapping tool that displays the vulnerability of six key sectors: agriculture, forestry, carbon storage and energy, water and biodiversity.

Stakeholder input helped to quantify regional adaptive capacity, while climate and land-use models estimated potential impacts. Adaptive capacity and potential impacts together define the overall vulnerability of individual ecosystem services. Even when ‘potential impacts’ are fixed, differential vulnerability across Europe indicates an opportunity to boost ‘adaptive capacity’. Emphasis on adaptation certainly doesn’t condone inaction on climate change and environmental degradation. Rather it stresses resilience in a world that must prepare for surprise threats that are increasingly the norm.

ATEAM is a wonderful example of sustainability science that lets people imagine the possible futures being shaped through decisions taken today. Integrated assessments like ATEAM and the MA (also here) have a huge potential to create a sustainable biosphere by offering solutions that are at once technical and social. Combined with many ideas that WC readers are already familiar with—planetary extension of real-time monitoring networks, open source scenario building, and pervasive citizen participation—the next generation of assessments could help tip the meaning of ‘global change’ from gloomy to bright green.

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Interesting post... Good to see more research like this.

Posted by: Freaked Out on 17 Apr 06

It would be really nice to see something like this done in North America too. (And for every major region of the planet!)

Posted by: Jon Foley on 17 Apr 06

I'm very proud of my nephew, David, for doing such important work. In addition, he makes excellent beer. The additional pounds I have put on drinking his beer have helped me in my personal carbon sequestering program.

Posted by: Joe on 19 Apr 06

Important work indeed.

Seeking to jumpstart markets for ecosystem services, the Katoomba Group, Forest Trends and Ecotrust will be hosting a conference June 7-9 in Portland, Oregon.

More info:

Posted by: Howard Silverman on 26 Apr 06



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