Summary report of workshop on Global Change and the Future of Ecosystems in Europe, 10-11 June 2004
Workshop on Global Change and the Future of Ecosystems in Europe,
10-11 June 2004, European Environment Agency, Copenhagen
Organised by AVEC (Integrated Assessment of Vulnerable Ecosystems under Global Change) in cooperation with the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment and EEA
Summary report by AVEC
"Ecosystems in Europe are changing as a result of both climate change and land use change, with the most dramatic changes taking place in the Mediterranean," Dagmar Schröter, scientific co-ordinator of a European research project on ecosystems, told the workshop."
Several recent studies have shown that a combination of land abandonment and reduced rainfall leads to increased wildfire and other critical changes in the landscape. Scientific methods now exist to investigate the future of such landscapes, based on different assumptions about future development of society, the economy and the climate.
Hosted by the European Environment Agency, the meeting brought together scientists involved in the global Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), several European research projects, and policy advisors from the European Commission and from nine national governments. The MA is an international programme to provide scientific information on the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and options for responding to those changes.
In opening the conference, EEA Executive Director Prof. Jacqueline McGlade, emphasised that "...managing European landscapes in the context of sustainable development requires sound up-to-date scientific information as well as a long-term vision for possible future development paths in all sectors involved in environmental decision making."
Prof. McGlade said this new mode of integrated ecosystem assessment, in the form of scenarios and land-use accounting, is the focus of a new set of EEA activities. She welcomed the contributions made by European research projects and the international assessment community.
The European Commission has supported research towards assessment of the various useful functions of agricultural and forested landscapes in Europe for people and societies over the centuries. Sustainable development goals are now also coming into focus. These goals urgently need to be achieved since the abandonment of agriculture in many areas, along with a warmer and often drier climate, changes life in rural communities dramatically. The MA is looking into the future of such communities by studying the impacts of different social and economic trends, such as a world with increased globalisation or one where more attention is paid to local communities and their needs.
Conference participants agreed that scientists from various disciplines (social and natural), owners and users of the land and policy makers need to work together more closely to minimise the risk to biodiversity, agricultural and forest yield, water resources and other values.
The conference also marked an important step in the EU-funded research network AVEC, whose main purpose is to develop common ground for discussions between scientists involved in the study of ecosystems.
AVEC's chair, Prof. Wolfgang Cramer from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, welcomed the broad consensus that now exists about the significance of global change for ecosystems and the way they work. "Until recently there was not very much acceptance of the need for ecologists, social scientists and stakeholders to work in close interaction, but now there are no longer are any borders between them", he said.
However, much remains to be done, even in the basic scientific understanding of plants and animals, he pointed out. Global change is creating unprecedented conditions at a rapid pace, and we must be prepared for the consequences, for example with respect to water resources, forest stability and the chances for endangered species to survive.
Working with colleagues from around the world, such as Hal Mooney from Stanford University (USA), as well as with the EEA, will be necessary to provide the foundation for better environmental management in Europe. Some of the methods developed along the way will also be applicable to conditions in developing countries, where trends are often even faster and more directly detrimental than in Europe.
A small but important European contribution to the assessment of such trends is the participation of young scientists from developing countries in the EU-sponsored AVEC summer schools, the next one of which is planned for 2005. The next generation of experts will be crucial to better understanding of ecosystems as well as to sustainable policy.
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: www.millenniumassessment.org
European Research Network AVEC: www.pik-potsdam.de/avec
European Research Project ATEAM: www.pik-potsdam.de/ateam
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research: www.pik-potsdam.de
Professor Wolfgang Cramer, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anja Wirsing, Press officer, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
Tel: +49 331 288 2507
Fax +49 331 288 2552
About the Potsdam Institute
The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) was founded in 1992 and employs 121 scientists. Its research on climate change, climate impacts and sustainable development is of international renown. PIK is a member of the Leibniz Association of German research institutes.
About the EEA
The European Environment Agency is the leading public body in Europe dedicated to providing sound, independent information on the environment to policy-makers and the public. Operational in Copenhagen since 1994, the EEA is the hub of the European environment information and observation network (Eionet), a network of around 300 bodies across Europe through which it collects and disseminates environment-related data and information. An EU body, the Agency is open to all nations that share its objectives. It currently has 31 member countries: the 25 EU Member States, the three EU candidate countries - Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey - and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Membership negotiations are under way with Switzerland.