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AAAS Joins Massive Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Biodiversity champion Peter Raven, former chairman of the AAAS Board of Directors, applauded the Association's new role as an Affiliate of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessmentone of the largest, most ambitious international ecosystem-change studies ever undertaken.
"Protecting the planet's fragile ecosystems is essential for human well-being and prosperity," said Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden. "Human health and sustainable economic development depend upon clean air, clean water and, ultimately, on the preservation of natural biodiversity. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has embarked upon a critical effort to determine the actual state of our planet objectively, so that we can measure our progress toward these objectives. With the right measurements, we can respond according to the principles of sound science. I'm very pleased that AAAS will be a part of this extraordinary effort."
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), launched in June 2001 by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and others, will provide authoritative scientific information on the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and the options for responding to those changes. The MA builds upon lessons learned in conducting scientific assessments, especially the work by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), explained AAAS Chief International Officer Shere Abbott.
"The scope of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is far-reaching," Abbott said. "This is a four-year, $21-million effort that not only brings together most of the world's leading social and natural scientists to investigate the world's changing ecosystems, but also strengthens our capacity to manage ecosystems sustainably for all people, for generations to come."
As an Affiliated Scientific Organization, AAAS will assist in identifying expert reviewers for ecosystem assessment reports, while also helping to disseminate resulting information. AAAS' participation will culminate in a series of MA reports, to be published in 2005. The MA's kickoff report, Ecosystems and Human Well-being, was released 23 September, 2003 to provide decision-makers with mechanisms for identifying ecosystem change-response options.
Scientists working with the MA are addressing a broad range of ecosystem-change questions - from the economic impacts of global land-cover change to the health effects of water and air pollution, said Lars Bromley of the AAAS Center for Science, Innovation and Sustainable Development. On more regional levels, the MA will investigate specific examples of change.
In the Colombian Andean coffee-growing region, for example, an assessment focuses on three mountain ranges to identify sustainable conservation strategies and promote knowledge of Andean biodiversity. And in Papua, New Guinea, scientists study resource-management challenges in light of socio-economic issues such as limited access to modern health and education services.
Because of existing AAAS ecosystem projects, Bromley said, the Association is well-positioned to make active contributions to the Millennium Assessment. On northern Russia's blighted, industrialized Kola Peninsula, for instance, AAAS is working to help improve the management of natural resources, while also providing local groups and researchers with essential tools to address environmental issues. The Kola Peninsula work is part of the AAAS program focusing on four watershed areas: The Plata Basin region of South America; the Mekong River in Asia; the Niger Delta in Africa; and Russia's Lake Imandra Basin on the Kola Peninsula.
AAAS joins close to 30 leading scientific organizations and academies of sciences in supporting the MA, according to Nicolas Lucas of the World Resources Institute, who serves as the Assessment's senior associate for Engagement and Outreach. "It is critical for the MA that the scientific community worldwide is informed about the MA and is given the opportunity to inform the assessment," Lucas said. "AAAS is widely recognized and respected among MA authors and we are very glad the Association accepted our invitation."
17 October 2003