How can future human demand for food, fiber, energy, and water be efficiently met while minimizing negative impacts to the earth? Answering this question is key to developing scenarios that will inform natural resource management and planning, particularly those that jointly consider the effects of new policies on social and environmental systems. Understanding and accounting for potential changes to biodiversity, ecosystems, and the physical system is essential for effective, joint mitigation efforts.
Ecosystems services—the benefits that natural ecosystems provide to society—are increasingly the focus of land management decisions. Critical for these decisions is the consideration of social values; for example, how do stakeholders value ecological performance? How do they value one service relative to another? Are the ecosystem service benefits equitable?
Last week SESYNC convened a multi-disciplinary group of 15 experts including decision makers, NGO leaders, and accomplished social and natural scientists to discuss priorities and questions to be addressed by the Center. This roundtable discussion was one of a number of efforts focused on helping SESYNC understand what the community feels are the most important Themes and critical socio-environmental problems that we should address over the next 2 years.
Well-designed monitoring systems are essential if we are to better understand and track changes in the connections between people and the environment. Current monitoring systems fail to do this adequately. This Pursuit focuses on advancing ecosystem services monitoring to better reflect vital connections at several levels. The project will utilize household surveys and censuses, in-situ observations, and national indicators as data sources.
The increasing movement of corporations towards social and ecological responsibility suggests that the business world may lead a profound change in how we view our dependence upon natural capital: Corporations are increasingly focused on ecosystem services issues; demand for broader corporate impact measurement and disclosure related to ecosystem services parameters is growing; and several new initiatives have launched to further understanding of corporate impacts on ecosystem services.
Cold, very isolated, and ecologically desolate are the descriptors Margaret Palmer uses when talking about her March 7 – 13 trip to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). Palmer, SESYNC’s Executive Director, was one of fourteen international scholars that traveled as a team to North Korea to consider ecological restoration options for the barren lands of this impoverished country. Jessica Marx, an Environmental Science Research Assistant at SESYNC, recently interviewed Palmer about the trip:
Over 2.5 billion plants were imported into the United States in 2009. This global trade in live plants is a major pathway for invasion by non‐native insect pests and diseases of agricultural and natural resources. Identifying cost-efficient strategies for reducing the economic and environmental risks associated with invasive pest introduction is a major challenge.
As part of the Maryland China Initiative, a SESYNC hosted a delegation of 18 officials from different Provincial Environmental Protection Departments.These delegates are visiting for a two-week program on environmental management and visited SESYNC to learn about how we operate and how we developing programs to create actionable science.