Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, released in 2005, is an international synthesis by over 1000 of the world's leading biological scientists that analyzes the state of the Earth’s ecosystems and provides summaries and guidelines for decision-makers. It concludes that human activity is having a significant and escalating impact on the biodiversity of world ecosystems, reducing both their resilience and biocapacity. The report refers to natural systems as humanity's "life-support system", providing essential "ecosystem services". The assessment measures 24 ecosystem services concluding that only four have shown improvement over the last 50 years, fifteen are in serious decline, and five are in a stable state overall, but under threat in some parts of the world.
The assessment makes use of thorough studies and information to call attention to its topic. It highlights four issues that revolve around the fact that ecosystem degradation is fast reaching dangerous new levels:
- The past 50 years have faced far more serious change to the world's ecosystems than has ever been seen before. The process is only accelerating as humanity's need for resources grows exponentially.
- While ecosystem services that have increased human development have grown, there are others that have been severely damaged as a result. The damage to these services will have future repercussions.
- Degradation is a barrier to UN development goals. Plans to eradicate famine and disease worldwide cannot be accomplished as expected with such environmental damage occurring.
- There are possible changes which could resolve many of these problems and keep development on par with demand, but there is simply not enough effort made to include such policies.
The assessment demanded that changes be instituted firmly and quickly. It was recognized that, as humanity has the power and ability to prevent the damages to the planet, it is also our duty to do so. One of the most important issues brought up was the effects apa of environmental damage to the underdeveloped and poor people of the world. The report urged the nations of the world to work harder to achieve a sustainable future.
1. Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history, largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber and fuel. This has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth.
2. The changes that have been made to ecosystems have contributed to substantial net gains in human well-being and economic development, but these gains have been achieved at growing costs in the form of:
- the degradation of many ecosystem services
- increased risks of nonlinear changes,
- the exacerbation of poverty for some groups of people.
These problems, unless addressed, will substantially diminish the benefits that future generations obtain from ecosystems.
3. The degradation of ecosystem services could grow significantly worse during the first half of this century and is a barrier to reducing global poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
4. The challenge of reversing the degradation of ecosystem while meeting increasing demands for ecological services can be partially met under some scenarios considered by the MA, but will involve significant changes in policies, institutions and practices that are not currently under way.
Many options exist to conserve or enhance specific ecosystem services in ways that reduce negative trade-offs or that provide positive synergies with other ecosystem services. The bottom line of the MA findings is that human actions are depleting Earth’s natural capital, putting such strain on the environment that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted. At the same time, the assessment shows that with appropriate actions it is possible to reverse the degradation of many ecosystem services over the next 50 years, but the changes in policy and practice required are substantial and not currently underway.
Twenty-nine subglobal assessments were planned to accompany the Millennium Assessment. They range from examinations of the Stockholm urban region to the coastal, small island, and coral reef ecosystems of Papua New Guinea; to people and the environment in the Philippines; to the downstream Mekong River wetlands ecosystem in Vietnam.
- International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity
- Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)
- 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (2010 BIP)
- Giles, J. (2005, March 31). Millennium group nails down the financial value of ecosystems. In Nature, 434, 547.
- Habitat for humanity. (2005, April 2). In The Economist, 375, 75.
- Mooney, H. & Cropper, A. & Reid, W. (2005, March 31). Confronting the human dilemma: How can ecosystems provide sustainable services to benefit society?. In Nature, 434, 561.
- Ranganathan, J & Irwin, F. (2007, May 7). Restoring Nature's Capital: An Action Agenda to Sustain Ecosystem Services .
- Reid WV (2004) Bridging the Science–Policy Divide. PLoS Biol 2(2): e27.
- Revkin, A. C. (2005, April 5). Report tallies hidden costs of human assault on nature. In The New York Times, CLIV, D2.
- Stokstad, E. (2005, April 1). Taking the pulse of Earth's life-support systems. In Science, 308, 41 – 43.
- Living Beyond Our Means: Natural Assets and Human Well-being The MA Board statement and summary of the Reports
- Official MA site (information-rich)
- Official popularized versions of MA reports: ecosystem change, biodiversity, desertification
- Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Toolkit (March 2007) by Island Press - describes the MA, ecosystem services, and valuation, and lays out lessons learned from effective policies and practices to increase human well-being and to solve environmental and development problems.
- Wikinews report on the four year study's initial results
- United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014)
- Millennium Ecosystem Assessment press release signed by eight of the world's leading environmental conservation organizations
- Amazonia Landscape Mapping and Biodiversity Estimation