Human World

Robert Waide: ‘We’re seeing unprecedented and rapid change’

Robert Waide: I think the most important trend we’re seeing is change – in many cases, unprecedented change. Change principally driven by modifications of global climate, by changing land-use, and by gain or loss of species.

Robert Waide is director of the Long-Term Ecological Research Network (LTER) Office . Scientists at the Network’s 26 study sites collect data on environmental trends around the world.

Robert Waide: I think the most important thing that we are focusing on, and we need to be concerned about, is this issue of tipping points.

That is, ecosystems can be stressed to the point in which they tip over to an entirely different kind of system, in other words, a system which has different kinds of behavior and provides different kind of ecosystem services. So ecosystems that once provided clean water and air could stop providing those things.

Robert Waide: It’s these tipping points that we’re not confident we can predict yet, because they are dependent on the interaction of many factors.

Still, scientists believe the ‘tipping’ of ecosystems will have largely negative effects.

Robert Waide: So the open question is whether humans will understand and appreciate these changes, and try to effect changes in their own behavior to try and head them off.

Our thanks to:
Robert Waide
Long-Term Ecological Research Network

January 19, 2009
Human World

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