Upcoming Reports Link Human Well-being and Nature

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) – the most extensive study ever of the linkages between the world’s ecosystems and human well-being – will begin publishing its results starting September this year. The assessment, which was launched by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2001, will publish a series of four in-depth reports and up to seven shorter studies intended for decision-makers in government, the private sector, and civil society groups. The studies, to be released over two years, will be published by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment through Island Press. All the findings will also be available through the MA’s website, www.maweb.org.

The first study, Ecosystems and Human Well-being: A Framework for Assessment, published in September this year, will provide an outline of the approaches, processes, and parameters the scientists are using in the study.

The other volumes will report on the conditions of Earth’s ecosystems, describe plausible scenarios of ecosystem change and human well-being, and provide examples of responses to ecosystem changes. Another volume will look at how these three topics are treated at a variety of scales from villages to regional watersheds in different assessments being undertaken around the world as part of the MA. Five additional reports will address biodiversity, desertification, wetlands, and the importance of ecosystems for human well-being, and the private sector.

“Human actions are making vast changes in the ecosystems that support life on Earth, threatening the ability of these ecosystems to meet our growing needs for goods and services” said Dr. A. H. Zakri, co-chair of the MA board. “These reports will help us make informed choices in the sustainable use of these ecosystems.”

Some 500 scientists from 70 countries are working on these reports, and hundreds more will provide expert review of the assessment. Dozens of institutions throughout the world are contributing their expertise and supporting an on-going dialogue between the scientists and decision makers.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), is a 4-year, $21 million effort. It was designed by a partnership of UN agencies, international scientific organizations, and development agencies, with guidance from private sector and civil society groups. Major funding is provided by the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the World Bank. The MA Secretariat is coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Prior to the MA’s launch in June 2001, a study undertaken by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and many other partners – the Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems (PAGE) – demonstrated the feasibility of the MA. The results were published in a five-volume series in 2000 (http://www.wri.org/publications/ecosystems?page=11&sort=asc&order=By+Title). The pilot studies indicated that in many regions of the world, the capacity of ecosystems to meet human needs for food and clean water is being diminished. Also, threats to biodiversity and human health are growing, and vulnerability to environmental disasters such as floods and landslides is increasing. The MA will build upon these pilot reports, show what is known about ecosystems, and highlight uncertainties and areas where additional research is needed.

The MA has been recognized by governments as a mechanism to meet part of the assessment needs of four international environmental treaties – the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Convention on Migratory Species. Twenty-two of the world’s leading scientific bodies, including the Royal Society of the UK and the Third World Academy of Sciences, have pledged to ensure the quality of the reports and assist in its outreach to policy-makers.

The MA’s work is overseen by a 45-member board, chaired by Dr. Robert Watson, chief scientist of the World Bank, and Dr. A. H. Zakri, director of the United Nations University’s Institute of Advanced Studies. The Assessment Panel, which oversees the technical work of the MA, includes 13 of the world’s leading social and natural scientists. It is co-chaired by Angela Cropper of the Cropper Foundation, and Dr. Harold Mooney of Stanford University.

© 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment