developing sound policies to guide future management. Advances during the past 10-20 years have transformed the ability of earth scientists to extract critical biological and environmental information from the geologic record. These advances at the interface of earth and biological sciences—combined with a greatly improved capacity for accurate dating of past events, the development of high-resolution timescales, and new techniques for correlation—set the stage for this assessment of research priorities in geohistorical analysis of biotic systems (see Box ES.1).

The committee recommends a major, decadal-scale scientific commitment to improving our ability to predict the biotic dynamics of environmental change through geohistorical analysis. Given the inherent complexity of biological systems and the increasing footprint of human activities over the last several millennia and centuries, it is critical that geohistorical analysis informs modeling and analysis of present day systems. Such a major effort will require an explicit commitment to innovative and genuinely multidisciplinary research both by agencies and by individuals. It will also require investments in the infrastructure needed to support collaboration between earth scientists and biologists, and new educational opportunities for earth scientists and biologists early in their careers that encourage them to bridge traditional disciplines.

Statement of Task

Committee on the Geologic Record of Biosphere Dynamics: The Key to Understanding the Biotic Effects of Future Environmental Change

The committee will describe the potential of the geologic record as a means of understanding biotic interactions with environmental change and the coupling of earth/life processes, and develop strategies for integrating earth and biological sciences and transferring their combined insights to the policy community. In particular, it will undertake the following tasks:

  1. Assess the current state of biogeologic analysis relevant to biosphere dynamics;

  2. Identify the most promising directions for collaborative research and the sharing of methodologies; and

  3. Describe the programmatic themes and research and data infrastructures required to accomplish these objectives.

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