such areas would allow determination of the factors contributing to environmental changes of particular interest and to the various responses to such changes at the local level. It would also generate more rapid results than studies of slower-changing or larger areas, because with more rapid change, relationships are more apparent. It would be appropriate to begin with relatively modest pilot projects that alert investigators to possible problems that can be dealt with prior to developing the infrastructures needed for the research on patterns of social, economic, and ecological change in the chosen locales (see also National Research Council, 1990b).

It would also be possible to conduct intensive studies of sustainable zones, that is, areas characterized by presumably sustainable use of natural resources. Such studies would best be comparative between similar or nearby regions with different patterns of resource use, one presumably more sustainable than the other. The logic is similar to that for critical zones.

Other criteria for selecting locales might also be defensible. We recommend that intensive study of locales should be included in the global change research program. The locales and the programs to study them be selected according to criteria including:

  • groups of locales should be chosen together on grounds of similarity and difference that would illuminate important global change questions (e.g., similar natural environment but different political systems);

  • social scientists and natural scientists should work together on the same ongoing research;

  • projects should preferably contribute new methods or measures that could be applied elsewhere; and

  • projects should employ measures for the locales taken from global data archives and return quantitative data on the locales to the same archives.

It should be noted, however, that the suggested model for doing such research is collaborative field work in the anthropological tradition: researchers would remain at the site only until completion of the project; they would not establish a center at the field site. We are not recommending that permanent institutions be developed as, for example, in the mold of the biological field station.



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