vices, and sustainable management and harvesting techniques. Those ecosystems that have been the least influenced by human activities represent the last reserves of the earth's biodiversity. For future generations, these systems provide a treasure of stored biodiversity and of ethical, aesthetic, and spiritual qualities. For these systems, the goal should be to protect and conserve biological diversity, both by dramatically reducing current rates of land conversion and by more rigorously identifying and selecting protected areas.
Achievements in one sector do not imply improvements in other sectors or in the situation overall. For example, efforts to preserve natural ecosystems for ethical or aesthetic reasons, or for the goods and services they provide to humans, may ultimately fail if they do not account for the longer-term changes likely to be introduced by atmospheric pollution, climate change, water shortages, or human population enchroachment. The Board therefore also proposes integrated approaches to research and actions at the regional scale related to water, atmosphere and climate, and species and ecosystems. The need is to develop both a thorough understanding of the most critical interactions and an integrated strategy for planning and management. This will require evaluation of ongoing experiments in integrative research, more focused effort on such research at all spatial scales, and new frameworks for improving interactions among partners in industry, academia, foundations, and other organizations.
There is no precedent for the ambitious enterprise of mobilizing science and technology to ensure a transition to sustainability. Nevertheless, the United States has a special obligation to join and help guide the journey. In addition to having a robust scientific and technological capacity, the United States is a major consumer of global resources. Moreover, sustainable communities have not been realized across the U.S. landscape. Carrying out this enterprise successfully will require collaborative efforts across many dimensions of science and society.
Implementation of the recommendations in this report will be a task not only for the National Research Council and its U.S. partners in science, but also for the international science community, governments, foundations, voluntary organizations, and the private sector working together through innovative knowledge-action collaboratives. Our goal here has not been to preempt any broader endeavors involving these national and international partners, but rather to encourage them and to suggest some initial directions for our common journey toward sustainability.