Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences

Committee on Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences

Oversight Commission for the Committee on Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
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Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences Committee on Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences Oversight Commission for the Committee on Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C.

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Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS 2101 Constitution Ave., N.W. Washington, DC 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This project was supported by Grant No. DBI-9806286 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the organizations or agencies that provided support for this project. International Standard Book Number 0-309-07254-9 Library of Congress Control Number: 2001089192 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Ave., NW Box 285 Washington, DC 20055 800-624-6242 202-334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area) http://www.nap.edu Copyright 2001 by the National Academy of Sciences . All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Engineering Institute of Medicine National Research Council The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences This page in the original is blank.

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Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences COMMITTEE ON GRAND CHALLENGES IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES T HOMAS E. G RAEDEL (Chair), Yale University, New Haven, CT A LICE A LLDREDGE, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA E RIC B ARRON , The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA M ARGARET D AVIS , University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN C HRISTOPHER F IELD , Carnegie Institution of Washington, Stanford, CA B ARUCH F ISCHHOFF , Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA R OBERT F ROSCH , Harvard University, Cambridge, MA S TEVEN G ORELICK , Stanford University, Stanford, CA E LISABETH A. H OLLAND , National Center for Atmospheric Research D ANIEL K REWSKI , University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada R OBERT J. N AIMAN , University of Washington, Seattle, WA E LINOR O STROM , Indiana University, Bloomington, IN M ICHAEL R OSENZWEIG , University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ V ERNON W. R UTTAN , University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN E LLEN K. S ILBERGELD , University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD E DWARD S TOLPER , California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA B.L. T URNER II, Clark University, Worcester, MA Staff D AVID P OLICANSKY , Project Director P AUL C. S TERN , Senior Program Officer L AURIE G ELLER , Program Officer R ONA B RIERE , Editor L EAH L. P ROBST , Senior Project Assistant

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Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences OVERSIGHT COMMISSION FOR THE COMMITTEE ON GRAND CHALLENGES IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES G EORGE H ORNBERGER (Chair), University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA P ETER B ANKS , ERIM International, Ann Arbor, MI K ENNETH B RINK , Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA R ALPH J. C ICERONE , University of California, Irvine, CA M ICHAEL C LEGG , University of California, Riverside, CA P AMELA A. M ATSON , Stanford University, Stanford, California G ORDON O RIANS , University of Washington, Seattle, WA F. S HERWOOD R OWLAND , University of California, Irvine, CA K. A NNE S TREET , GEOCENTERS, Rockville, MD Staff R OBERT H AMILTON , Executive Director

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Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences Preface The relationship of our technological society with the environment has become a central topic of discussion in the academic world, in society at large, and even in U.S. presidential election campaigns. It is clear that the topic is of great importance; it is equally clear that the topic is complex and multifaceted, and has many aspects for which our current understanding is inadequate. The National Science Foundation (NSF), long a supporter of research in the disciplinary sciences, has become a major supporter of the inherently interdisciplinary environmental sciences as well. In carrying out this role, NSF asked the National Research Council (NRC) to address the following question: “Of the many scientific challenges related to the environment, which few offer the greatest potential for investment; that is, what are the ‘grand challenges' in environmental science?” In response, the NRC established the Committee on Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences, comprising 17 members with a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds. The committee met five times between January and October 1999 to solicit input, select the most compelling challenges, and formulate its recommendations. The diversity of specialization and expertise needed for this task was far greater than is the case for most NRC studies, and it is to the committee's credit that it was able to reach agreement on a small set of grand challenges and an even smaller set of immediate research investments. This volume presents the results of the committee's efforts. The environmental sciences are not the sole purview of NSF. We anticipate that this report will be of interest as well to the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and other organi

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Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences zations both within and outside of government. I hope that all of these organizations will coordinate their support for the environmental sciences so the maximum progress will be achieved. This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their technical expertise and diverse perspectives in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC's Report Review Committee for reviewing NRC and Institute of Medicine reports. The purpose of that independent review was to provide candid and critical comments to assist the NRC in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: Cynthia Beall, Case Western Reserve University; Kenneth Brink, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Ingrid Burke, Colorado State University; Robert Dickinson, Georgia Institute of Technology; Thomas Dietz, George Mason University; John Dowling, Harvard University; Theodore Geballe, Stanford University; Jack Gibbons, National Academy of Engineering; Bernard Goldstein, Rutgers University; William Graf, Arizona State University; Geoffrey Heal, Columbia University; George M. Hornberger, University of Virginia; Raymond Jeanloz, University of California, Berkeley; Pamela Matson, Stanford University; Judith E. McDowell, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Hugh Morris, El Dorado Gold Corporation; Gilbert Omenn, University of Michigan; Gordon Orians, University of Washington; David Pilbeam, Harvard University; Henry Vaux, University of California; Thomas J. Wilbanks, Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and Eric Wood, Princeton University. The individuals listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions. It must be emphasized, however, that responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the NRC. The staff of the NRC has been particularly helpful in the deliberations of the committee and the preparation of this report. Leah Probst 's efforts in shepherding the multiple drafts and comments and in preparing the results for publication were vital. Laurie Geller and Paul Stern provided both intellectual and organizational contributions of great merit. The committee extends its highest commendation to David Policansky, whose knowledge of the environmental sciences and of the NRC and whose interpersonal abilities and diligence are exceptional and deeply appreciated. Thomas E. Graedel, Ph.D. Chair, Committee on Grand Challenges in the Environmental Sciences

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Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences Contents     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY   1  CHAPTER 1:   INTRODUCTION   7      Context: The Multidisciplinary Nature of Environmental Science,   8      Study Purpose and Scope,   9      Approach,   9      Organization of this Report,   13  CHAPTER 2:   THE GRAND CHALLENGES   14     1:  Biogeochemical Cycles,   14     2:  Biological Diversity and Ecosystem Functioning,   20     3:  Climate Variability,   27     4:  Hydrologic Forecasting,   31     5:  Infectious Disease and the Environment,   36     6:  Institutions and Resource Use,   43     7:  Land-Use Dynamics,   48     8:  Reinventing the Use of Materials,   54  CHAPTER 3:   RECOMMENDED IMMEDIATE RESEARCH INVESTMENTS   60     1:  Biological Diversity and Ecosystem Functioning,   61     2:  Hydrologic Forecasting,   63     3:  Infectious Disease and the Environment,   64     4:  Land-Use Dynamics,   66

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Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences  CHAPTER 4:   IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES   70      Complexity of Environmental Phenomena: An Overall Research Vision,   70      Implementation of Regional Approaches and the Role of Research Centers,   73      Building of Capacity for Interdisciplinary, Problem-Oriented Research,   74      Need for Interagency Support of Grand Challenge Research,   76      Need to Improve the Usefulness of Environmental Science Research,   77     REFERENCES   79  APPENDIX A:   LETTER OF SOLICITATION   89  APPENDIX B:   AUTHORS OF SUGGESTED GRAND CHALLENGES   91