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Summary of Recommendations Human activities are currently leacling to changes in the global environment at virtually unprecedented rates, with potentially severe consequences for our future welfare. Increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, concerns for climate change, the appearance of the antarctic ozone hole and worldwide depletion of the ozone shield, tropical deforestation, and a host of other changes in our environment have captured the attention of scientists, the public, and policymakers. The pro~olem of global environmental change is crucial and urgent. For scientists, understanding the changes now in progress both natural and anthropogenic and predicting their future course are unprecedented challenges. New capabilities for observing the earth and new understanding of natural processes have led to a new con- ception of the earth as an integrated whole and to the development of evolving, extremely broad research programs on global change. Such programs must draw upon the capabilities of scientists in many disciplines and many nations and must build upon the foundation provided by many ongoing national and international programs. In the United States, the program on global change includes the study of biogeochemical dynamics, ecological systems and (lynamics, climatic and hydrologic systems, human interactions, earth system history, solid-earth processes, and solar influences. The fundamental 1
2 paradigm is that the prediction and ultimate management of envi- ronmenta] problems inescapably require development of a new earth system science aimed to improve understanding of the earth as an integrated whole. In the international scientific community, the International Coun- ciT of Scientific Unions has organized the International Geosphere- Biosphere Program (IGBP) to address the problems of global change. The objective of the IGBP is to describe and understand the interactive physical, chemical, and biological processes that regulate the total earth system, the unique environment that it provides for life, the changes that are occurring in this system, and the manner in which they are influenced by human activities. The TGBP is currently in its preparatory phase, during which the program's goals and research components are slowly evolving and coming into focus. In this report, a limited number of high-priority research ini- tiatives are recommended for early implementation as part of the U.S. contribution to the preparatory phase of the IGBP. The rec- ommendations are based on the committee's analysis of the most critical gaps, not being addressed by existing programs, in the scien- tific knowledge needed to understand the changes that are occurring in the earth system on time scales of decades to centuries. These initiatives wiD build upon the capabilities of the U.S. program in global change. With this framework in mind, the committee recommends the following: 1. Research initiatives: The committee recommends that the early U.S. contributions to the IGBP should focus on the following five research initiatives that address key relationships in the earth system: . Water-energy-vegetation interactions to develop global mod- els of the response of terrestrial ecosystems to changes in climate, land and water use, and related factors, and to determine the recip- rocal effect of such changes in terrestrial ecosystems on the climate system on regional and global scales. This research initiative requires an integrated approach of observations, experiments, and model de- velopment. ~ Fluxes of materials between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere and ocean to (1) improve understanding of ecosystem
3 processes most important for determining fluxes of radiatively active gases between the land and atmosphere, in order to predict how changes in climate and land use after gas emissions, and (2) improve understanding of the effects of land use changes on nutrient trans- fer to river, estuarine, and ocean systems, especially to understand consequent feedbacks to climate through, for example, Tong-term changes in ocean productivity. ~ Biogeochemical dynamics of ocean interactions with climate in order to predict effects of climate change on ocean biogeochemical cycles and the interactions of such cycles with climate via release and absorption of radiatively active gases. The ocean's capacity to se- quester or release such gases for example, carbon dioxide or organic sulfur species is directly and indirectly influenced by climate. Earth system history and modeling to document changes in atmospheric composition, climate, and human activities to improve and validate models of global change. A focus on periods of rapid rates of change wid provide insights into those changes that can be expected to occur with rates predicted for the future. ~ Human interactions with glo~oal change to analyze changes in human land use, energy use, and industrial processes that drive changes in the earth system. Documentation of changes in such human activities over the last several hundred years and construction of future scenarios of human activities that contribute to global change will be part of the effort. Steering groups of experts should be formed to develop detailed research plans for each of the five initiatives proposed above, with the committee assuring coordination and integration. 2. Supporting research: The U.S. component of the IGBP should serve to strengthen, coordinate, and enhance support for ongoing supportive activities in the earth sciences such as the World Climate Research Program, the Global Tropospheric Chemistry Pro- gram, the Joint Global Oceanic Flux Stucly, and related cliscipline- oriented research. 3. I'ong-term measurements: In order to document global change and provide a basis for the IGBP research program as a whole, a Tong-term commitment from all relevant agencies for sus- tained Tong-term measurements of key variables is required. An im- portant element is an integrated Earth Observing System program to coordinate space-based observations. 4. Data and information systems: All components of the IGBP,
4 both U.S. and international, wiD require effective data and informa- tion systems, capable of making available to research investigators contemporary space- and ground-basec3 data from observations and experiments as well as historical data sets. Establishing and main- taining an effective system for the diverse types of data that will be generated by the IGBP require an innovative, flexible, and carefully conceived approach. A Global Information System Test should be implemented to test the end-to-end performance of the information system. 5. International Geosphere-Biosphere Research and Training Centers: A limited number of International Geosphere-Biosphere Research and Training Centers should be established around the world as major foci for international cooperation in research and training for the study of global change. The centers would serve as ap- propriate to provide bases for large-scale manipulative experiments, to establish links with other international and national research and observational networks, and to serve as central repositories for ob- servational and experimental results. 6. Interagency coordination: Interagency coordination between the relevant U.S. agencies for implementation of the U.S. component of the IGBP is essential to the effective management of the com- plex program. Existing mechanisms for such coordination under the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technol- ogy (FCCSET) Committee on Earth Sciences should continue to be strengthened, and the adequacy of this mechanism to the task at hand should be periodically reviewed. 7. Coordination of international activities: Innovative mech- anisms should be developed for coordination of related activities of international, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organiza- tions, and many national groups of all kinds, with the IGBP. The International Council of Scientific Unions should urgently address the international institutional arrangements for the IGBP.