Global team member comments on landmark ecosystem report

03/30/05

PROVIDENCE, RI – Osvaldo Sala, a Brown University ecologist and coordinating lead author for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, said the environmental degradation outlined in the project's first report is alarming – but can be slowed with effective economic, health and environmental policies.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is a global partnership of some 1,500 scientists studying the consequences of ecosystem change. The program was created by the United Nations and is supported by stakeholders such as the World Bank and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

At a series of press conferences today, the group released its first report. It concludes that people in the last few decades have severely altered the planet, quickly depleting many of the life-giving benefits that ecosystems provide, such as food and fresh water. This increases the likelihood of the collapse of fisheries, the emergence of new diseases, the degradation of water supplies and other abrupt changes that will seriously affect human health, the report states.

"In the past, we were able to feed enough people and maintain a steadily growing consumption of goods – but at great expense to the environment," Sala said. "This report clearly shows that we can no longer continue on this course."

Sala is the Sloan Lindemann and George Lindemann Jr. Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and professor of biology at Brown. He also directs the Center for Environmental Studies and the University's new Environmental Change Initiative, a multidisciplinary research and education program addressing the drivers behind global environmental change.

A leading authority on biodiversity and global change, Sala serves as president of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment. For the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Sala led a group of scientists studying four futuristic scenarios which take into account everything from population growth to land use change and their effects on biodiversity. This work will be released later this spring.

"Conclusions in this first study are worrisome," Sala said. "We are quickly depleting the resources we need to survive. No single policy will solve the problem. But effective solutions must do two things: decrease population growth and decrease human consumption. We must ease the demands that we're placing on the environment."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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