Area of Concentration:

Land & Ecosystems

Land and ecosystems are broadly encompassing terms that include natural resources, environmental flows and services. On March 30, 2005 the Global Environmental Facility (GEF)  released the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (referred to as the MA). Over a four year period (2001 and 2005), the MA was carried out “to assess the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and to establish the scientific basis for actions needed to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems and their contributions to human well-being” (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005: v). This Area of Concentration includes challenges and solutions associated with land and ecosystems in many contexts: rural development and working landscapes,  farming, community gardens, the land-sea interface, natural resources management, biodiversity conservation planning, among others.

Excerpt from : Worldwatch Report: Mitigating Climate Change Through Food and Land Use
Authors: Sara J. Scherr and Sajal Sthapit (2009), 50 pages

Land makes up a quarter of Earth’s surface, and its soil and plants hold three times as much carbon as the atmosphere. More than 30 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions arise from the land use sector. Thus, no strategy for mitigating global climate change can be complete or successful without reducing emissions from agriculture, forestry, and other land uses. Moreover, only land-based or “terrestrial” carbon sequestration offers the possibility today of large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, through plant photosynthesis.

Three global ecosystem management problems

  • First, approximately 60% (15 out of 24) of the ecosystem services examined during the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment are being degraded or used unsustainably, including fresh water, capture fisheries, air and water purification, and the regulation of regional and local climate, natural hazards, and pests. The full costs of the loss and degradation of these ecosystem services are difficult to measure, but the available evidence demonstrates that they are substantial and growing. Many ecosystem services have been degraded as a consequence of actions taken to increase the supply of other services, such as food. These trade-offs often shift the costs of degradation from one group of people to another or defer costs to future generations.
  • Second, there is established but incomplete evidence that changes being made in ecosystems are increasing the likelihood of nonlinear changes in ecosystems (including accelerating, abrupt, and potentially irreversible changes) that have important consequences for human well-being. Examples of such changes include disease emergence, abrupt alterations in water quality, the creation of “dead zones” in coastal waters, the collapse of fisheries, and shifts in regional climate.
  • Third, the harmful effects of the degradation of ecosystem services (the persistent decrease in the capacity of an ecosystem to deliver services) are being borne disproportionately by the poor, are contributing to growing inequities and disparities across groups of people, and are sometimes the principal factor causing poverty and social conflict. This is not to say that ecosystem changes such as increased food production have not also helped to lift many people out of poverty or hunger, but these changes have harmed other individuals and communities, and their plight has been largely overlooked. In all regions, and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the condition and management of ecosystem services is a dominant factor influencing prospects for reducing poverty. (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005: Box 2).

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Bioregionalization and territorial complexity in the global South

Regional Environmental Governance: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Theoretical Issues, Comparative Designs (REGov)

Frédéric Giraut Corresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail The Corresponding Author
Department of Geography, University of Geneva, Uni-Mail, Av. Pont-d’Arve 40, 1211 Geneva 4, Switzerland

Available online 20 April 2011.

This contribution is based on a set of reflections presented at the REGov Workshop. These reflections were offered as part of a panel discussion around the topic “New environmental regionalism.” Additional presentations provided in the context of this panel discussion include those of William Jackson, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (this volume) and Jörg Balsiger, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (this volume). Webcasts of all presentations are available at