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Institute of Advanced Study

Sustaining Ecosystem Delivery in a Changing World


28 March 2011 (noon) - 31 March 2011 (after lunch)

Whitehead Room, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

All human society depends critically upon continuity of supply of a variety of natural resources (clean air, water, fertile soil, food, fuel/energy, raw materials) that are provided as ecosystem services. The continuing supply of these resources depends, however, upon the maintenance of sufficient extents of functioning natural ecosystems and of the biodiversity upon which their continuing function increasingly will depend in a world of rapid climatic change. Although these resources are renewable over ecological time scales, ecosystems' capacities to supply them have finite limits.

Furthermore, terrestrial ecosystems able to supply these resources compete with humanity for the limiting resource of land. Land is in demand by human society to accommodate urban, industrial and other developments, for agricultural use, including biofuel production, and to provide 'green space'. Given these competing demands, and human society's dependence upon ecosystem services, there is an urgent need for quantitative assessments of the services provided by various ecosystems, and of the impacts of rapid climatic change upon the sustainability of these services, to inform the development of future land management strategies.

This four-day international workshop will focus upon identifying the research needed to develop land management strategies that will ensure sustained and sustainable adequate future supplies of renewable natural resources. Whereas much of the focus of previous studies has been upon attaching economic values to ecosystem services, the focus of the workshop, and the future research that it will stimulate, will be upon quantifying both ecosystems' capacities to deliver services and humanity's demands for the associated resources, especially taking into account the likely impacts of projected future climatic changes.

Speakers at the workshop will include:

  • Prof.essor Stephen Carpenter (University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA);
  • Professor Torben Christensen (Lund University, Sweden);
  • Dr Dolf de Groot (Wageningen University, The Netherlands);
  • Professor Stuart Lane (Durham University);
  • Professor Rik Leemans (Wageningen University, The Netherlands);
  • Dr Ralf Ohlemüller (Durham University);
  • Professor Chris Thomas (York University).

The workshop will be limited to a small number of participants so as to facilitate effective discussion and exchange of ideas, as well as the generation of the workshop outputs. The latter will include a 'position paper', discussing the key research needs identified by the workshop, as well as proposals for future joint research by workshop participants. Although attendance principally will be by invitation, enquiries are welcome from individuals interested in participating and should be addressed to Professor Brian Huntley.