Better Management for European Ecosystems

Potsdam, 17 June 2004

The European ecosystems are changing rapidly, caused by changes in climate as well as in land use. Scientific methods now exist to investigate the future development of landscapes. The goal of sustainable development can only be met if research into integrated assessments of ecosystems will become even more important in the future. This was the focus of the Workshop "Global Change and the Future of Ecosystems in Europe", hosted by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in Copenhagen on 10-11 June.

This workshop, jointly organised by the EEA with AVEC (Integrated Assessment of Vulnerable Ecosystems under Global Change) and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), brought together scientists with policy advisors from the European Commission and from nine national governments. In opening the conference, EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade emphasised that "managing European landscapes in the context of sustainable development requires sound up-to-date scientific information as well as a long-term vision for possible future development paths in all sectors involved in environmental decision making." She concluded that the new method of integrated ecosystem assessment, using scenarios and land-use accounting, is the focus of a fresh set of EEA activities.

The EU-representatives realised the importance of the MA and expressed great interest to start facilitating a European Millennium Ecosystem Assessment executed through EEA. Workshop participants agreed that scientists from social and natural disciplines, owners and users of the land and policy makers need to work together more closely to minimise the risk to biodiversity, agricultural and forest yield, water resources and other values.

AVEC's chair, Wolfgang Cramer from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), welcomed this broad consensus on the significance of global change for ecosystems. Working with the EEA will be necessary to provide the foundation for better environmental management in Europe. Some of the methods developed along the way will also be applicable to conditions in developing countries, where trends are often even faster and more directly detrimental than in Europe.

The workshop also marked an important step in the EU-funded research network AVEC, whose main purpose is to develop networks and common ground for discussions between scientists involved in the study of ecosystems. A small but important European contribution to the assessment of such trends is the participation of young scientists in the EU-sponsored AVEC summer schools, the next one of which is planned for 2005. The coming generation of experts will be crucial to better understanding of ecosystems as well as to sustainable policy.

Prof. Wolfgang Cramer, e-mail
Press office: Anja Wirsing, e-mail, phone +49 331 288-2507

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The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) was founded in 1992 and employs 121 scientists. Its research on climate change, climate impacts and sustainable development is of international renown. PIK is a member of the Leibniz Association.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) is the most extensive international study ever of the linkages between the world's ecosystems and human well-being. It offers decision-makers a mechanism to identify options that can improve upon core human development and sustainability goals and better understand the trade-offs in decisions about development and the environment. The final reports are under review and will be published early 2005.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) is the leading public body in Europe dedicated to providing sound, independent information on the environment to policy-makers and the public. This EU body is open to all nations that share its objectives. It currently has 31 member countries: the 25 EU Member States, the three EU candidate countries - Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey - and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Membership negotiations are under way with Switzerland.