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Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Current State and Trends: Findings of the Condition and Trends Working Group

Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Current State and Trends: Findings of the Condition and Trends Working Group (Paperback)

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Humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively in the last 50 years than in any comparable period of human history. We have done this to meet the growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber, and fuel. While changes to ecosystems have enhanced the well-being of billions of people, they have also caused a substantial and largely irreversible loss in diversity of life on Earth, and have strained the capacity of ecosystems to continue providing critical services.

Among the findings are: approximately 60 per cent of the services that support life on Earth are being degraded or used unsustainably, and the harmful consequences of this degradation could grow significantly worse in the next 50 years; only four ecosystem services have been enhanced in the last 50 years - crops, livestock, aquaculture, and the sequestration of carbon; the capacity of ecosystems to neutralize pollutants, protect us from natural disasters, and control the outbreaks of pests and diseases is declining significantly; terrestrial and freshwater systems are reaching the limits of their ability to absorb nitrogen; and harvesting of fish and other resources from coastal and marine systems is compromising their ability to deliver food in the future. Richly illustrated with maps and graphs, "Current State and Trends" presents an assessment of Earth's ability to provide twenty-four distinct services essential to human well-being. These include food, fiber, and other materials; the regulation of the climate and fresh water systems; underlying support systems such as nutrient cycling; and the fulfillment of cultural, spiritual, and aesthetic values.

The volume pays particular attention to the current health of key ecosystems, including inland waters, forests, oceans, croplands, and dryland systems, among others. It will be an indispensable reference for scientists, environmentalists, agency professionals, and students.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment's work is overseen by a 45-member Board of Directors, co-chaired by Robert Watson, Chief Scientist and Senior Advisor for the Environment of the Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network of the World Bank, and A.H. Zakri, director of the United Nations University's Institute of Advanced Studies. The Assessment Panel, which oversees the technical work of the MA, includes 13 of the world's leading social and natural scientists. It is co-chaired by Angela Cropper of the Cropper Foundation and Harold Mooney of Stanford University. Walter Reid is the director of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

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