Authors: Adrian Newton (Applied Sciences)
Alternative name suggestion: None
Brief theme summary: We are currently experiencing a global biodiversity crisis, with high rates of species extinction and widespread habitat loss resulting from human activities. Other forms of environmental change include degradation of ecosystems, pollution, overharvesting of natural resources, spread of invasive species and anthropogenic climate change. Together, these pressures are having a significant impact on the ecological processes on which human life depends.
Scope of theme: what is included? Biodiversity loss, extinction of species, environmental degradation, loss of ecosystem condition, habitat loss, environmental pollution, climate change, depletion of natural resources. Human responses to the biodiversity crisis, including sustainable use of natural resources, protected areas, ecological restoration. Effectiveness of management and policy responses. Impacts on ecosystem services and human wellbeing.
Scope of theme: what is excluded? Any element that does not have a significant environmental component.
Which big societal questions are addressed by this theme?
- How may extinction risk be assessed?
- What is the current rate of biodiversity loss?
- What are the likely effects of climate change on the world’s ecosystems and associated biodiversity?
- How vulnerable is the earth system to biodiversity loss?
- What are the likely effects of environmental change on provision of ecosystem services, and human wellbeing?
- Are there tipping points in ecological processes?
- Are there thresholds of environmental impact beyond which recovery is impossible?
- How resilient are ecological systems to environmental change?
- Will the earth system be able to support human society in future, if the biodiversity crisis is not addressed?
- How can the biodiversity crisis be addressed?
- What are the risks of ecosystem collapse?
How do these link to the priorities of the major funding bodies? Many of these issues are now featuring in calls from NERC (eg through the LWEC programme and the BESS programme), and from the EC.
How does this theme interlink with the other BU themes currently under consideration? There is a strong potential link with the Green Economy and Sustainability, but also potential to develop links (particularly on ecosystem services) with Health and wellbeing, Recreation and leisure, Culture and society or Society & Social Change, Entrepreneurship and economic growth.