• Using the Planet


    Even before the advent of agriculture, Homo sapiens kicked off an entirely new process of planetary change. Earth would never be the same. Instead of mere centuries, Erle C Ellis advances a broader view of the Anthropocene, over many millennia, and what that means for land stewardship.
  • Lessons from a simulated civilisation


    The rise and fall of the ancient Maya has
    intrigued historians and archaeologists for decades. Now, Earth-system scientists are taking a keen interest. Scott Heckbert asks: what role might environmental conditions and trade play in the growth and eventual collapse of a civilisation?

photo: NASA-Visible Earth

Background

Global-change research requires long-term coordinated efforts from an international research community.
IGBP networks:
  • share expertise on experimental technologies
  • help transfer this expertise to developing countries
  • interact with modeling communities to ensure the latest understanding is used
  • conduct periodic syntheses on focused topics.

This approach leads to faster scientific progress and more comprehensive understanding of global processes and their regional variations.

An example of this approach is FLUXNET, a global network of over 240 flux towers across all major ecosystems continuously measuring key fluxes between the land and the atmosphere. Supported by IGBP's project iLEAPS and others, FLUXNET is making major contributions to the understanding of processes that control the land-atmosphere exchanges of water, energy and carbon dioxide.

FLUXNET has helped:

  • reveal the effect of changing growing season length on net carbon dioxide exchange
  • quantify variations in light-use efficiency (and hence gross primary production) with cloudiness
  • test remote sensing algorithms used in seasonal forcing of models for computing carbon exchange.
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