Thursday, August 6, 2009 - 2:10 PM

OOS 41-3: Observing the terrestrial biosphere and its changes

Ruth DeFries, Columbia University and Erle Ellis, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.


What observations are needed for sustainable decisions about anthropogenic use of the terrestrial biosphere?

The view of the terrestrial biosphere from space has become increasingly accessible to scientists, educators, and the public.  Compared with coarse resolution observations of previous decades, the new view enables people to perceive the expansive presence of the human enterprise in the terrestrial biosphere.  A critical aspect of this view is the spatial connection between where goods are produced and where they are consumed, combined with the effects on the biosphere at each step in the production chain.  The ability to track these connections underpins initiatives such as certification of sustainably-produced timber.  If such initiatives are to be successful and expand to water, food, and other resources, the ability to monitor and communicate where and how goods are produced becomes paramount.  A systems perspective that analytically examines the multi-scale impacts on the terrestrial biosphere along production chains is needed for sustainable management.