AgBioResearcher Discusses Societal and Ecosystems Interaction at AAAS Symposium

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Phil Robertson (view larger image)

Science and society need to come together if we are to effectively address the pressing environmental challenges we now face, an MAES scientist told a symposium audience at the 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.

MAES scientist Phil Robertson, chairperson of the National Science Foundation’s Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) Network and university distinguished professor of crop and soil sciences, organized and moderated a session titled “Integrated Science for Society and the Environment.”

“Solutions to problems that range from climate change to overexploitation of environmental resources to nitrogen pollution require more than knowledge about the biophysical environment or knowledge about how humans react to such problems,” Robertson said. “Knowledge is needed about the interface—how the biophysical and social domains interact.”

The goal of the symposium was to discuss LTER’s Integrative Science for Society and Environment (ISSE) framework, which was developed with exactly these kinds of issues in mind.

The LTER Network is composed of 26 NSF-funded sites, which conduct basic research in ecology and environmental science. The MSU site, at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, is the only agricultural site in the network.

The ISSE framework seeks to understand societal and environmental links in various ecosystems. The marine, urban and rangeland studies featured in the symposium demonstrated the value of an integrated, long-term, comparative research program in socioecological research and point to new policy options for managing environmental change.

Robertson noted that environmental research in the United States and elsewhere has traditionally been conducted in separate spheres with few formal interactions. In part, he said, this is due to the absence of a unifying framework that provides the potential to understand interactions and feedbacks.

“In particular, new frameworks are needed to help us understand how humans perceive the critical services provided by ecosystems, how these perceptions change behavior and institutions, and how behavioral and institutional change in turn feeds back to affect ecosystems and their ability to deliver future services.

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