Global Land Project: Science Plan and Implementation Strategy. IGBP Report 53, IHDP Report 19. Stockholm, IGBP: The Global Land Project.
Human transformations of ecosystems and landscapes are the largest source of change on Earth, affecting the ability of the biosphere to sustain life. Humans have become ever more adept at appropriating and altering the Earth’s resources for human needs. Intensification and diversification of land use and advances in technology have led to rapid changes in biogeochemical cycles, hydrologic processes and landscape dynamics. Changes in land use and management affect the states, properties and functions of ecosystems, which in turn, affect the provision of ecosystem services and hence human well-being. Furthermore, biophysical alterations and social forces generate different responses in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere, in urban environments than in rural environments, and in developed countries than in developing countries.
Links between decision making, ecosystem services and global environmental change define important pathways of feedback from coupled human-environment activities at the local and regional scale, and to and from the global scale. However, there is a need for greatly improved understanding of how human actions affect natural processes of the terrestrial biosphere, and an even greater need to evaluate the consequences of these changes.
The goal of GLP is therefore:
to measure, model and understand the coupled human- environmental system.
This goal is part of broader efforts to understand changes in the interaction between people and their environments, and the ways these have affected, and may yet affect, the sustainability of the Earth System. Changes in coupled human-environmental systems affect the cycling of energy, water, elements and biota at the global level, and global-level changes in political economy, such as international treaties and market liberalisation, affect decisions about resources at local and regional levels.
Understanding changes in the coupled human-environmental system is enhanced when directed to the level of ecosystems and their synergy with human agents and societal structures, including the human consequences of biophysical changes. GLP therefore focuses on the interactions of the people, biota and natural resources of terrestrial and freshwater systems at local to regional scales. This research approach provides a framework to study the vulnerability and sustainability of the coupled system in different regions of the world.
GLP will build on the research of more than a decade within IGBP and IHDP core projects, especially GCTE and LUCC, along with other projects sponsored by the international global change programmes. This legacy provides the opportunity to study the coupled human-environment system in ways not possible in the past. GLP seeks to merge these existing research communities, and to attract other researchers from the social and natural sciences and the humanities.
GLP has three objectives that determine the research framework:
(i) to identify the agents, structures and nature of change in coupled human-environment systems on land, and to quantify their effects on the coupled system;
(ii) to assess how the provision of ecosystem services is affected by the changes in (i) above; and
(iii) to identify the character and dynamics of vulnerable and sustainable coupled human-environment systems to interacting perturbations, including climate change.
Three thematic areas emerge from these objectives: (i) the dynamics of land system change; (ii) the consequences of land system change; and (iii) integrating analysis and modelling for land sustainability. Focal areas are factors affecting decision making, the implementation of land use management, the effects on ecosystem and environmental dynamics, the provisioning of ecosystem services, and the evaluation of the land system’s vulnerability to global environmental changes, or sustainability in spite of these changes.