. "1 Introduction and Overview." Transitioning to Sustainability Through Research and Development on Ecosystem Services and Biofuels: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008.
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Transitioning to Sustainability Through Research and Development on Ecosystem Services and Biofuels: Workshop Summary
variability and land use changes on ecosystem services. Efforts included the development of life-cycle assessment tools for multiple resources, ecological models, and holistic, place based ecosystem analysis. The geographic areas being studied included the Great Plains, California’s Central Valley, and regions of Central America.
The session on biofuels addressed many of the themes identified during the session on ecosystem services including the need to examine biofuels holistically—developing frameworks for analyzing environmental and economic impacts associated with various feedstocks and for looking at impacts at different scales. For example, while many cropping decisions are made by individual farmers, their decisions are driven in part by federal and state policies as well as global markets. At the same time, the environmental impacts of production are seen well beyond individual farms with impacts on local streams, watersheds, coastal areas, such as the Gulf of Mexico, and even international changes in land use.
While much of the workshop focused on specific research gaps, participants emphasized that much is already known about the natural science issues associated with ecosystem services and biofuels. The bigger gap is in understanding some of the associated social, economic, political, and behavioral issues. For example, what resource management approaches are most effective and why (and what does not work and why). Is it possible to identify the effects of changing ecosystems on communities and vulnerable people? Who benefits most from current efforts to expand the production of ethanol and other biofuels? Who loses? Many participants emphasized the need to take a holistic approach in looking at the sustainability of biofuels as well as in developing approaches to manage ecosystem services.
A theme throughout the meeting was the importance of strengthening connections between researchers and decision makers—including farmers, fishermen, resource managers, and policy makers. These connections should help shape federal research priorities and assure that the results of this research are used to improve the sustainability of natural systems and local knowledge dissemination—making the results of federal R&D widely available and linking this knowledge to concrete policies and programs at federal, state, and local levels.
The National Research Council (NRC) report, Our Common Journey (NRC, 1999), described a general strategy for research and development in support of the transition to sustainability—i.e., meeting the needs of present and future generations while substantially reducing poverty and conserving the planet’s life support systems. The report stressed the importance of moving beyond “sectoral” approaches to more integrated approaches to sustainability challenges that take into account complex interactions among systems (water, atmosphere/climate, ecosystems, humans, and their institutions). Examples of such integrated chal-