Detecting environmental change: Science and Society – perspectives on long term research and monitoring in the 21st Century

T. W. Parr, A. R. J. Sier, R. W. Battarbee, A. Mackay, J. Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Citations (Scopus)


Widespread concern over the state of the environment and the impacts of anthropogenic activities on ecosystem services and functions has highlighted the need for high-quality, long-term datasets for detecting and understanding environmental change. In July 2001, an international conference reviewed progress in the field of long-term ecosystem research and monitoring (LTERM). Examples are given which demonstrate the need for long-term environmental monitoring and research, for palaeoecological reconstructions of past environments and for applied use of historical records that inform us of past environmental conditions. LTERM approaches are needed to provide measures of baseline conditions and for informing decisions on ecosystem management and environmental policy formulation. They are also valuable in aiding the understanding of the processes of environmental change, including the integrated effects of natural and anthropogenic drivers and pressures, recovery from stress and resilience of species, populations, communities and ecosystems. The authors argue that, in order to realise the full potential of LTERM approaches, progress must be made in four key areas: (i) increase the number, variety and scope of LTERM activities to help define the operational range of ecosystems; (ii) greater integration of research, monitoring, modelling, palaeoecological reconstruction and remote sensing to create a broad-scale early warning system of environmental change; (iii) development of inter-disciplinary approaches which draw upon social and environmental science expertise to understand the factors determining the vulnerability and resilience of the nature–society system to change; and (iv) more and better use of LTERM data and information to inform the public and policymakers and to provide guidance on sustainable development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2003

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