The Integrated Assessment Society is a not-for-profit entity created to promote the community of inter-disciplinary and disciplinary scientists, analysts and practitioners who develop and use Integrated Assessment (IA). The goals of the society are to nurture this community, to promote the development of IA and to encourage its wise application.
Integrated Assessment can be defined as the interdisciplinary process of integrating knowledge from various disciplines and stakeholder groups in order to evaluate a problem situation from a variety of perspectives and provide support for its solution. IA supports learning and decision processes and helps to identify desirable and possible options for addressing the problem. It therefore builds on two major methodological pillars: approaches to integrating knowledge about a problem domain, and understanding policy and decision making processes. IA has been developed to address issues of acid rain, climate change, land degradation, water and air quality management, forest and fisheries management and public health.
by Claudia Pahl-Wostl (TIAS Vice-president), Caroline van Bers (TIAS Quarterly Editor) with contributions from Rik Leemans, Laszlo Pinter, Jeff Price and Jeroen van der Sluijs
Integrated Assessment and Biodiversity: Understanding and Reducing the Loss
The unprecedented levels of biodiversity decline have finally caught the attention of the popular press. This because the rate of species loss is faster than any decline on record and it is visible even to the non-expert. The decline is complex. It is not only species diversity but also genetic diversity– in particular in agricultural crops – and habitat diversity that are affected. The potential implications are not yet fully understood. But there is sufficient scientific evidence to conclude that the decline in the resilience of social-ecological systems, the provision of ecosystem services and risks of exceeding thresholds and regime shifts are considerable and alarming.
Assessing the causes of biodiversity loss and the effectiveness of responses at different scales is a domain where Integrated Assessment has much to contribute. We invited TIAS members whose work encompasses this theme to describe their views of the following:
We then summarized their responses in this article.
- the role of Integrated Assessment in addressing biodiversity loss; and
- how their work (be it research, practice or policy advice) can or does contribute to slowing the rate of biodiversity loss.
The respondents who generously took some time out of their busy schedules to respond to our survey in the run-up to the holiday season are:
Their contributions are highlighted in light blue.
- Rik Leemans, Professor and director of Environmental Systems Analysis, Wageningen University, Netherlands (and TIAS Advisory Board Member)
- Laszlo Pinter, Professor and Acting Director of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Central European University, Hungary (and TIAS Advisory Board Member)
- Jeff Price, Senior researcher, Tyndall Climate Change Centre, Coordinator of the Wallace Initiative (http://wallaceinitiative.org) a multi-institutional partnership examining the projected impacts of climate change on terrestrial biodiversity, UK
- Jeroen van der Sluijs, Professor of Theory of Science & Ethics of the Natural Sciences, University of Bergen, Norway
The role of IA in addressing biodiversity decline
Rik Leemans: Although biodiversity is largely a local/regional issue, which only becomes globally relevant through its cumulative effects, IA is important to integrate all the different threats (overexploitation, habitat destruction, pollution, climate change etc.), to develop the proper regionally and globally relevant indicators and test policy measures in scenarios. Humans are also strongly dependent of biodiversity for many aspects of their well-being. This dependence also has to be assessed by IA.
However, uncertainty and complexity impose limits on what can be done and need to be taken into account:
Laszlo Pinter: Biodiversity loss is a culmination of processes that cut across temporal and spatial scales and arise from the interplay of multiple forces of change. Loss of life on the planet is, probably by a long stretch, the most significant challenge facing human society. I see the role of IA in its many forms and ways a source of hope that we can develop solutions to this challenge grounded in a humble appreciation of its complexity and an inspired, systemic transformation of everything that created it.
Such complexity needs to be reflected in IA models and methods:
Jeff Price: IA can only be considered as being able to address biodiversity loss if it understands the limitations of its approaches. For example a plant or crop functional type does not equate to the actual plant or crop - they are approximations. Furthermore, high level abstractions (like DGVMs) cannot represent all of biodiversity. More thorough approaches have a better chance of addressing biodiversity losses and this will come from more complex IAMs.
In order to have an impact on policy TIAS needs to join forces:
Jeroen van der Sluijs: It is crucial and TIAS should engage with IPBES: The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
TIAS members are contributing to slowing the rate of biodiversity loss in particular through policy advice based on integrated modelling:
Rik Leemans: [IA in the form of] research, ecosystem services accounting, spatial modelling of land use and impacts on biodiversity, scenario development; further development of the GLOBIO model; and, linking various environmental problems. All these studies contribute to a science-policy dialogue, partly through IPBES, in part directly and in part through informing the public (e.g. NATURE Today).
Jeff Price: Our group has built semi-integrated models that have looked at potential climate change impacts on 120,000 species - including many species of pollinators and crop pests, as well as new generation statistical models of 175 crops. By combining this with land-use projections from other IAMs we are able to project losses in biodiversity, ecosystem services, and refugia for biodiversity under climate change.
Climate change is only one process threatening biodiversity. Intensification of agriculture and the concomitant increase in the use of systemic pesticides has already had a major impact on biodiversity and may also decrease the resilience of ecosystem to climate change. IA is urgently needed in this domain and TIAS members are already making important contributions:
Jeroen van der Sluijs: As a member of the Task Force Systemic Pesticides I introduced IA there and contributed to the Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impacts of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (2015) http://www.tfsp.info/assets/WIA_2015.pdf and to the 2017/2018 update of which the first 2 parts have been prepublished:
An update of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA) on systemic insecticides.
Part 1: new molecules, metabolism, fate, and transport
An update of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA) on systemic insecticides.
Part 2: impacts on organisms and ecosystems
Interestingly, the recent discussion on extending the permission for the use of glyphosate in Europe mainly thematised the controversial impacts of glyphosate on human health. The detrimental impacts on biodiversity did not receive much media attention.
A more promising development is the attention given to green infrastructure. The number of publications on this theme has steeply increased over the past decade (Pahl-Wostl, 2015, p 153). The European Commission adopted a Green Infrastructure Strategy in 2013 and many cities have adopted Green Infrastructure Plans. IA is needed to support and to assess the significance of such developments:
Laszlo Pinter: We are presently working on bringing back nature and biodiversity into an environment where it's missing perhaps the most: cities. In a Horizon2020 project called NATURVATION we are working on with our partners to understanding what makes the integration or re-integration of nature-based solutions (NBS) into cities work. Having built probably the largest database of urban NBS in the world to date, we are developing an IA approach that helps capture the status and benefits of these NBS for people, organizations and even investors. Recreating biodiversity in cities will never be a replacement for bringing back and maintaining it in natural ecosystems, but it is an important piece of the puzzle.
In addition to its ecological value, recreating biodiversity in cities can make an important contribution to raising awareness of the importance of nature and the many services ecosystems provide to humans. Most people live in cities and the urbanization trend is increasing.
The decline of biodiversity is a domain where IA is urgently needed and where already quite a few activities are going on. Innovative policy instruments are needed. The ecosystem services concept could make an important contribution if used more broadly. In addition to putting a value on nature it could also be used in participatory settings to support the development of a more systemic understanding among actors and the identification of innovative ways for cooperation and collaboration. The effective implementation of this broader approach requires a combination of governance modes − collaborative networks, market-based approaches and regulatory frameworks. Such approaches cannot be tailor-made but need to be developed in participatory settings, in solution oriented Integrated Assessment processes.
Conclusions and Follow up
In summing up the views of our contributors: Laszlo Pinter highlighted the role of IA as ‘a source of hope that we can develop solutions to this challenge grounded in a humble appreciation of its complexity and an inspired, systemic transformation of everything that created it’. More specifically, Rik Leemans pointed out that IA allows us to integrate the various threats to biodiversity, to develop ‘regionally and globally relevant indicators and test policy measures in scenarios’. At the same time, Jeff Price stressed the importance of understanding ‘the limitations of IA approaches.’
In considering Jeroen van der Sluijs’ recommendation that TIAS get involved in IPBES: The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, we propose a member-based taskforce on the application of IA to the challenge of biodiversity loss. An initial task would be to link with IPBES and jointly identify ways in which TIAS can contribute to their efforts. We invite our members to consider this proposal and contact us with your ideas (email@example.com). We also invite you to consider how your projects and other activities could (better) contribute to efforts to apply IA to the challenge of biodiversity loss and influence policies for reducing and reversing this loss.
European Commission. 2013. The EU Strategy on Green Infrastructure
Part 2: impacts on organisms and ecosystems
A selected short list of further readings and links
HELCOM. 2017. The integrated assessment of biodiversity - supplementary report
to the first version of the ‘State of the Baltic Sea’ report 2017.
Armenteras, D. and C.M. Finlayson. 2012. Chapter 5: Biodiversity in Geo5 Environment for the future we want. Global Environment Outlook - GEO5. UNEP
Cardinale, B. J., Duffy, J. E., Gonzalez, A., Hooper, D. U., Perrings, C., Venail, P., ... Naeem, S. 2012. Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity. Nature, 486 (7401), 59-67. DOI: 10.1038/nature11148
IPBES: The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. More information…
UN Convention of Biological Diversity 1993.
TEEB: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity.
EKLIPSE Project: Developing knowledge and research priorities in biodiversity and ecosystem services for the European science-policy-society interface. See article below.
NATURVATION (NATure-based URban innovation) Project: developing an understanding of what nature-based solutions can achieve in cities.
We kindly thank our four respondents, Rik Leemans, Laszlo Pinter, Jeff Price and Jeroen van der Sluijs for their thoughtful contributions.
The EKLIPSE project: Developing knowledge and research priorities in biodiversity and ecosystem services for the European science-policy-society interface
by Juliette C. Young, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, on behalf of the EKLIPSE project team
In light of the ongoing loss of biodiversity, there is a need to make the most of the huge amount of knowledge available on biodiversity and ecosystem services to help decision makers at all scales make better decisions for our environment. This is the main motivation behind the H2020 funded EKLIPSE project (http://www.eklipse-mechanism.eu/home).
The EKLIPSE project aims to improve the science-policy-society interface in Europe. It is funded for four years but the aim is to develop a sustainable mechanism that will be in place for many years to come. The development of the support mechanism through the project is facilitated by project partners. Their role is to facilitate linkages between science, policy and society, through different actions, such as knowledge synthesis, identifying research priorities, and building the Network of Networks that will support the other actions. A large part of the EKLIPSE budget of is made available to the wider community through open calls. The project, and the developing mechanism, is reactive.
Most three- to five-year projects predict what will be important, or make an assumption of what policy and society actors should be interested in. We look at this from the end-users' perspective. This is why we have an open call for requests, so that policy-makers and other societal actors can tell us what they need, and can discuss with us how we can best meet their needs. Our first request came from the European Commission, and is concerned with nature-based solutions in cities. It led to the creation of an expert group (127 people applied to be part of what became a 15-member strong group) and a report that has since been used in policy contexts, including a briefing from the European Parliamentary Research Service.
The EKLIPSE approach draws from a wide range of established synthesis methods available from the social and natural sciences. We acknowledge and draw on different kinds of knowledge holders and make use of different forms of knowledge as needed. We base all aspects of our work on a coherent ethical infrastructure that aims to balance interests in transparency, inclusiveness and interests of those involved as far as possible. We hope these elements can allow everyone that gets involved in our activities to benefit from their involvement – from the high-quality outputs with high relevance, and/ or the experience that experts involved in the processes gain from their engagement.
If you are interested in the project and its broader aims, feel free to register through Keep Me Posted, or check out our website for new calls for knowledge or expertise.
The MEDUWA-Vechte Project: MEDicines Unwanted in WAter
The year 2017 marked the launch of the three-year MEDUWA-Vechte project, of which TIAS is one of three partners on the coordinating team. The project focuses on reducing pharmaceuticals and multi-resistant bacteria in the transboundary Vechte river basin in Germany and the Netherlands and is funded by the European Commission’s INTERREG Deutschland-Nederland VA Programme in the Euregio of the Dutch-German border area.
Intensive agriculture is the main activity in the Vechte basin and the 1.15 million residents are dispersed over the region and concentrated in numerous urban centres in the basin. The river will become a drinking water source
for up to 10% of the population of the Dutch province of Overijssel. Contamination of this river with micro-pollutants like pharmaceuticals and multi-resistant micro-organisms will make treatment for drinking water production difficult and expensive.
Pharmaceuticals have already been found in relatively high concentrations throughout the watershed, in some cases above the limit of 0.1 microgram/L. The antibiotic sulfamethoxazole has been identified in the German and Dutch parts of the river system, where feminized male fish have been also been observed.
The main objective of MEDUWA is developing a set of innovative and complementary measures that prevent the transfer of pharmaceuticals and multi-resistant bacteria from human and veterinary origins to water, food and air, and back. These measures are to be implemented in various links of the pharmaceutical chain and involve prevention, mitigation, analysis, measurement, simulation, prediction under various management and climate scenarios; visualization and communication. The measures developed are intended to contribute to economic development which is a key goal of the regional governments supporting the project.
Among the measures and tools
being developed in MEDUWA are:
- a watershed information system to simulate the effect of measures on water quality under various climate scenarios;
- a tool expressing the level of water contamination per livestock farm, animal, kilo of meat or litre of milk;
- herbal and algal alternatives for antibiotics;
- advanced treatment technologies for point sources (homes, farms, hospitals, nursing homes);
- animal health monitoring to avoid or reduce the need for group treatment; and,
- a biopharmaceutical for animals and humans.
Stakeholders who are following or involved in the development of measures in MEDUWA on both sides of the border, represent a wide range of interests including regional water and environmental agencies, municipal governments, pharmacy associations, human and animal health organisations, agricultural and angler associations, and technical departments of universities.
The first year of the project has seen a good start to cross boundary collaboration on the development of all measures with data collection and preliminary testing. More information on developments will be shared in 2018 as the first concrete results emerge. In the meantime, further details on the project can be found on the MEDUWA-Vechte website: www.meduwa.eu
The Learning Community
By: Joanne Vinke-de Kruijf (member of the coordinating team)
Towards the end of 2016, four TIAS members started a TIAS working group focusing on learning for sustainable development. This Learning Community now has over 100 members, mostly scientists, from around the world. Hereby, we provide you with a brief update of what has been going on in this community.
The coordination team has seen some changes. Two new team members have joined us: Romina Rodela
(Söderton University) and Caroline Lumosi
(University of Osnabrück). Claudia Pahl-Wostl stepped down, but will continue to provide her support. Johannes Halbe, Geeske Scholz and Joanne Vinke-de Kruijf continue to be in the coordinating team. Members who would like to become actively involved in coordinating the activities of the Learning Community are invited to join the coordinating team.
We are planning for three webinars: (1) Education for sustainable development; (2) Methods for assessing (social) learning; and (3) Informal learning
. We invite suggestions for speakers. We also welcome members to contribute to the organization of webinars.
Lastly, we are in the process of setting up an e-mail list that can be used by all members so that we can become a real community. We are currently testing a free service which hopefully fulfils our requirements.
If you would like to stay informed about the Learning Community, you can subscribe to its e-mail list by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
2017 Strategy meeting
By Joanne Vinke-de Kruijf (Honorary Secretary of TIAS)
The extended Executive Board of TIAS met in Osnabrück in November to discuss matters that are of strategic importance of TIAS. The meeting was attended by Klaus Jacob, Jan Bakkes, Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Caroline van Bert, Joanne Vinke-de Kruijf, Caroline Lumosi and Johannes Halbe. During the meeting we reflected in particular on where we are and where we would like to be heading to as a society in the years ahead.
The meeting reminded us of the importance of meeting in person, not only for us as executive board members but also for TIAS members in general. Facilitating face-to-face meetings among TIAS members, for example in the form of conference sessions or workshops, will be a key priority for the coming year(s).
One of the topics on our agenda was the organizational structure of TIAS. We are currently a formal association with members. We have been rethinking this structure and are considering whether TIAS should operate more like a network organization.
We also discussed current TIAS activities, regional chapters and working groups. Webinars are of high quality and tend to attract a lot of people. We would like to continue to invest in webinars and welcome suggestions and contributions from members. We also encourage TIAS members to become active in the regional chapters and working groups.
We will discuss the main outcomes of the meeting with TIAS Advisory Board members in January 2018. We will share and discuss the collective outcomes of these meetings with all TIAS during the next Annual General Meeting which will take place in March or April 2018. If you have a suggestion or comment at this stage, please send us an e-mail (email@example.com
Special Issue on the EGU journal Advances in Geosciences (ADGEO). ADGEO invites contributions on a wide range of topics including, but not limited to, those addressing the following questions:
Case studies are welcome; however, contributions will need to draw transferable conclusions and recommendations applicable to the majority of geosciences disciplines.
- How to design a project structure to optimise project implementation and impact?
- What are “best practices” in coordinating large international consortia?
- How can we maintain continuity of project management expertise with project managers mostly employed on non-permanent contracts?
- Which local, national and international networks of EU project managers exist, and are they useful?
- How to identify organisational pitfalls?
- How to deal with the project partners’ different priorities, e.g., interdisciplinary and academic-private sector?
- How to effectively engage non-research stakeholders to optimise project contributions?
- What project management concepts/procedures can be transferred from other sectors (e.g., industry) or social sciences (e.g., economics) to Earth sciences?
- What are the best tools for transferring knowledge from research to the private sector, decision makers, and the public in general?
- How can project results and impact be effectively disseminated to the wider community and how can their importance be highlighted to funding agencies?
- How to manage intellectual property developed through research projects?
- How to manage research data?
- What tools and systems are available to manage project workflow, schedule, team and communication?
- What lessons can be learned from “failed” projects?
Submission of manuscripts via online registration form on the ADGEO website:
The deadline for manuscript submission is 1 June 2018.