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Ecosystem Change

6. Why are both global and sub-global assessments of ecosystem change useful?

    The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) included sub-global assessments. These were designed to address differences in the importance of ecosystem services for human well-being around the world at local, national, and regional scales. The sites of the sub-global assessments are indicated on the map on the right.

    The assessments conducted at different scales tended to focus on drivers of change and impacts most relevant at each scale, yielding different but complementary findings. Each separate assessment provides a different perspective on the issues addressed.

    Overall, the global and sub-global assessments gave similar results on the present state of ecosystem services. However, there are examples such as water resources or biodiversity, where local assessments showed that local conditions were either better or worse than expected from the global assessment.

    Similar drivers might be present in different assessments, but their interactions and the conditions leading to ecosystem change differed significantly. The assessments identified an imbalance in the distribution of the benefits and costs of ecosystem change, as these are often displaced or postponed.

    Some ecosystem problems have been reduced by innovative local responses. However, the “threats” observed at a global level may be difficult to assess from a more local perspective, and the consequences of actions that go beyond the actor’s immediate perspective are often overlooked. Therefore, institutions are needed at multiple levels to enhance the adaptive capacity and effectiveness of sub-national and local responses.

    Stakeholders at different scales perceive different values in various ecosystem services. Ignoring this can undermine the effectiveness of assessments and lead to unworkable and inequitable policies or programs at all scales. Ecosystem services that are of considerable importance at global scales, such as carbon sequestration or waste regulation, are not necessarily seen to be of value locally. Similarly, services of local importance are often not seen as important globally.

    Results of sub-assessments which included not only scientific but also local non-scientific knowledge appeared more relevant, credible, and legitimate to some local users. Integrated assessments of ecosystems and human well-being must adapt to the specific needs and characteristics of the different groups undertaking the assessment and should also consider the needs of decision-makers.

    Several community-based assessments adapted the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) framework in order to gain more dynamic interplay between variables, capture finer patterns and processes in complex systems, and leave room for a more spiritual worldview. These modifications and adaptations of the framework are an important outcome of this assessment. More...

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