IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

4.7.1 Ecosystems services and sustainable development

Large differences in natural and socio-economic conditions among regions mitigate against simple solutions to the problem of ecosystem degradation and loss of services. Many interactions, lags and feedbacks, including those that operate across a range of spatial, temporal and organisational scales generate complex patterns which are not fully understood. Past actions to slow or reverse the degradation of ecosystems have yielded significant results, but these improvements have generally not kept pace with growing pressures (Reid et al., 2005). However, sound management of ecosystem services provides several cost-effective opportunities for addressing multiple development goals in a synergistic manner (Reid et al., 2005).

Progress achieved in addressing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is unlikely to be sustained if ecosystem services continue to be degraded (Goklany, 2005). The role of ecosystems in sustainable development and in achieving the MDGs involves an array of stakeholders (Jain, 2003; Adeel et al., 2005). Evidence from different parts of the world shows that in most cases it is far from clear who is ‘in charge’ of the long-term sustainability of an ecosystem, let alone of the situation under future climates. Responding and adapting to the impacts of climate change on ecosystems calls for a clear and structured system of decision making at all levels (Kennett, 2002). Impacts of climate change on ecosystems also show strong interrelationships with ecosystem processes and human activities at various scales over time. Addressing these impacts requires a co-ordinated, integrated, cross-sectoral policy framework with a long-term focus; a strategy that so far has not been easy to implement (Brown, 2003).