Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) is a major assessment of the human impact on the environment, called for by the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000, launched in 2001 and published in 2005 with more than $14 million of grants. It popularized the term ecosystem services, the benefits gained by humans from ecosystems.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment logo


During the 1990s, international conventions such as the UNEP Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification identified the need for a global scientific ecosystem assessment. There had been advances in resource economics with little effect on environmental policy.[1] In November 1998, UNEP, NASA, and the World Bank published a study called "Protecting our Planet, Securing our Future: Linkages Among Global Environmental Issues and Human Needs".[1] In 2001, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) was launched with work over a period of four years.[1] Over 1300 contributors from 95 countries were involved as authors.[2]


In May 2000 the Global Environment Facility approved a $7 million grant, followed in July 2000 by a United Nations Foundation $4 million grant and financial support from the government of Norway for the first meeting of the Board of the MA in Trondheim, and in December 2000 a $2.4 million grant by the Packard Foundation for a total of more than $13.4 million, considered "75% of the full budget".[1]


The MA was published in 2005 and made four main assessments:[3]

  • Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history, largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber and fuel. This has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth.
  • The changes to ecosystems have contributed to substantial net gains in human well-being and economic development, but these gains have been achieved at growing costs in the form of the degradation of many ecosystem services, increased risks of nonlinear changes, and the exacerbation of poverty for some groups of people. These problems, unless addressed, will substantially diminish the benefits that future generations obtain from ecosystems.
  • The degradation of ecosystem services could grow significantly worse during the first half of this century and is a barrier to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
  • The challenge of reversing the degradation of ecosystem while meeting increasing demands for services can be partially met under some scenarios considered by the MA, but will involve significant changes in policies, institutions and practices that are not currently under way. Many options exist to conserve or enhance specific ecosystem services in ways that reduce negative trade-offs or that provide positive synergies with other ecosystem services.

The bottom line of the MA findings has been that human actions are depleting Earth’s natural capital, putting such strain on the environment that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted. At the same time, the assessment shows that with appropriate actions it is possible to reverse the degradation of many ecosystem services over the next 50 years, but the changes in policy and practice required are substantial and not currently underway.


In 2008, a report calculated that the world's richest countries caused environmental damage to developing nations at more than the entire developing world debt of $1.8 trillion.[4]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "History of the Millennium Assessment". UNEP. UNEP. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  2. ^ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). Ecosystems and human well-being : synthesis (PDF). Washington, DC: Island Press. ISBN 1-59726-040-1. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  3. ^ "Overview of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment". UNEP. 2005.
  4. ^ James Randerson (20 January 2008) Rich countries owe poor a huge environmental debt The Guardian, retrieved 25 April 2016

Further reading

External links

Anatoly Shvidenko

Anatoly Shvidenko (Russian: Анато́лий Зино́вьеич Швидéнко) is a doctor of science, professor, and senior research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria.Anatoly Shvidenko worked at the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine from 1968 to 1987, where he headed the Department of Forestry Inventory and Planning. He joined the IIASA's Forestry Program in October 1992 and has been principal investigator in a number of projects on the forest sector of Northern Eurasia, including projects financed by the European Commission, European Space Agency, and other international organizations (such as Siberia, Siberia-II, GSE-FM, IRIS, Enviro-RISK, and Zapas).

Professor Shvidenko's main fields of interest are forest inventory, monitoring, mathematical modeling, global change, and boreal forests. He served as lead author and coordinating lead author in the Third Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th IPCC Assessments (the work of the IPCC, including the contributions of many scientists, was recognised by the joint award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize).

He has taken part in a number of important international global change activities and initiatives as member of steering committees and councils (Global Terrestrial Observing System Terrestrial Carbon Observation Panel, FAO Forest Resource Assessment, International Boreal Forest Research Association, Scientific Council of the World Commission on Forestry and Sustainable Development, Siberian National Committee on IGBP, etc.) Shvidenko is a member of the Board of International Boreal Research Association (IBFRA).

Bedřich Moldan

Bedřich Moldan (born 15 August 1935, Prague, Czechoslovakia) is a Czech ecologist, publicist and politician.

Moldan is professor of environmental science, founder and director of the Charles University Environment Center. From 2001 to 2004 coordinating lead author of Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

From 1990 to 1991, Bedřich Moldan was the first Minister of Environment of the Czech Republic, then part of Czechoslovakia. He is a founding member of the Civic Democratic Party. In 2004 he was elected to the Senate of the Czech Republic.

In 2010 he received the SCOPE-Zhongyu Environmental Award for lifetime achievement.

Bradnee Chambers

Bradnee Chambers (19 July 1966 - January 23, 2019) was an expert on international environmental governance, law and politics. In March 2013 he was appointed as the Executive Secretary of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), a main United Nations multilateral conservation treaty He was also the acting Executive Secretary of the Gorilla Agreement and the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans in the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS) both administered under the UN Environment Programme. These agreements form the global framework for conservation of wild animals migrating between countries. The agreements cover an immense scope of wildlife including whales, dolphins, sharks, elephants, big cats (e.g. Cheetahs, snow leopards), bats, monarch butterflies, saiga antelope, waterbirds (e.g. Ducks, geese, flamingoes), and migratory fish (e.g. Sturgeons, the European eel).

Chambers was born in Haliburton, Ontario, Canada. Before joining CMS, he was the Senior Legal Officer and Chief of the Law and Governance Branch of UNEP. An important part of UNEP responsible for developing international environmental law, providing capacity building and technical guidance on governance and legal issues to developing countries. Chambers has been a frequent contributor to international environmental governance reform and processes either through his exploration of new concepts of law and governance through his many writings or through offering alternative options for developing international environmental reforms. In 2010 Chambers led the International Environmental Governance Strategic Team working directly for the then Executive Director Achim Steiner. The team led the secretariat for the Nairobi-Helsinki Ministerial Consultative Process International Environment Governance which made key recommendations on strengthening UNEP. In 2012 at Rio+20 Chambers continued to lead the team and engage governments resulting in a final outcome in The Future We Want that was a major step forward for upgrading and strengthening UNEP. This included transforming UNEP's Governing Council into a universal body called the United Nations Environmental Assembly, increasing its regular budget, and strengthening UNEP's institutional base in the United Nations.Chambers worked at the United Nations University where he started its programme on Sustainable Development Governance and on Environmental Diplomacy at its Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU/IAS). These were programmes that conducted training for Climate Change Negotiators and training trainers for the WTO Ministerial negotiations. The programmes also provided policy and expert advice on major United Nations Environmental Negotiations. He held several positions at the UN University from 1996-2008 including Senior Research Fellow, Legal Officer and Senior Programme Officer and acting Deputy of the UNU/IAS. Chambers also with A.H. Zakri launched at the UN University the first Post-doctoral programmes. Before joining the UNU Chambers worked at UNCTAD on investment rules and in the Transnational Corporation Division. Chambers has worked in numerous Scientific Assessments including as a Coordinating Lead Author in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment which won the Zayed Environmental Prize in 2005 and Global Environmental Outlook 4. Chambers has been a senior lecturer at Aoyama Gakuin University, Chiba University, Sophia University and was a Visiting Professor at the University of Tokyo in the Law Faculty.

Colin Butler

Colin Peter Butler is a co-founder of the non-governmental organization BODHI (Benevolent Organisation for Development, Health and Insight), which has autonomous branches in the United States and Australia. Butler was a professor of public health at the University of Canberra from November 2012 until July 2016. He is a visiting fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology & Population Health at Australian National University, and a former senior research fellow in global health at the School of Health and Social Development at Deakin University.

Butler studies the intersection of sustainability, globalization, and health. His main research interest lies in trying to find ways to advance sustainable global health.


Drylands are defined by a scarcity of water. Drylands are zones where precipitation is balanced by evaporation from surfaces and by transpiration by plants (evapotranspiration). The United Nations Environment Program defines drylands as tropical and temperate areas with an aridity index of less than 0.65. One can classify drylands into four sub-types:

dry sub-humid lands

semi-arid lands

arid lands

hyper-arid landsSome authorities regard hyper-arid lands as deserts (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification - UNCCD) although a number of the world's deserts include both hyper-arid and arid climate zones. The UNCCD excludes hyper-arid zones from its definition of drylands.

Drylands cover 41.3% of the earth's land surface, including 15% of Latin America, 66% of Africa, 40% of Asia and 24% of Europe. There is a significantly greater proportion of drylands in developing countries (72%), and the proportion increases with aridity: almost 100% of all hyper-arid lands are in the developing world. Nevertheless, the United States, Australia and several countries in Southern Europe also contain significant dryland areas.Drylands are complex, evolving structures whose characteristics and dynamic properties depend on many interrelated interactions between climate, soil, and vegetation.

Ecological goods and services

Ecological goods and services (EG&S) are the benefits arising from the ecological functions of ecosystems. Such benefits accrue to all living organisms, including animals and plants, rather than to humans alone. However, there is a growing recognition of the importance to society that ecological goods and services provide for health, social, cultural, and economic needs.

Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services are the many and varied benefits that humans freely gain from the natural environment and from properly-functioning ecosystems. Such ecosystems include, for example, agroecosystems, forest ecosystems, grassland ecosystems and aquatic ecosystems. These ecosystems functioning properly provides such things like agricultural produce, timber, and aquatic organisms such as fishes and crabs. Collectively, these benefits are becoming known as 'ecosystem services', and are often integral to the provisioning of clean drinking water, the decomposition of wastes, and the natural pollination of crops and other plants.

While scientists and environmentalists have discussed ecosystem services implicitly for decades, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) in the early 2000s popularized this concept . There, ecosystem services are grouped into four broad categories: provisioning, such as the production of food and water; regulating, such as the control of climate and disease; supporting, such as nutrient cycles and oxygen production; and cultural, such as spiritual and recreational benefits. To help inform decision-makers, many ecosystem services are being assigned economic values.

Environmental issue

Environmental issues are harmful effects of human activity on the biophysical environment. Environmental protection is a practice of protecting the natural environment on individual, organizational or governmental levels, for the benefit of both the environment and humans. Environmentalism, a social and environmental movement, addresses environmental issues through advocacy, education and activism.

The carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere has already exceeded over 9000 parts per million (NOAA) (with total "long-term" GHG exceeding 455 parts per million) (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Report). The amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is possibly above the threshold that can potentially cause climate change. China, India and various countries that contribute to pollution are a major risk in many areas of pollution...It's not next year or next decade, it's now." The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has stated "Climate change is not just a distant future threat. It is the main driver behind rising humanitarian needs and we are seeing its impact. The number of people affected and the damages inflicted by extreme weather has been unprecedented." Further, OCHA has stated:Climate disasters are on the rise. Around 70 percent of disasters are now climate related – up from around 50 percent from two decades ago. These disasters take a heavier human toll and come with a higher price tag. In the last decade, 2.4 billion people were affected by climate related disasters, compared to 1.7 billion in the previous decade. The cost of responding to disasters has risen tenfold between 1992 and 2008.Destructive sudden heavy rains, intense tropical storms, repeated flooding and droughts are likely to increase, as will the vulnerability of local communities in the absence of strong concerted action.Environment destruction caused by humans is a global problem, and this is a problem that is on going every day. By year 2050, the global human population is expected to grow by 2 billion people, thereby reaching a level of 9.6 billion people (Living Blue Planet 24). The human effects on Earth can be seen in many different ways. A main one is the temperature rise, and according to the report ”Our Changing Climate”, the global warming that has been going on for the past 50 years is primarily due to human activities (Walsh, et al. 20). Since 1895, the U.S. average temperature has increased from 1.3 °F to 1.9 °F, with most of the increase taken place since around year 1970 (Walsh, et al. 20).

Global Scenario Group

The Global Scenario Group (GSG) was an international, interdisciplinary body convened in 1995 by the Tellus Institute and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) to develop scenarios for world development in the twenty-first century. Further development of the Great Transition scenarios has been carried on by the Great Transition Initiative (GTI).

The GSG's underlying scenario development work was rooted in the long-range integrated scenario analysis that Tellus Institute and Stockholm Environment Institute had undertaken through the PoleStar Project and its PoleStar System. Initially conceived in 1991 as a tool for integrated sustainability planning and long-range scenario analysis, the PoleStar System was inspired by the 1987 Brundtland Commission report Our Common Future, which first put the concept of sustainable development on the international agenda.

The work of the Global Scenario Group was widely adopted in high-level intergovernmental settings. The scenarios informed numerous international assessments, including the World Water Council's World Water Vision report in 1999–2000, the OECD Environmental Outlook in 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's greenhouse gas emission mitigation assessment in 2001, the United Nations Environment Programme's Third GEO Report in 2002, and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005.Several of the GSG participants who actively participated in the IPCC assessments have been recognized for contributing to the 2007 award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC.

Habitat destruction

Habitat destruction is the process by which natural habitat becomes incapable of supporting its native species. In this process, the organisms that previously used the site are displaced or destroyed reducing biodiversity. Habitat destruction by human activity is mainly for the purpose of harvesting natural resources for industrial production and urbanization. Clearing habitats for agriculture is the principal cause of habitat destruction. Other important causes of habitat destruction include mining, logging, trawling, and urban sprawl. Habitat destruction is currently ranked as the primary cause of species extinction worldwide. It is a process of natural environmental change that may be caused by habitat fragmentation, geological processes, climate change or by human activities such as the introduction of invasive species, ecosystem nutrient depletion, and other human activities.

The terms habitat loss and habitat reduction are also used in a wider sense, including loss of habitat from other factors, such as water and noise pollution.

Index of biodiversity articles

This is a list of topics in biodiversity.

International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity

The consultative process towards an IMoSEB (International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity) was a multidisciplinary effort from 2005 to 2008 that involved a large number of stakeholders and had a considerable political and media audience. Its aim was the creation of a value-added process by taking into account existing and current initiatives and mechanisms.

Initiated at the International Conference "Biodiversity: Science and Governance" in January 2005, it ended in November 2007 with the final meeting of its International Steering Committee (ISC). IMoSEB results were congrued with the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment follow up to create the Intergovernmental Science-Policy platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), led by UNEP. IPBES first meeting took place in November 2008 in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

International Resource Panel

The International Resource Panel is a scientific panel of experts that aims to help nations use natural resources sustainably without compromising economic growth and human needs. It provides independent scientific assessments and expert advice on a variety of areas, including:

the volume of selected raw material reserves and how efficiently these resources are being used

the lifecycle-long environmental impacts of products and services created and consumed around the globe

options to meet human and economic needs with fewer or cleaner resources.The Secretariat of the IRP is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) through its office in Paris, France.

List of environmental issues

This is an alphabetical list of environmental issues, harmful aspects of human activity on the biophysical environment. They are loosely divided into causes, effects and mitigation, noting that effects are interconnected and can cause new effects.

Paul Raskin

Paul Raskin is the founding President of the Tellus Institute, which has conducted over 3,500 research and policy projects throughout the world on environmental issues, resource planning, scenario analysis, and sustainable development. His research and writing has centered on formulating and analyzing alternative global and regional scenarios, and the requirements for a transition to a sustainable, just, and livable future, called the Great Transition. Dr. Raskin has served as a lead author on a number of high-profile international reports, including the U.S. National Academy of Science's Board on Sustainability, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the United Nations Environment Programme's Global Environment Outlook, the Earth Charter, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report.

Payment for ecosystem services

Payments for ecosystem services (PES), also known as payments for environmental services (or benefits), are incentives offered to farmers or landowners in exchange for managing their land to provide some sort of ecological service. They have been defined as "a transparent system for the additional provision of environmental services through conditional payments to voluntary providers". These programmes promote the conservation of natural resources in the marketplace.

Ecosystem services have no standardized definition but might broadly be called "the benefits of nature to households, communities, and economies" or, more simply, "the good things nature does". Twenty-four specific ecosystem services were identified and assessed by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a 2005 UN-sponsored report designed to assess the state of the world's ecosystems. The report defined the broad categories of ecosystem services as food production (in the form of crops, livestock, capture fisheries, aquaculture, and wild foods), fiber (in the form of timber, cotton, hemp, and silk), genetic resources (biochemicals, natural medicines, and pharmaceuticals), fresh water, air quality regulation, climate regulation, water regulation, erosion regulation, water purification and waste treatment, disease regulation, pest regulation, pollination, natural hazard regulation, and cultural services (including spiritual, religious, and aesthetic values, recreation and ecotourism). Notably, however, there is a "big three" among these 24 services which are currently receiving the most money and interest worldwide. These are climate change mitigation, watershed services and biodiversity conservation, and demand for these services in particular is predicted to continue to grow as time goes on. One seminal 1997 Nature magazine article estimated the annual value of global ecological benefits at $33 trillion, a number nearly twice the gross global product at the time. In 2014, the author of this 1997 research (Robert Costanza) and a qualified group of co-authors re-took this assessment – using only a slightly modified methodology but with more detailed 2011 data – and increased the aggregate global ecosystem services provisioning estimate to between $125–145 trillion a year. The same research project also estimated between $4.3 to 20.2 trillion a year of losses to ecosystem services, due to land use change.PES has also been touted as a tool for rural development. In 2007, the World Bank released a document outlining the place of PES in development. But the link between the environment and development had been officially recognized long before with the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment and later reaffirmed by the Rio Conference on Environment and Development. However, it is important to note PES programs are usually not designed to be primarily poverty alleviation schemes, although they may incorporate development mechanisms.Some PES programs involve contracts between consumers of ecosystem services and the suppliers of these services. However, the majority of the PES programs are funded by governments and involve intermediaries, such as non-government organisations. The party supplying the environmental services normally holds the property rights over an environmental good that provides a flow of benefits to the demanding party in return for compensation. In the case of private contracts, the beneficiaries of the ecosystem services are willing to pay a price that can be expected to be lower than their welfare gain due to the services. The providers of the ecosystem services can be expected to be willing to accept a payment that is greater than the cost of providing the services.


A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is inundated by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil. Wetlands play a number of functions, including water purification, water storage, processing of carbon and other nutrients, stabilization of shorelines, and support of plants and animals. Wetlands are also considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal life. Whether any individual wetland performs these functions, and the degree to which it performs them, depends on characteristics of that wetland and the lands and waters near it. Methods for rapidly assessing these functions, wetland ecological health, and general wetland condition have been developed in many regions and have contributed to wetland conservation partly by raising public awareness of the functions and the ecosystem services some wetlands provide.Wetlands occur naturally on every continent. The main wetland types are swamp, marsh, bog, and fen; sub-types include mangrove forest, carr, pocosin, floodplains, mire, vernal pool, sink, and many others. Many peatlands are wetlands. The water in wetlands is either freshwater, brackish, or saltwater.

Wetlands can be tidal (inundated by tides) or non-tidal. The largest wetlands include the Amazon River basin, the West Siberian Plain, the Pantanal in South America, and the Sundarbans in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta.The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment determined that environmental degradation is more prominent within wetland systems than any other ecosystem on Earth.Constructed wetlands are used to treat municipal and industrial wastewater as well as stormwater runoff. They may also play a role in water-sensitive urban design.

Zakri Abdul Hamid

Tan Sri Zakri bin Abdul Hamid (born 23 June 1948) has had a distinguished career in science as a researcher, educator, administrator and diplomat.

Awarded the federal honorific title "Tan Sri" by Malaysia's head of state in 2014, he served until 2016 as the founding Chair at the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), as the Science Advisor to Malaysia's Prime Minister, and was one of 26 members of the UN Secretary-General's Scientific Advisory Board.

Among other positions, Zakri Co-Chairs the Secretariat of Malaysia's Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council (GSIAC), and Chairs the National Professors Council, the Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation (BIOTECHCORP), the National Foresight Institute and the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT).

Earlier positions included Co-Chair of the Board at the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment from July 2000 to 2005, Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) of the United Nations University (UNU) from 2001 to 2008, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the National University of Malaysia (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) from 1992 to 2000.


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