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Trent University Biology Professor Contributes to Landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment


Dr. Marguerite Xenopoulos, one of 1,300 researchers involved worldwide

Wednesday, April 13, 2005, Peterborough

Trent University Biology professor Dr. Marguerite Xenopoulos was one of more than 1,300 experts from 95 countries who contributed to the landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. The study, released last month, reveals that approximately 60 per cent of the ecosystem services that support life on Earth are being degraded or used unsustainably.

Among the degrading ecosystem services are fresh water, capture fisheries, air and water regulation, and the regulation of regional climate, natural hazards and pests, according to the study. Prof. Xenopoulos became involved with the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment as part of her post-doctoral research at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana in 2001. Her research generally focuses on aquatic ecology and global change of freshwaters.

"Professor Xenopoulos' work is a great example of Trent University's strength in the area of environmental and natural resource studies -- one of the core parts of the University's strategic research plan," says Dr. James Parker, associate vice-president, Research.

As part of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Prof. Xenopoulos assessed what could happen to freshwater biodiversity over the next 50 years. She and her colleagues used future forecasts of water availability to measure fish loss, while others in the group studied changes in plants, and coastal and marine fisheries. Prof. Xenopoulos, who came to Trent in 2004, was part of the "scenarios working group" with other social, physical and biological scientists. The working group developed four plausible scenarios of what the world might be like in 2050, under different types of policies. Prof. Xenopoulos was one of only three Canadians in her working group. She attended her last Millennium Ecosystem Assessment meeting in October in Malaysia.

"The goal of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was to assess the state of the environment with a focus on what services are provided to humans," says Prof. Xenopoulos. "We asked ourselves 'what is its current state and how will it change?' This is the first international study that examined the status of the Earth's ecosystems and the services they provide for human well-being."

The key to the success of this assessment, she says, is coupling unbiased information with a sound scientific approach.

And while the forecasted decline in natural resources predicted in the study isn't necessarily a surprise to scientists, the degree and the extent of the degradation is, says Prof. Xenopoulos.

"It is only by examining all global stressors together that the magnitude of the problem can fully be appreciated and viable solutions be formulated."

Background on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

(from http://www.millenniumassessment.org/en/about.overview.aspx?)

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) is an international work program that was designed to meet the needs of decision makers and the public for scientific information concerning the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and options for responding to those changes.

The MA was launched by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in June 2001 and was completed in 2005. It will help meet assessment needs of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention to Combat Desertification, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and the Convention on Migratory Species, as well as needs of other users in the private sector and civil society. If the MA proves to be useful to its stakeholders, it is anticipated that an assessment process modeled on the MA will be repeated every 5 - 10 years and that ecosystem assessments will be regularly conducted at national or sub-national scales.

The MA focuses on ecosystem services (the benefits people obtain from ecosystems), how changes in ecosystem services have affected human well-being, how ecosystem changes may affect people in future decades, and response options that might be adopted at local, national, or global scales to improve ecosystem management and thereby contribute to human well-being and poverty alleviation.


For further information, please contact Prof Marguerite Xenopoulos, 748-1011, ext. 5101.


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Last Updated April 19, 2005