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Department of Geography


The Cambridge contribution to the development of Global Ecosystems Models for use in IPBES and other global biodiversity assessments

This Cambridge Conservation Initiative-funded project brings together Cambridge-based ecosystem modellers to assess the extent to which current models, and their planned future developments, could be useful to policy processes connected to the maintenance of biodiversity at the global scale, in particular the IPBES processes.

Within the frame of this project, all Cambridge-based biodiversity and ecosystem function models are being reviewed to identify what each can provide against the expressed needs emerging from the IPBES plenary and secretariat, the IPBES Multidisciplinary Expert Panel and MSWG, and the planning for the GEO6 assessment by UNEP. Additionally, each model is being reviewed against the Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) framework developed by GEO-BON, to assess which of these EBVs are captured in the models already developed, or where models might be adapted to help them deliver EBVs to support biodiversity and ecosystem function modelling. We are also reviewing comparable models developed elsewhere in order to assess their relative strengths and weaknesses compared with the Cambridge modelling suite.

By consulting all modelling experts and integrating across the disciplines that the CCI can draw upon, Cambridge-based modellers will lead the way in reviewing the current state of the art in the scenarios available to IPBES for projecting biodiversity and ecosystem service futures. We will also provide insights into the direction that IPBES should be looking in order to develop the types of tools they will need to understand and predict human-ecosystem interactions and the decision-support tools needed to better manage those interactions. As a result, a better resolved and meaningful picture of plausible futures can be tested, and richer input from Cambridge will be presented to the IPBES modelling and scenarios science/policy needs.

The team of CCI partners, in combination with closely affiliated non-CCI partners, will provide expertise in: novel approaches to biodiversity modelling, with each institution involved in pioneering at least one methodology for increasing our understanding of the future of the biological world; interpretation of empirical and model-generated conservation metrics to inform policy development; and, projecting future scenarios of socio-economic development.

Relevant publications

  • Bithell M, Brasington J. 2009. Coupling agent-based models of subsistence farming with individual-based forest models and dynamic models of water distribution. Environmental Modelling and Software 24, 173-190.
  • Friend AD. 2010. Terrestrial plant production and climate change. Journal of Experimental Botany 61, 1293-1309.
  • Friend AD, Lucht W, Rademacher TT, Keribin R, Betts R, Cadule P, Ciais P, Clark DB, Dankers R, Falloon PD, Ito A, Kahana R, Kleidon A, Lomas MR, Nishina K, Sebastian Ostberg S, Pavlick R, Peylin P, Schaphoff S, Vuichard N, Warszawski L, Wiltshire A, Woodward FI. 2013. Carbon residence time dominates uncertainty in terrestrial vegetation responses to future climate and atmospheric CO2. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111, 3280-3285, doi:10.1073/pnas.1222477110
  • Friend AD, White A. 2000. Evaluation and analysis of a dynamic terrestrial ecosystem model under preindustrial conditions at the global scale. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 14, 1173-1190.
  • Harfoot MB, Newbold T, Tittensor DP, Emmott S, Hutton J, Lyutsarev V, Scharlemann J, Purves DW. 2014. Emergent global patterns of ecosystem structure and function from a mechanistic general ecosystem model. PLoS Biology 12, e1001841.
  • Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. 2010. Global Biodiversity Outlook 3.
  • UNEP. 2013. Global Environmental Outlook 5, Environment for the future we want.

Map showing change in the global distribution of primary productivity by the end of this Century simulated using the HYBRID dynamic global vegetation model. The model was driven by climate from the GISS-AOM GCM under the A1B emissions scenario and associated CO2 mixing ratios. Global productivity increases by 37% over the century, primarily due to CO2 fertilization of photosynthesis (Friend, 2010).