- The evolution of interdisciplinarity over 20 years of global change research by the IAI
Global change is pervasive, cutting across human and natural systems. Global change research aiming to comprehend the feedbacks within and across social and ecological systems, and to inform decision making must therefore integrate across social and natural sciences. (Read more)
- Tree rings point to drought as trigger of social conflict
Analysis of tree rings -a proxy for annual rainfall- revealed severe, long droughts in the 14th century. Radiocarbon dates of constructions in the Bolivian Altiplano show that the transition from vulnerable to fortified villages coincided with those dry periods, suggesting that droughts triggered social conflict, probably over scarce water for consumption and irrigation.
- Pacific sea surface temperatures affect Andean snowpack and water supply to the semi-arid central Chile and Argentina
Andean snow melt is the most important source of water for households, agriculture, industry, hydro power and ecosystems in semi-arid central Chile and central-western Argentina. A detailed regional analysis of maximum winter snow accumulation and mean annual river discharges showed that snowmelt is the origin of most of the annual streamflow in this part of the Andes.
- Groundwater use in agriculture risks aquifer over-exploitation
Water is scarce in Mexico’s arid and semiarid North where commercial agriculture is widespread and large volume titles are allocated to users. Groundwater is increasingly used as a buffer against climate-driven variability in surface water flows and as an on-demand source of irrigation of high-value crops for U.S. and global markets.
- Gains and losses
The tropics are much more than ‘just’ rainforests. While rainforests receive much attention for being threatened ecosystems, many tropical dry forest areas are under much greater threat. Their open, park-like character has invited extensive colonization. They are seen by many as non-essential ecosystems that can be transformed into agricultural land at no ecological costs.
- Food and floods
The flat sedimentary soils of the Pampas store rainfall surplus of wet years as groundwater. If such surpluses increase, the groundwater table can become so shallow that the land floods.
- Heat, Dust, and People
Under global warming, urban areas are increasingly affected by heat waves. Climate change and urban heat-island effects deteriorate the meteorological and atmospheric conditions of cities and threaten human health.
- Food from the deep
Coastal upwelling regions, where deeper, cooler waters are driven to the ocean surface, occupy only one percent of the total ocean surface, but they contribute nearly half the world’s fisheries’ landing, and a large part of the oceans’ overall production.
- How many people live in vulnerable coastal areas of the U.S.A.?
In any given coastal area, how many people live within one kilometer of the coast? Or in areas that are less than three meters above sea level?
- Warmer future, stronger hurricanes?
Many people believe that the climate is getting worse. Events such as the floods in New Orleans in the wake of hurricane Katrina in 2005, which killed more than 1,300 people, seem to support this view. But is it true? Has the number and strength of hurricanes really increased?
- Chasing the winds
The eastern Pacific basin has the largest density of tropical cyclones in the world, yet remains one of the least studied regions. Upon landfall, tropical cyclones may produce heavy downpours, causing landslides and flooding.
- Hurricanes and coastal zone vulnerability in Central America and the Caribbean
The month of November has been hit with news about Hurricane Tomas, which poured torrential rains over already severely stricken Haiti. Also in this season, four cyclones developed in the western Caribbean and brought much rain and flooding to Central America and Mexico, where thousands had to be evacuated, since the heavy rains in the mountains had river banks bursting in coastal regions downstream.
- Melting the Ice - Receding glaciers in the American Cordillera
Investigators from IAI projects share key messages on their research on glaciers in the American Cordillera. Most glaciers are shrinking, some may survive some will disappear, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions, but communities depending on rivers fed by glaciers and snow must already learn to adapt to changes in seasonal water flows.
- Balancing CO2 in South America - IAI research backs regional approaches to climate change
After Copenhagen, it is becoming clear that regional approaches to carbon management may be the way forward. The American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) has been working to improve the regional understanding of crucial processes of the carbon cycle.
- Sustainability strategies and sustainability research in Latin America
Sustainability in Latin America has often been seen as a problem of rainforests and diversity only, but we argue that several important areas have been overlooked – the role of non-rainforest ecosystems in biodiversity conservation, the sustainability of land management in agricultural areas and its effects on carbon and water balances, the problems of big cities and the interaction of urban sprawl with the surrounding land, the vulnerability of coastal ecosystems and populations with increasing encroachment on ocean shores, the management of hydrological resoucers under climate change, and the understanding of management of ocean resources are areas increasingly important to secure sustainability on the continent.
- Strengthening adaptation capacities of coffee growers in Mesoamerica under global change
The IAI-funded Collaborative Research network CRN 2060 in cooperation with local and regional institutions has developed a policy brief related to its theme “Effective adaptation strategies and risk reduction towards economic and climatic shocks: lessons from the coffee crisis in Mesoamerica” (see also: CRN 2060). A critical task is to reduce risks and increase adaptation capacities of vulnerable farmers. Based on its comparative case studies in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica the project aims to identify livelihood adaptation strategies of coffee growers as a response to price fluctuation, climate change and increased pest proliferation.
- How to improve the dialogue between science and society. The case of global environmental change
The IAI, jointly with the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment, SCOPE, has analysed the interactions between its science programmes, society and the policy sector. This analysis was published in 2007 as part of the SCOPE series by Island Press. UNESCO has published the principal lessons and conclusions from this analysis in the form of a policy brief.
- Biofuels, soil carbon balance and sustainability
This IAI Occasional Paper is a brief summary of some critical issues in agricultural biofuel production. It is meant to serve as an initiator of discussion that may lead to a differentiated strategic planning on the use, expansion and management of biofuels and the associated land base.