Dynamic Planet

Photo: wanderflechten via Flickr
Observing, explaining, understanding, projecting earth, environmental and societal system trends, drivers and processes and their interactions. Anticipating global thresholds and risks.

Research under the Dynamic Planet theme provides the knowledge required to understand observed and projected trends in the Earth system. This includes both natural and social components, interactions between them, and variations and extremes, both globally and regionally.  It encompasses research that seeks to observe, monitor, explain and model the state of the planet and its societies.

Results from this research will help society and decision-makers understand past, present and future changes and interactions in global climate, air quality, ecosystems, watersheds, oceans, ice cover, and the natural and human drivers of environmental changes. These human drivers include production and consumption, land use, natural resource exploitation, population dynamics, trade, technology and urbanization, as well as the values and policies that influence these drivers.

There is a critical need for basic science to underpin this theme, especially if we are to move towards prediction and informed management of the Earth system. The risk that human activity will trigger rapid or irreversible changes in the Earth’s key systems highlights the need for research to understand the risk of tipping points, and to explain, map and predict vulnerability.

The fundamental geophysical, biological and social research needed to understand the dynamics of the planet are essential components of Future Earth.

Research under the Dynamic Planet research theme will advance understanding of the following questions, and many related ones:

  • What approaches, theories, and models allow us to explain the functioning of Earth and socio-ecological systems, understand the interactions between these mechanisms, and identify the role of feedbacks and evolution within these systems?
  • What are the states and trends of key environmental components such as climate, soils, the cryosphere, biogeochemistry, biological diversity, air quality, freshwater, and oceans, and of human drivers of change such as population, consumption, land and sea use, and technology? How do these relate to the states and dynamics in the social foundations of sustainable development? How and why do these vary across time, space, and social context? 
  • What changes are predicted under the most likely scenarios of natural and social driving forces and Earth, social and biological system responses?
  • What are the risks of rapid or irreversible changes, of crossing regional to global thresholds and planetary boundaries, and inducing tipping points that might result in social-environmental crises?
  • What can be understood and anticipated about the condition of and future for critical zones and biomes such as coasts, tropical forests, arid zones or Polar Regions?
  • What kind of integrated global and regional observing systems and data infrastructures are needed to document and model the earth system and anthropogenic drivers and impacts of change? Can we develop reliable monitoring systems, models, and information systems and services that anticipate and provide early warnings of large-scale and rapid change?

Research Projects