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Global Earth System and Climate Change # world recent climate

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Land systems (including land-use systems) are complex social-ecological systems composed of interacting social and biological actors and terrestrial environments and the feedbacks among these components that shape the dynamics of Earth’s land surface across scales, from local landscapes to global commodity chains. Land system science aims to understand these complex two-way interactions towards informing more sustainable governance of Earth’s land, including efforts to adapt to, manage, and mitigate coupled changes in climate, biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, food systems, social systems (including economics and issues of power and inequality), new technologies, energy systems, water systems, and other interacting social and ecological dynamics that shape the future of Earth’s land.

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As a transdiscipline, the tools of land system science are diverse and cut across the social and natural sciences and the practices of environmental governance. Research methods include remote sensing of land cover and land use and other approaches to social and environmental mapping and analysis, case studies of the causes and consequences of social and environmental change on the ground, metastudy and other approaches to knowledge synthesis, agent-based modeling of coupled social-ecological systems at landscape and regional scales, and regional and global simulations of coupled human-environmental interactions over time, including Earth systems modeling.

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Applied land system science investigates and informs the operations of land systems, including strategies for researching and negotiating tradeoffs and competing demands among diverse stakeholder populations, the governance of multifunctional landscapes, national and international policies and informal institutions governing land rights and access to land and other resources, commodity production and trade, conservation and restoration of native habitats, food system architectures at local, regional, and global scales, and global supply chain transparency and informed-consumer initiatives.

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We invite authors to submit their articles to Land that help to advance scientific and applied understanding of the functioning and dynamics of land systems from local to global scales. Articles that meet these goals, including the development of new scientific methods and governance tools that help translate knowledge into action.
Changes in land systems, human-induced transformations of ecosystems and landscapes and the resulting changes in land cover, reach far beyond local alterations and are pervasive factors of global environmental change.

Today, more than 75% of the Earth’s ice-free land shows significant evidence of land use induced alterations of many environmental processes, such as primary production, the water cycle, biogeochemical cycles, the climate system, and biodiversity. On the other hand, land provides vital socioeconomic resources to society, such as of food, fuel, fibres and many other ecosystem services that support production functions, regulate risks of natural hazards, or provide cultural and spiritual services.

Land system changes are the direct result of human decision making at multiple scales, with far reaching consequences for the Earth System, that feedback on human well-being and decision making. Thus, land system change is both a cause and consequence of socio-ecological processes that encompasses a huge range of spatio-temporal scales.

Land systems represent the terrestrial component of the Earth system and encompass all processes and activities related to the human use of land, including socioeconomic, technological and organizational investments and arrangements, as well as the benefits gained from land and the unintended social and ecological outcomes of societal activities. Thus, Land System Science has emerged to serve as a platform for integration of these different dimensions of global environmental change research, and aims at offering potential options for mitigation and adaption to environmental change, for example through modified land system architecture .

global earth system and climate change

By studying the mutual interplay between social and ecological systems that shape land use and land cover, land system science operates at the interface of the social and natural sciences and requires a high level of interdisciplinary collaboration across academic disciplines as is reflected in the contributions to this issue.

Land system science has developed over the past twenty years from the study of Land Use and Land Cover Change, which initially was dominated by monitoring and modelling of the ecological impacts of land cover changes such as deforestation and desertification on the natural system.

Gradually, the research field has become more integrative, focusing on both the drivers and impacts of land change as part of global environmental change. The growing group of researchers engaged in this field led to the emergence of ‘Land Change Science’ as a separate, interdisciplinary, research field engaging scientists across the social, economic, geographical and natural sciences.

The increasing attention for feedbacks between drivers and impacts including adaptive behaviour [7], the interactions between social and ecological systems and teleconnections between world regions [8,9] and between cities and their rural hinterlands [10] have motivated an integrated socio-ecological systems perspective. In this perception, land systems are acknowledged as resulting from the dynamic interactions within the socio-ecological system.

This perspective has also moved land system science from a focus on the most dramatic land cover changes to giving more attention to subtle changes of human interactions with the natural surroundings, including land management and the provisioning of a wide range of ecosystem services. The articles in this issue strongly reflect this shift in perspective by explicitly addressing changes in land management and the modes in which land is governed.

Land System and Science

The Land System Science community is organized within the Global Land Project, one of the core projects of both the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) commissioned by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the International Social Science Council (ISSC). In 2013, a new programme gathering all previous global environmental change programmes was established and named ‘Future Earth’ in response to a visioning process on Earth System Science and Global Sustainability initiated by ICSU .

The aims of the new programme, that will also host the Global Land Project, include a stronger interdisciplinary approach and a stronger focus on science that supports sustainability transitions through co-design and co-production of research together with important stakeholders.

While interdisciplinarity is in the genes of Land System Science, a stronger engagement in the development of sustainability solutions provides an important opportunity for the researchers engaged in this field. Traditionally Land System Science is closely related to the fields of land use planning and land use policy. However, scientific insights are not always easily integrated in these processes and much land is owned and managed by private land owners that are not always responsive to planning and policy.

Therefore, new ways of linking science and practice need to be developed to effectively translate scientific findings into sustainability solutions and implementation in practice. Important ways forward in this perspective include the evaluation and design of alternative ways to govern land resources [12–14] and the use of land systems architecture in the design of novel land systems that more optimally use spatial and temporal interactions within the land system configuration to provide ecosystem services and adaptive capacity under conditions of global environmental change . Many of the articles in this issue address these challenges and illustrate the role of Land System Science as a central and critical component of global sustainability science.


reference –
US National Library of Medicine
mdpi site

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