"Clark Joins Call for Congress to Adopt System to Evaluate U.S. Ecosystems"
Newsletter Article, Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
William Clark, Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development and member of the Center’s board of directors, joined the nonprofit Heinz Center this summer in calling on the next president and Congress to take up the reins of a system of U.S. environmental indicators that evaluates the condition of major ecosystems within the United States.
The Heinz Center began designing a system of indicators in 1997 at the suggestion of then Vice President Al Gore and the Clinton administration’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. Since that time, a committee chaired by Clark, with input from more than 150 representatives from environmental groups, industry, academia, and government agencies, designed a system of indicators and issued two reports evaluating the condition of six major ecosystems.
“The State of the Nation’s Ecosystems 2008,” to be published by Island Press, summarizes 108 indicators on the condition and use of major ecosystem types such as coasts and oceans, farmlands, forests, and fresh waters—and the nation as a whole. Among the indicators that reflect climate are: measurements of sea surface temperature, which rose significantly in the past two decades in U.S. coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Alaska, and South Atlantic; and carbon storage, which shows gains rather than losses in carbon stored in forest biomass, cropland soils, and private grasslands and shrubland soils since 1990. The report also shows a significant reduction in high stream flow rates compared to a baseline period in the 1940s and 50s, and notes the presence of contaminants in nearly all streams and three out of every four groundwater wells tested in the United States.
“This system of environmental indicators which the Heinz Center has put in place should now become a government responsibility,” Clark said. “It shows changes and trends in our ecosystems and provides essential information that can help Congress determine the need for certain types of action and legislation related to climate change and other impacts.” Clark joins the Heinz Center in calling for a Congressionally-mandated public-private partnership to take over and build on the system. The report is available at www.heinzctr.org/ecosystems
For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.
For Academic Citation: