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Ecosystems

Definition

The plants, animals, microorganisms and nonliving material that function together within a region.

Summary

Ecosystems shape our societies and nations by providing essential renewable resources and other benefits. They sustain human life by providing the goods and services it depends on, including food, fiber, shelter, energy, biodiversity, clean air and water, recycling of elements, and cultural, spiritual, and aesthetic returns. Ecosystems also affect the climate system by exchanging large amounts of energy, momentum, and greenhouse gases with the atmosphere.
landscape

Research Questions

1. What are the most important feedbacks between ecological systems and global change (especially climate), and what are their quantitative relationships?

2. What are the potential consequences of global change for ecological systems?

3. What are the options for sustaining and improving ecological systems and related goods and services, given projected global changes?

Source: Climate Change Science Program, and The Subcommittee Global Change Research. "Our Changing Planet: The U.S. Climate Change Science Program for Fiscal Year 2006." Washington: Climate Change Science Program Office, 2006.

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