Modeling the Bio-sphere

493295a-i1.0What is the value of water filtration services provided by tropical rainforests? What about the impact of the biological diversity of forest ecosystems on the agricultural productivity of neighboring croplands?

How might we channel recent advances in computational modeling to help policymakers identify and quantify these links – the links between natural ecosystems and human economies?

A new piece in Nature highlights emerging efforts at doing just that: modeling the earth’s key ecosystems, in an effort to better inform policy decisions on issues like climate change and biodiversity conservation.

From the article, by Drew Purves and others:

“We think that analogous general ecosystem models (GEMs) could radically improve understanding of the biosphere and inform policy decisions about biodiversity and conservation. Currently, decisions in conservation are based on disparate correlational studies, such as those showing that the diversity of bird species tends to decline in deforested landscapes. GEMs could provide a way to base conservation policy on an understanding of how ecosystems actually work.”