The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which explores links between human wellbeing and the status of natural ecosystems, was released this week.
The four-year project found that 60 per cent of the services provided by ecosystems to humans were being degraded or used unsustainably (see Healthy ecosystems 'critical in fight against poverty').
In this article in Nature, Harold Mooney, Angela Cropper and Walter Reid argue that, although there are currently no formal plans to repeat the assessment, there should be. They say a periodic audit of the state of the planet and how it relates to human wellbeing is essential to sustainable development.
Reversing the trend of ecosystem degradation will require significant efforts that will profoundly change the way both global and local communities operate, say the authors.
They say that policies relating to fields such as agriculture, environment, fisheries and water should be integrated to avoid trade-offs. They say a better appreciation of the monetary value of 'regulating services' — such as climate maintenance and flood protection — that ecosystems provide is also necessary.