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The four IGCPs founding CHANGES are:

Full details of each project can be found on their respective websites, and a brief synopsis of each IGCP follows:

IGCP 413 - Understanding Future Dryland Environmental Changes from Past Dynamics (1998-2002)

Co-leaders: Prof. David Thomas and Prof. Ashok Singhvi

Deserts and drylands cover almost 50% of the global land area and present increasing challenges for their human populations, with desertification recognised as a globally important environmental issue. Difficulties in food production and water resource availability in drylands are set to increase under the dual impacts of population increases and future greenhouse-warming induced climate changes. Despite their great extent and growing populations, deserts and drylands are marked by their relative scientific neglect. It is vital to improve understanding of the spatial complexity of dryland systems and change-causing linkages to allow better, region specific predictions of future changes that will impact on dryland populations.

Key Objectives of the new project are:

  • Improve recognition of likely spatial and temporal complexities of future changes in drylands and their impacts on societies, through highlighting regional differences and hemispheric contrasts in the timing of desert margin fluctuations, the operation of different processes and understanding of past human relationships with enivoronmental changes in drylands.
  • Improved understanding of the role of drylands in terrestrial carbon systems by enhanced understanding of the timing and hydrological relationships of Late Quaternary pedogenic carbonate formation.
  • Identification of the role of high magnitude events in dryland landscape development, enhancing undererstanding of the stability/instability of dylands.
  • Improved data inputs from dryland areas to global and Regional Climate Models, in order to contribute to enhanced predictions of the impacts of future climate changes on desert and peridesert societies.

IGCP 448 - World correlation on karst geology and its relevant ecosystem (2000-2004)

Co-leaders: Yuan Daoxian, Chris Groves and Guiseppe Messana

From the work of IGCP 299 "Geology, Climate, Hydrology and Karst formation" (1990-1994), and IGCP 379 "Karst processes and the Carbon Cycle" (1995-1999) it is recognized that the ecosystems in the karst regions of the world, with a population of one billion, are fragile. They are characterized by calciphile, petrophile, xerophile and a subterranean ecosystem as a result of the Ca-Mg rich geochemical background and karst hydrological systems.

The impact of karst upon human life is quite different in various regions and ecosystems. For instance, intensive karstification and accompanying underground drainage systems can bring about serious ecological problems, such as rock desertification in southwest China. However, in some boreal or temperate humid regions, underground hydrological systems are beneficial to forestry and agriculture. A global comparison of karst ecosystems will provide knowledge of the mechanism of formation of different karst ecosystems, and thus permit more reasonable treatment of ecological problems and sustainable development in karst.

The key aims of the project are:

  • To compare the karst ecological systems in tropical and subtropical, Mediterranean, Gondwana, arid and semiarid and other regions, their mechanism of formation, and different impacts on human life.
  • To compare the microscopic karst ecological systems of different geochemical backgrounds and phases of carbonate rocks, especially the impact on species selection and biodiversity.
  • To compare the subterranean ecological systems of karst on both geographical and geological views, and explore their differences on the evolution of troglobite, troglophile and trogloxene species and relation with surface species.
  • To compare the mutual effects of karst ecological system and human activities (e.g. the impact of karst ecological systems on agriculture, forestry and human health; and on the other hand, the impact of urbanisation, logging, mining, quarrying and agriculture on karst ecological system.

IGCP 459 - Carbon Cycle and Hydrology in the Palaeo-Terrestrial Environments (2001-2005)

Co-leaders: Dr Jean-Luc Probst, Dr Louis François, Dr Pedro Depetris and Dr Jefferson Mortatti

This is a continuation of IGCP Project No. 404 'Terrestrial Carbon in the Past 125 Ka', which was completed in 2000. Compared to the former IGCP 404, it will focus more on the terrestrial hydro-systems and ecosystems, with a special emphasis on the soil reservoir. The time scale will be expanded from 105 to >106 years. The main objective will be to couple the water cycle and carbon cycle to study the different terrestrial carbon reservoirs and the mass transfers between these reservoirs, but also between terrestrial reservoirs and atmospheric and oceanic reservoirs. Key questions include: Where is carbon stored in ancient environments? What are the impacts of human activity and of hydro-climate change? What is the impact of formation and destruction of terrestrial carbon on atmospheric carbon dioxide content? Societal benefits are a better preservation and management of natural resources. New databases on palaeohydro-climatology and vegetation distribution will be further extended from previous databases.

IGCP 464 - Palaeoenvironmental evolution of Continental Shelves during the Last Glacial Cycle (2001-2005)

Co-leaders: Prof. Allan Chivas and Prof. Francesco Chiocci

The project will focus on continental shelves during the last glacial cycle and will carry out comparisons around the world and establish workshops to train people in modern shelf surveying techniques such as fibre-optic cable route surveys. A compilation of various styles of shelves will be established, and a common terminology defined. Accumulated expertise from IGCP Project 396 'Continental Shelves in the Quaternary' is available, which has just completed its fifth and last year. The project will also address understanding of the geometry and palaeogeography of shelves, of palaeoclimate and sea surface palaeotemperatures, in particular in tropical areas; investigation of the imprint of higher frequency climatic events on continental shelves; application of seismic methods to identify the palaeomorphology of shelf deposits and the testing of sequence stratigraphic methods/models from ancient materials to younger sediments. The project will seek access to non-confidential industrial data (e.g. cable or geotechnical surveys) especially in developing countries. Data acquisition by surveying and mapping will result in a 'world map' of the extent and character of continental shelf sediments (particularly at 20 ka BP), and a compilation of the geotechnical properties of shelf sediments. A synthesis of the results will be published during all the project, which will provide: (1) an understanding of the various styles of relict and modern continental shelf deposition and change, especially in relation to the nature and frequency of climate change, (2) an estimate of the carbon budgets and storage of carbon at the Last Glacial Maximum that will be compared to modern shelves, and (3) an aid in economic and resource development, coastal engineering and management, understanding of the history of human activity on continental shelves, and in legal issues under the Law of the Sea Convention. There are a number of other facets of this proposed research that will likely provide new insight into related scientific questions, and a substantial database will be provided for future research. Among the societal benefits are: training of participants from less developed countries; studies of the resource assessment and genesis of shallow marine placer deposits and sand; and definition of the cultural heritage of climatic/eustatic events.

The mountains of 'High Asia'

The mountains of 'High Asia' contain a rich suite of environments, embracing sandy deserts, glaciers and much else in between, as shown here in the Skardu Basin of northernmost Pakistan. A field of sand dunes converges on the upper reaches of the Indus River (right, middle distance), above which tower the Karakoram Mountains with their cover of glaciers and perennial snow. In the middle distance, a dust storm can be seen running along the foot of the mountain slopes. The sharp climatic gradients in such environments respond quickly, and often violently, to quite small changes in climate, dryland and glacier advance and retreat being associated with important changes in hydrology. Such environments offer great potential for research into palaeohydrology and palaeoclimate.



This information has been provided by M. Telfer and P. Bragg
© CHANGES. Last updated: 16 Oct 2002

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