Illuminating water cycle modifications and Earth system resilience in the Anthropocene
Fresh water—the bloodstream of the biosphere—is at the center of the planetary drama of the Anthropocene. Water fluxes and stores regulate the Earth's climate and are essential for thriving aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, as well as water, food, and energy security. But the water cycle is also being modified by humans at an unprecedented scale and rate. A holistic understanding of freshwater's role for Earth system resilience and the detection and monitoring of anthropogenic water cycle modifications across scales is urgent, yet existing methods and frameworks are not well suited for this.
In this paper we highlight four core Earth system functions of water (hydroclimatic regulation, hydroecological regulation, storage, and transport) and key related processes. Building on systems and resilience theory, we review the evidence of regional‐scale regime shifts and disruptions of the Earth system functions of water. We then propose a framework for detecting, monitoring, and establishing safe limits to water cycle modifications and identify four possible spatially explicit methods for their quantification.
In sum, this paper presents an ambitious scientific and policy grand challenge that could substantially improve our understanding of the role of water in the Earth system and cross‐scale management of water cycle modifications that would be a complementary approach to existing water management tools.
Research news | 2021-10-16
Centre receives substantial research funding on sustainable food production
IKEA Foundation grants 30 million SEK for continued research on more sustainable and just food systems. Gullspång Invest and its subsidiary Gullspång Re:food contribute additional 5 million SEK
Research news | 2021-10-16
Beatrice Crona appointed professor in sustainability science
Deputy science director selected for newly established professorship in sustainability science with focus on sustainable food systems
Research news | 2021-10-11
Low exposure to green areas may lead to higher rates of COVID-19 cases
New analysis links COVID-19 to nature inequity, showing communities of color face starkest burden
Research news | 2021-10-04
How cities play a crucial role in the transition to a carbon-free world
In connection with World Habitat Day, centre experts explain why cities are at the centre of planetary efforts to reduce our carbon footprint
Educational news | 2021-09-30
New MOOC on how to deal with the climate crisis
Learn how to drive the social change that is fundamentally required for an effective response to climate change
Research news | 2021-09-29
Ready for anything
Centre theme leader Cibele Queiroz explains why diversity is important in turbulent times