1. Ecosystem Services

Research on ecosystem services is conducted within the ecoSERVICES Group at ASU. For the last six years the Group has supported the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Training Network (BESTNet) , a Research Coordination Network funded by the National Science Foundation. The core members of the network are part of an international global-change research network, DIVERSITAS, which focuses on the relationship between human activities, biodiversity change, and ecosystem services. DIVERSITAS is an interdisciplinary, international network of scientists concerned with the impact of anthropogenic activity on the world’s biodiversity, and on the consequences of biodiversity loss for human well-being through changes in ecosystem functioning, ecosystem processes, and the provision of valuable goods and services.  It works through a set of four core projects that together develop the scientific basis for monitoring, observing understanding and predicting changes; expanding biodiversity and ecosystem functioning science to larger scales and over a greater breadth of the biological hierarchy; linking changes in ecosystem structure and functioning to changes in ecosystem services; assessing human response to change in ecosystem services; developing new knowledge to guide policy and decision making that support sustainable use of biodiversity; evaluating the effectiveness of current conservation measures; studying the social, political and economic drivers of biodiversity loss, as well as social choice and decision making. DIVERSITAS and the other Global Change Projects are currently transitioning to a new overarching Global Change Research Project, Future Earth.

The Group has played a significant role in the development of a new Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services—a body established in 2012 to provide the same sort of support to the international policy community for biodiversity as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has provided for climate change.  It has also investigated the implications of the new body for science Perrings et al, Science (2011), Perrings et al, Science (2010).

Specific research projects on ecosystem services undertaken by the group include

2. Modeling Anthropogenic Effects in the Spread of Infectious Diseases (MASpread)

This research, supported by grant 1R01GM100471-01 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), investigates the economic drivers of ‘contact’ in dynamic models of emerging human and animal infectious disease systems. The project analyzes disease system dynamics with and without adaptive responses. The models will be calibrated for a set of diseases where people’s trade and travel decisions are potentially important (e.g. H1N1, H5N1, FMD). The aim is to strengthen the power of compartmental epidemiological models (a) to predict the likelihood that diseases of particular types will be introduced and the course of diseases once introduced, and (b) to evaluate the potential for incentive-based policy responses to disease threats and disease outbreaks.

The research team has been built over a number of years through collaboration in three networks: an RCN – BESTNet; the international biodiversity science program DIVERSITAS; and a NIMBIOS working group – SPIDER. It comprises mathematical epidemiologists (Castillo-Chavez and Chowell at ASU), ecologists (Daszak, EcoHEALTH; Kilpatrick, UCSC; Smith, Brown; Kinzig, ASU; Levin, Princeton) and resource economists (Perrings, Kuminoff and Fenichel at ASU; Horan, MSU; Springborn, UCD and Finnoff, UW).

3. Risks of Animal and Plant Infectious Diseases Through Trade (RAPID Trade)

The dispersal of animal and plant diseases is among the most important side effects of world trade. Disease impacts on crop yields and livestock put global food supplies at risk, while emergent zoonoses put human health at risk. Since trade is also one of the main drivers of economic development, it is important that it not be unduly disrupted by measures to protect against disease risk. Striking the right balance is currently difficult because of the way that trade is treated in national and international disease risk assessments. We will develop risk assessment tools for managing animal and plant disease risk at both national and international scales that will better capture the impact of evolving trade patterns on animal and plant health.

The core research team comprises mathematicians (Kleczkowski, Chowell, Morin), ecologists (Daszak, MacLeod, White), plant pathologists (Griffin), environmental and resource economists (Fenichel, Finnoff, Horan, Jones, Perrings, Springborn, Touza) and computer scientists (Timmis). It also includes specialists from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in the USA and the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) in the UK.

The broad aim of the project is to develop enhanced methods for assessing the animal and plant infectious disease risks posed by changes in world trade networks. It has four specific objectives: 1) to improve understanding of the role and influence of disease risk in private trade decisions; 2) to use this information to develop trade-risk assessment methods that can enhance local and national disease risk management; 3) to improve capacity to predict the implications of trade responses and trade interventions for the wider risk landscape, and to explore options for managing this at the international scale; and 4) To develop a virtual laboratory for evaluating alternative incentive-based disease risk management strategies at multiple scales within an adaptive management framework, and to demonstrate this to decision-makers via a web-based interface. To achieve these objectives we will model the risks associated with trade in animal and plant products at three scales: local, national, and international. This is expected to extend scientific understanding of the nature of anthropogenic animal and plant disease risk. It is also expected to extend capacity to project the disease risk implications of economic change.

We aim to show how national security may be most effectively protected through international cooperation and at what scale. We will partner directly with two of the national organizations responsible for animal and plant disease risk assessment and management, US APHIS and UK FERA, and will seek to partner with others as the research proceeds. Internationally, we expect to partner with the Food and Agricultural Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) and the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement.

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