NEESPI Science Review Meeting in Yalta, Ukraine
September 7 - September 9, 2003
The Northern Eurasia Earth Science Partnership Initiative (NEESPI) is a large scale and long-term program of climate and environmental change research currently planned to take place over the coming decade. Its scope spans virtually all northern Eurasian ecosystems and scientific disciplines. Although initiated by NASA, in collaboration with the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), NEESPI aims to become a truly international R&D program addressing the scientific and policy issues of direct relevance for the Eurasian region, which for our purposes is understood to range nominally from Scandinavia to Vladivostok and from 40 degrees north to the Arctic Ocean.
Specifically, the mission of NEESPI is
to identify the critical science questions and establish an international
program of coordinated research on the state and dynamics of terrestrial
ecosystems in northern Eurasia and their interactions with the Earth's
Climate system to enhance scientific knowledge and develop predictive
capabilities to support informed decision-making and practical applications.
The first Science Plan development workshop, which took place in Suzdal, Russia during April 2003, was intended to review the scope and justifications for important Earth system scientific and technical issues of the northern Eurasia region that might be relevant to a proposed Northern Eurasia Earth Science Partnership Initiative (NEESPI) Science Plan. Key science questions and a general strategy for a NEESPI Science Plan (SP) were developed at that meeting. Subsequently, over the ensuing four months a number of the scientists who participated in the workshop, as well as some additional scientists who were considered necessary to bring in additional expertise, set out to build upon the Suzdal workshop consensus and draft a first SP document. The Yalta meeting was organized to identify the review this first draft SP document and provide guidance for finalizing the SP.
The main objectives of this NEESPI Science Review Summit Meeting held in Yalta during early September 2003 were to review the scope of the draft Science Plan and to gather suggestions to fine-tune the SP and improve its relevance to and synergy with European, Japanese and Chinese research and operational programs in Earth sciences, as well as to garner support for prospective institutional participants and contributors to this program. The NEEPSI Science Plan draft presented the scientific justification, background findings, and proposed science/technical strategy, for executing what is arguably a broad thematic Earth system science study cast at the continental scale. Its fundamental aim is to better understand the role of the Northern Eurasian region in the broader Earth System. More specifically, the fundamental question to be addressed is, How do land ecosystems and continental water dynamics in Northern Eurasia interact with and alter the climatic system, biosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere of the Earth?
Yalta Meeting was held in the form of open discussion meeting with a few overview presentations by selected institutional representatives during the introductory session. This structure helped scientists to share ideas and gather suggestions to re-focus or fine-tune the science plan to improve its relevance to and synergy with international research and operational programs in Earth sciences. Thirty-seven representatives participated in the Yalta meeting from Austria, China, England, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, and the U.S.
The Science Plan of the Northern Eurasia Earth Science Partnership Initiative (NEESPI) was reviewed by a panel of experts drawn from academic, governmental, and non-governmental agencies. The following members of the review committee (the Committee), Charles Vörösmarty (Chair), Gregory Asner (Rapporteur), Congbin Fu, Masami Fukuda, Manuel Gloor, Tatyana Khromova, Oleksandr Kolodyazhnyy, Valeriy Kukhar, Petro Lakida, Dennis Lettenmaier, Eric Luhmann, Vadim Lyalko, Roberta Martin, Shaun Quegan, Ichtiaque Rasool, Chris Schmullius, Leonid Vedeshin conducted overall assessment of SP, its strengths and weaknesses and drafted suggestions for improvement of future SP final version. The following overview comments have been summarized from the formal review committees document.
From an Earth Systems Science perspective it is not difficult to justify a focus on the NEESPI region. The area is critical in land-surface atmosphere exchanges for energy, water, carbon and other trace gases. Change is an integral part of the high latitude Eurasian system, be it from climate variability and change -- sustained greenhouse warming, periodic events such as the AO or NAO, freeze-thaw dynamics, and seasonal drought important for both ecosystems and humans.
The Committee outlined in its report that the Science Plan well represents important environmental systems: biosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. It also presents compelling arguments and data supporting the importance of the NEESPI region in the global carbon cycle and the global climate system. Among other strengths of presented SP the Committee mentioned that the Plan argues well for the high sensitivity of Eurasian boreal systems to climate change and their potential feedbacks to climate warming and that noteworthy treatment of coastal zones, not only as conduits for material transfer from land to aquatic systems, but as important ecosystems in their own right.
The Committee concluded that NEEPSI Science Plan represents a highly ambitious document that considers an important region of global change with critical feedbacks and potential feedbacks and thresholds to the Earth System. From the standpoint of physical processes and carbon studies, the plan is best developed. The rationale for such studies was overall well-conceived.
Human components within the NEEPSI system are treated more-or-less as agents of change, with the reciprocal impacts of environmental change on societal systems receiving far less attention. Given the many global change themes that could be addressed across the region, an opportunity thus presents itself for an integrated regional study of human--climate-biogeochemical feedback studies.
Probably key among the weaknesses the Committee identified was that while the development of individual elements (chapters) of the Plan are worthy, integration across themes was not well-executed in the SP, therefore some structural and scientific aspects of SP need improvement Among other weaknesses mentioned was that SP emphasized climate and carbon as the sole foci without adequately facilitating the development of critically important linkages and feedbacks to society and sustainable development. Some action was recommended towards clarifying as to how process-oriented and geographic perspectives will be balanced in the studies to be supported by the program by defining the interaction and relative importance of process studies (e.g., ecosystem processes, hydrology, soil physics, etc) and large-scale geographic studies (e.g., remote sensing, climate and Earth system modeling) throughout the SP.
From the structural point of view, the Committee suggested that the SP include a list and description of agencies, organizations and consortia that are in place and producing information pertinent to NEESPI considering both governmental and extra-governmental agencies in the SP and better map onto NEESPI programmatic agenda and to identify linkages with other potential sources. The Committee also suggested defining and discussing the activities of other groups and programs operating in the NEESPI region and identifying the NEESPI user community and entraining those users in the planning process.
The Committees suggestions are currently being applied to the further development of the NEESPI Science Plan.
More pictures from Yalta meeting.
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