Focus 4 - Rationale and Goals


In 2006, IGBP tasked PAGES with providing regional and global information on the past behavior of the Earth System. The scope included the physical climate system, biogeochemical cycles, ecological processes and human activities. Knowledge of the history of interactions between these elements was essential for a full understanding of the functioning of the Earth System and in providing the necessary perspective for addressing current issues of how modern systems may respond to future impacts.

The majority of the Earth's surface has a history of human impact that is significant in terms of duration and/or intensity. Therefore, formulation of integrated strategies for preservation, conservation or sustainable management of ecosystems demanded information about how human activities have interacted with the natural ecosystem in the long term (Dearing 2006).

Focus 4 (PHAROS) addressed the long-term interactions between past climate, ecological processes and human activities. Emphasis focused on comparing regional-scale reconstructions of ecological and climatic processes with evidence on past human activity.

The Focus 4 research encompassed the Holocene period, with particular emphasis on the period of significant human activity, which varies from region to region.

It also promoted dynamic modeling efforts to (1) better understand the processes that dominate human-climate-ecosystem interactions; (2) quantify the relative roles of different natural and anthropogenic drivers of change, and; (3) provide integrated datasets for model comparison and verification. The research enhances the use of paleorecords and other archives to provide past perspectives of environmental change that may be used to understand the functioning of present and future ecosystems (Dearing et al. 2006a;b).

In this respect, the focus was forward-looking with the ultimate goal of delivering tools and strategies for the sustainable management of ecosystems and landscapes.


- To understand and quantify the nature of human activities that have influenced the functioning of ecological systems..

- To elucidate feedbacks from human activities to the climate system

- To describe how human and climate impacts have interacted with internal system dynamics.

- To explore the sensitivity and resilience of modern ecological systems to new or increased stresses from human activities and climate change.

- To synthesize and integrate findings on past human-climate-ecosystem interactions in order to help develop appropriate sustainable management strategies.



Dearing, J.A., 2006: Climate-human-environment interactions: resolving our past, Climate of the Past, 2: 187-203.
Dearing, J.A., Battarbee, R.W., Dikau, R., Larocque, I. and Oldfield, F., 2006a: Human-environment interactions: learning from the past, Regional Environmental Change, 6: 115-123. DOI: 10.1007/s10113-005-0011-8.
Dearing, J.A., Battarbee, R.W., Dikau, R., Larocque, I. and Oldfield, F. 2006b: Human-environment interactions: towards synthesis and simulation, Regional Environmental Change, 6: 1-16. DOI: 10.1007/s10113-005-0012-7
IGBP, 2006: