Confirmation that the global ecosystem is approaching a transition is presented in this week’s Nature, highlighting the need to improve forecasting and address human influences on such changes. The Review summarizes evidence that similar shifts have occurred in the past, and that humans are driving the most recent changes.
The realization that humans are changing Earth in ways that may affect how the planet can sustain its inhabitants has boosted interest in forecasting such responses. Anticipating these changes may be critical for guiding the future of the global ecosystem and our society. Anthony Barnosky and co-workers suggest that existing forecasting methods need to be improved, and that this could be achieved by detecting early warning signs better, considering both local and global ecological transitions, and understanding the drivers of these changes.
In addition, the authors recommend that measures are needed to deal with the impact that humans have on our ecosystem. Reducing population growth and increasing the efficiencies of food production are among the ideas proposed by Barnosky and colleagues to steer our ecosystem towards the conditions we desire.