Expertise on all earth systems and society in one new research group

March 1, 2024

Wageningen University & Research has strengthened its ability to contribute to sustainable futures, considering the many global change challenges society faces, by establishing the Earth Systems and Global Change Group. The 120 scientists study all earth systems, and the interaction between those systems and with society. On 12 March they present their research and education and explore cooperation with others. You are very welcome to join.

Society faces climate change, loss of biodiversity, droughts, water scarcity, food security and land degradation. Human activities are the main cause of these dramatic global changes. Understanding and solving these problems requires expertise from all these domains. Therefore, the new Earth Systems and Global Change Group focusses on all four earth systems: climate, water, land, and nature. The chair group studies the interaction between these systems and the interaction with society.

To structure the activities seven subgroups have been established:

  • Nutrients, Food and Environment
  • Water Quality
  • Water, Climate and Food
  • Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
  • Land Based Mitigation and Adaptation
  • Climate Services and Adaptation
  • Empower Sustainable Futures

Large diversity of methods and societal partners

Prof. Kroeze: “Our innovative solutions are based on a wide range of methodologies. In our analysis we develop complex integrated models that can run at scales ranging from individual farms, complete river basins to the whole world. We also integrate field observations and observations with sensors, airplanes and satellites. We value transdisciplinary approaches, which means that we involve a wide diversity of scientific disciplines and societal partners, including citizen science.”

Helping different sectors to identify future pathways

Prof. Ludwig: “All four earth systems are closely connected with each other. The same holds for the different sectors in society. In our work we provide solutions to prevent problems (mitigation) and to respond to the global changes (adaption) in many different sectors. For example, we work on agriculture, water management, biodiversity protection, tourism, soil management, sustainable energy and human health. Together with the stakeholders in these sectors we analyse what global changes happened in the past and we explore scenarios and possible pathways into the future.”

Teaching the decision makers of the future

Solving the environmental challenges society faces requires more people with the right skills and knowledge. The Earth Systems and Global Change Group educates the future decision makers. Prof. Kroeze: “We are strongly involved in the study programmes of Wageningen University, including Environmental Sciences, Marine Sciences, Urban Environmental Management, Climate Studies, International Land and Water Management and Tourism. Students from all over the globe join our study programme.”

Activating the decision makers of today

Prof. Ludwig: “The decision makers of today need to do things differently. Therefore, we actively share our research findings with society. By involving societal partners in our research but also by actively and continuously communicating with society via mass media, social media, apps, presentations, citizen science and participatory workshops.”

Two new chair holders

The Earth Systems and Global Change Group is a combination of the Environmental Systems Analysis Group and the Water Systems and Global Change Group of Wageningen University. Both chair holders guided the integration and formation of the merge. However, both will leave the group in March. Prof. Carolien Kroeze will be appointed as the new Rector Magnificus of Wageningen University and prof. Fulco Ludwig has accepted a position abroad. Applications for these vacancies can be submitted till Friday 22 March.