World of trouble: voyaging through stressed ecosystems

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The Earth system is maintained in a stable climatic state by a myriad of forcing, responses and feedbacks. While the components of the Earth system have the abitlity to absorb disturbances while maintaining essential functions and structure (resilience), beyond certain thresholds either the entire system, its components or building blocks thereof may shift to entirely different ecological or climatic states. While little control is possible on natural (external) disturbances, humans have the ability to minimize their own environmental stressors via sound planning, designs and management so that Earth's ecosystems can be developed and maintained in a sustainable manner. In so doing, knowledge from natural environmental, human, social and engineering studies needs to be melded, their interdependencies identified and holistic models that include essential complexities must be developed. This is significantly different from the reductionist approach of classical scientific study. This presentation concerns some recent catastrophic failures of human-centric (urban) ecosystems during natural disasters due to environmetally incongruous engineering designs or lax regularoty enforcement. Also discussed will be urban systems subject to sustained anthropogenic stressing that are at the risk of losing resilience. Lessons learnt from such studies can be effectively incorporated into future eco-friendly engineering designs ​
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