CIESIN Thematic Guides * Provisional Release *

The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme

The International Council of Scientific Unions, a coordinating body of national science organizations, launched the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) in 1986 to "describe and understand the interactive physical, chemical and biological pr ocesses that regulate the total Earth system, the unique environment that it provides for life, the changes that are occurring, and the manner in which changes are influenced by human actions." A central objective of the IGBP is to establish the scientifi c basis for quantitative assessment of changes in the Earth's biogeochemical cycles, including those changes that control the concentration of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, and other chemicals in the atmosphere. Reducing Uncertainties (IGBP 1992) offers a brief but comprehensive summary of the program, its objectives, and core projects.

To achieve its objectives, the IGBP engaged scientists from over 100 nations in interdisciplinary research on six key questions about the Earth system. IGBP's invest igation of those questions is organized into core projects in the following areas:

An IGBP task force on Global Modeling and Analysis is exploring data needs and integrating large global data sets to model various Earth system interactions accurately. IGBP has also worked with the International Social Science Council's International Human Dimensions Programme on an assessment of global land use and land cover. IGBP Report No. 28 (1993), The IGBP in Action: The Work Plan 1994-1998, provides additional details on proposed IGBP activities.

The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme also established a network of regional research centers called the Global Change SysTem for Analysis, Research and Training (START). The START Program strives to add regional perspectives on biogeography and climate to the understanding of global change. START also seeks to make global change science more immediately relevant to decision-makers by developing the science on a regional basis and by involving regional scientists in developing scientific researc h. IGBP Report No. 15 (1991), Global Change SysTem for Analysis, Research and Training (START), presents the results of the 1990 workshop in which the program was formed. The Start Update provides periodic summaries of START activities.

START is establishing 14 regional research networks in developing countries, each of which includes a regional research center and a number of affiliated research sites. The networks will be linked together to prov ide a global system through which scientific information is disseminated and research is coordinated with core research projects of major international programs. For example, MEDIAS is a START network that focuses on the Mediterranean Basin and subtropical Africa.

Another component of IGBP's program, the IGBP Data and Information System (IGBP-DIS) was established to improve accessibility and exchange of the large volume of data needed for core projects. IGBP-DIS works with v arious data centers, including the Global Change Master Directory and International Directory Network, and is closely involved in the creation of a global land-surface database at 1 km resolution using Advanced Very High Resolu tion Radiometer (AVHRR) and other satellite data. IGBP-DIS maintains a secretariat separate from the main IGBP office.

Additional information available on IGBP includes the following: