Photo: Nicolas Desagher/Azote


The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), published in 2005, assessed the consequences of ecosystem change for human wellbeing. It introduced a new conceptual framework for analysing social–ecological systems, which has had considerable influence in policy and scientific communities. The Assessment also revealed significant gaps in current scientific knowledge of the links between ecosystem services and human wellbeing. Some of the critical gaps include the need for understanding how social-ecological systems evolve over time and respond to policy interventions. In addition, some of the goals of the MA were only partly addressed by existing models and data. For example, nonlinear and sudden changes in social–ecological systems were not well integrated into planning and policy; trade-offs among ecosystem services were not fully understood; and there was little information about how ecosystem services interacted with other factors that determine human wellbeing.

The MA encompassed global, sub-global and local assessments. The conceptual framework and insights gained at the global level were very useful to provide an overall picture. In addition, sub-global and more local assessment were extremely informative about the ways that policies and practices link to ecosystem services, human wellbeing, livelihoods and poverty depending on the local context of particular places. Thus it became clear that many of the above-mentioned knowledge gaps should be addressed by strengthening support for place-based, long-term, social–ecological research.

In 2007, the International Council for Science (ICSU), in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations University (UNU), established an ad hoc expert group to assess these knowledge gaps and how they might best be addressed by the scientific community. This expert group published its report on Ecosystem Change and Human Well-beingPDF in December 2008. This included a recommendation to establish a new 10-year research programme, the Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS), with a mission to foster coordinated research to understand the dynamics of social-ecological systems. This programme is jointly sponsored by ICSU and UNESCO.

Printable version

2014-09-19 Albert Norström

PECS - Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society

Stockholm Resilience Centre

Stockholm University
SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Visiting address: Kräftriket 2


The Program on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS), is a new initiative jointly sponsored by ICSU and UNESCO. It aims to integrate research on the stewardship of social–ecological system and the relationships among natural capital, human wellbeing, livelihoods, inequality and poverty.