• SENSE Research Cluster VIII: Global environmental change: Complex Dynamics in Human-Environment Systems
    As a basis for climate policies, it is necessary to know the mechanisms of global environmental change. We begin to understand the complexity of system earth in terms of interactions between its compartments and the relevance of feedback mechanisms. These interactions and feedbacks are not limited to the physical, chemical and biological components but also include the human dimension key to assess the role of humans in present- and future climate and global change. Furthermore, it relies on an improved understanding of the Earth system before the “anthropocene”. Participants in this cluster focus on past, present- and future climate and global change and impacts through analysis of observations and numerical experiments. In these efforts, system resilience and uncertainties deserve special attention.
    Understanding system earth, with its multiple interactions, has a high scientific complexity. Analyzing global environmental change, its impacts and uncertainties, is of high societal relevance. Participants in this cluster strive for scientific excellence, combined with a clear communication to society.
    Featuring subjects, mechanisms and methods that are being developed and applied in this SENSE Research Cluster are, for example:
    • Analysis of observations of global change in order to discover trends
    • Assessment the role of process interactions, feedbacks in the resilience of complex systems
    • Uncertainty assessments of impacts caused by global change.

    We welcome experts in environmental change at a global level to participate in this research cluster to exchange knowledge and stimulate new innovative developments (if you are not a member of the SENSE Research School but involved with this subject, then you are still welcome to enroll and participate in this research cluster).

    To read more about the SENSE research clusters in general, click HERE.


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    Coordination and experts


    • Vacant

    SENSE key experts:

    • Prof. Peter Verburg (VU-IVM-SPACE)
    • Prof. Jeroen Aerts (VU-IVM-SPACE)
    • Prof. Rien Aarts (VU-IES-SE)
    • Prof. Hans Cornelissen (VU-IES-SE)
    • Prof. Carolien Kroeze (WU-ESA)
    • Prof. Rik Leemans (WU-ESA)
    • Prof. Wim de Vries (WU-ESA)
    • Prof. Marten Scheffer (WU-AEW)
    • Prof. Bert Holtslag (WU-MAQ)
    • Prof. Maarten Krol (WU-MAQ)
    • Prof. Wilco Hazeleger (WU-MAQ)
    • Prof. Frank Berendse (WU-NCP)
    • Prof. Jeroen van der Sluijs (UU-COP)
    • Prof. Max Rietkerk (UU-COP)
    • Prof. Frank Biermann (VU-IVM-EPA)
    • Prof. Philipp Pattberg (VU-IVM-EPA)
    • Prof. Karsten Kalbitz (UvA-IBED-ESS)
    • Prof. Z. (Bob) Su (UT-ITC)
    • Prof. W. (Wouter) Verhoef (UT-ITC)

    Contact information:

    For more information about this research cluster, please contact Dr. Monique Gulickx (

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      To illustrate the urgency and relevance of new developments in this field, below we present some of the emerging research questions that are currently challenging both science and society in the research domain of SENSE Research Cluster VIII:

      1. Will we be able to develop early warning indicators for foreseeing abrupt transitions in the climate system?
        Scientific and societal relevance: There is a growing concern that the global climate may not change gradually, due to multiple feedback mechanisms and different scales and different strength that can amplify (positive feedback) or dampen (negative feedback) the climate. If the net feedback is positive, the climate might shift abruptly to another state. Early warning indicators become of primary importance to find tipping points reflecting these abrupt shifts. What options are available for early warning indicators? At what scale (time and place) must we look for them?
      2. What are the consequences of climate change regarding ecosystem services and human health?
        Scientific and societal relevance: Climate change will also influence the micro climate in ecosystems and cities. For Dutch ecosystems, it is expected that the hydrological cycle will change, due to more variability in precipitiaton patterns. Therefore, longer dry and wet periods are expected, with consequences for water quality and ecosystem functioning. For Dutch cities, increases in heat waves and precipitation extremes are expected. Indirect effects for the health of the urban population are badly understood. Topics of concern are e.g. the urban heat effect, urban air quality, plagues such as the oak processionary caterpillar. It is important to get an understanding of health effects, especially for vulnerable groups in the population like the elderly. In a second phase, the research has to develop strategies to combat unwanted consequences of climate change in cities.
      3. How can large-area, long-term field studies be set up to evaluate observed impacts of climate change on managed and unmanaged systems and human activities?
        Scientific and societal relevance: Large-area, long-term field studies are required to evaluate observed impacts of climate change on managed and unmanaged systems and human activities. This will enable improved understanding of where and when impacts become detectable, where the hotspots lie, and why some areas are more vulnerable than others. High-quality observations are essential for full understanding of causes, and for unequivocal attribution of present-day trends to climate change. 
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        Dear SENSE students/colleagues,

        After the initial announcement of a follow-up meeting of SENSE research cluster VIII “Global environmental change; Complex Dynamics in Human-Environmental Systems”, 24th of November, Wageningen, we invite you now to register for this meeting. As indicated we organize a thematic meeting about “Uncertainties in climate modelling relevant for scenario analysis”. Registration (deadline 31-10) can be done at the Moodle website by login to the site and going to the registration block. This site also gives you the opportunity to submit an abstract to provide a contribution to this meeting. We will likely be able to have 6 20-minute presentations besides the keynote presentations by Wilco Hazeleger and Detlef van Vuuren. When there will be more abstracts sent in we will select the abstracts that fit in best according to our judgement. If you only want to attend and do not wish to submit an abstract, that’s also fine. 

        Hope that many of you will attend, regards, Detlef, Stefan and Laurens


        Register here for the 24th of November meeting on “Uncertainties in climate modelling relevant for scenario analysis”.

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          Here you will be able to find interesting articles, links to books that are worth reading, presentations that caught your attention, etc. To suggest items that should be placed here, please follow the instructions mentioned below
          or send an email to the (technical) coordinators.

          Presentations Cluster Meeting January 5 2010:
          The harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in the Eastern Scheldt: a resident stock? ~ Okka Jansen

          Feedbacks between climate and human activities in a coupled integrated assessment-climate modeling system with focus on emissions ~ Clifford Chuwah

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            Add a document to the Library

            Do you have any interesting articles, reports or other documents that you want to share within this research cluster? You can add the by clicking on Upload Documents below. Please note that your document will not be visible in the library immediately, because it first has to be approved by the coordinator. You can also contact him if you would like your suggested document to be brought under our attention in a different way or if you would like the document to appear differently in the library (there are some options available for that).

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              Discussion forum

              In this forum topics related to cluster VIII can be discussed, varying from scientific issues to organizational matters. The forum is very easy to use.

              To enter the forum, click on Forum RC VIII below. You will go to the overview page of the forum, where you can see all existing discussions. If you click on a discussion title, you will enter the discussion. You can read all posts and you can also respond to them, by clicking Reply.

              To add a new discussion topic, you can click on Add a new discussion topic on top of the overview page. Please make sure that your new discussion is really new and does not overlap with existing discussions, otherwise the forum will get messy.

              The forum is maintained by the technical coordinator of the research cluster, who will remove any inappropriate contributions to the discussions.

              Please note the following!

              Everyone who enrolls in this course, is automatically subscribed to this forum and will receive e-mail notifications of every post on the forum. If you do not wish to be subscribed to the forum, you can click Unsubscribe from this forum in the top right corner of the forum overview page.

              If you do not want to receive too many notifications, you can adapt the forum settings for your account. To do so, follow these steps:
              a. Click on your username, which is always visible in blue in the bottom left corner of the page. You will go to your personal profile.
              b. Click Edit profile.
              c. Click Show advanced.
              d. In the field E-mail digest type you can now choose one of the three options: standard - notification of every post; daily an e-mail of all posts in full text; daily one e-mail with the titles of all posts. If there are no posts at all, you won’t get a summary e-mail either.
              e. You can also adapt other settings if you like.
              f. Scroll down and choose Update profile to activate your new settings.

              If you want to give feedback on the functioning of the forum or group page in general, then you are most welcome to leave a post in the discussion Technical feedback. The SENSE team will keep an eye on this discussion and will try to process your feedback as good as possible.