As fragile ecosystems across the globe face increased demand for agricultural land and natural resources, they become ever more vulnerable to the consequences– economic, societal and environmental– of changing climate patterns.

Our changing global climate has resulted in variable temperatures and precipitation patterns. For many places around the world that rely on environmental factors for agriculture, ecosystem-based economies, or water systems, variable climate, where temperatures have increased while precipitation has decreased, has resulted in particularly severe challenges to not only the ecosystems themselves, but the populations that rely on them.

Natural ecosystems have always faced a level of pressure from neighboring populations. Recent shifts in population size and distribution, however, have resulted in high levels of stress on increasingly fragile ecosystems as growing societies shift agricultural practices, expand urban extents, and develop coping strategies in response to their changing climate. As humans have altered the composition and conditions of many ecosystems, new sensitivities to shifts in climate have emerged, presenting challenges to biodiversity, to local economies and food security, and to availability of resources.

From high mountain ecosystems in the Andes, to forest clearing regions in the Amazon and Southeast Asia, IRI scientists are working with local and international partners to incorporate economic and social factors to better understand emerging challenges in fragile ecosystems. In high-altitude ecosystem communities in Chile, the disappearing water resources from precipitation and groundwater resources threaten the viability of farmers and their crops. By working with in-country partners, IRI is helping to create sustainable prediction tools to better manage water resources into the future. Climate-centered early warning systems are increasingly important in ecosystems like Peruvian Amazon and in Bogor, Indonesia, where changes in agricultural policies and economic incentives mean once robust ecosystems– modified by deforestation, land-use changes, and agricultural expansion– are now threatened with climatic factors that increase their susceptibility to climate-related fires.