The Earth system – University of Copenhagen

The Earth system

We live in the “Anthropocene”, a time period in which human activities have become so great that they significantly impact both the geological record and the function of the Earth System as a whole. Climate change, changes in element and the water cycles, particle release to the atmosphere, loss of biodiversity, production and release of novel substances, including toxic chemicals, to the environment, new land-use patterns as well as changing conditions in the ocean are all examples of human-caused changes in the Earth System which potentially undermine continued development of humanity.

There is an urgent need to integrate our current understanding of the Earth System functioning with drivers from society such as our global economic systems, the potentials and limitations of different political institutions, the psychological implications of discourses about an altering world, the role of mass education, etc.

On this page, we provide an overview of current Earth System-related research projects.

Relevant research activites at the University of Copenhagen

The Natural History Museum of Denmark provides historic collections and unique competences focusing their research on the geological structure of the Earth, the origin and evolution of life, the diversity of living organisms and the conservation of Nature's diversity.
The Section for Global Development  at the Department of Food and Resource Economics engages in inter-disciplinary research on economic, political, environmental, and institutional dynamics in developing countries. Research areas include issues of livelihoods, small-scale industry, trade, and labour; of climate change mitigation and adaptation; of forest and natural resource management; of resource conflicts and land grabbing; and of governance, state formation, and corruption.
The Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate  integrates terrestrial and marine research in a cross-disciplinary research program addressing fundamental questions on the origin, maintenance, conservation and future of life and biological diversity on Earth.
The Centre for GeoGenetics   use novel methodologies and access to highly unique specimens and sampling sites, to re-address some of the most highly debated scientific topics in the past decades - carefully chosen in a strong belief, that ancient DNA research can provide fundamentally new insight. Or even shift current paradigms.
Copenhagen Centre for Atmospheric Research (CCAR) aims at a detailed understanding of the chemistry of the atmosphere in order to understand the influence of human society on the environment. The goal is to determine the absolute and relative reaction rates of key atmospheric trace gases.
The Research platform on Environment and Change  at Centre of African Studies attempts to capture the combined environmental and developmental issues related to Africa and their implications for Africans in diverse settings. One question being addressed is whether tourism can contribute to a reduction in poverty and protection of biodiversity.
The HOBE research center brings together 7 multidisciplinary research groups in order to enhance the scientific understanding of large-scale hydrological processes. In addition to investigating the land surface and the atmosphere exchange processes, the center aims to expand the knowledge of recharge and groundwater dynamics and how groundwater interacts with surface- and sea water.

Relevant research networks with the University of Copenhagen

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)  encourage free and open access to biodiversity data, via the Internet. Through a global network of countries and organizations, GBIF promotes and facilitates the mobilization, access, discovery and use of information about the occurrence of organisms over time and across the planet. The GBIF Secretariat is based at the University of Copenhagen
DanBIF  maintains Denmarks membership of GBIF - Global Biodiversity Information Facility. DanBIF makes Danish, Faroese and Greenlandic data on biodiversity available on the GBIF portal. DanBIF also collects and maintains a register of all species in Denmark.

Previous projects

Some projects have ended, but the knowledge is still present at the University of Copenhagen. The researchers are adding to this knowledge as they continue their work on other projects.

Waterworlds ; a research project at the Department of Anthropology. The ambition: to study local, social responses to environmental disasters related to water, as spurred by the melting of ice in the Arctic and in other glacier areas, the rising of seas that flood islands and coastal communities, and the drying of lands accelerating desertification in large parts of Africa and elsewhere.