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The complexity of our environment makes its study similarly complex. The environment is a realm of strongly non-linear processes that do not fall into neat subdivisions and require a multidisciplinary approach that cuts across research field boundaries and paradigms.

This complexity makes the thematic approach particularly applicable to environmental research. Environmental research activities funded under the Fifth and Sixth RTD Framework Programmes can be grouped into 11 main thematic areas that address not only the important short-term issues of today, such as natural hazards and pollution, but also linkages to the long-term consequences of climate change.

Sustainable development tools link 1’ is developing tools to allow decision-makers to identify the practical measures, with acceptable tradeoffs, that maximise the benefits in economic, social and environmental terms. The ‘Risk assessment and health link 2’ theme investigates how environmental changes can pose risks to human health, particularly over the long term. Research efforts in ‘Earth observation link 3’ are integrating land- and sea-based in situ sensor networks with space-based platforms to provide information for a wide range of environmental parameters with social and economic consequences.

Water-related research link 4’ deals with water supply and sanitation issues and the negative impacts of climate change and human actions. ‘Marine ecosystems’ supports projects that analyse the impacts of manmade and natural changes on the delicate equilibrium of marine ecosystems and biodiversity. ‘Natural Disasters and Desertification link 5’, ‘Biodiversity link 6’, and ‘Climate Change link 7’ projects consider the causes, impacts, prevention and mitigation of undesirable, short- and long-term environmental changes. The themes ‘Land management link 8’ and ‘Urban sustainability and cultural heritage link 9’ fund research projects on how our cities and countryside can be managed in a sustainable manner, while ‘Environmental technologies link 10’ promotes the development of new, sustainable ways of running our societies.

More information on EU funded projects

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