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’ 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’ theme investigates how environmental changes can pose risks to human health, particularly over the long term. Research efforts in ‘Earth observation’ 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’ 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’, ‘Biodiversity’, and ‘Climate Change’ projects consider the causes, impacts, prevention and mitigation of undesirable, short- and long-term environmental changes. The themes ‘Land management’ and ‘Urban sustainability and cultural heritage’ fund research projects on how our cities and countryside can be managed in a sustainable manner, while ‘Environmental technologies’ promotes the development of new, sustainable ways of running our societies.