Civilization, by its very nature, has involved reshaping the natural environment to fit human needs. We have altered
landscapes and ecosystems to enhance food supplies, reduce exposure to natural dangers, and promote commerce. We have
converted approximately fifty percent of the world’s surface to grazed or cultivated cropland. We have built dams to control
rivers for hydropower, irrigation, and flood mitigation. Nearly six times more water is now held in storage than occurs in
free-flowing rivers. Climate change and a growing imbalance among freshwater supply, consumption, and population have
dramatically altered the hydrologic cycle, a situation that will only intensify over the next century.
During its nine-year tenure, NCED has ushered in a new investigational paradigm in understanding landscape dynamics
and their response to change. Through the integration of geomorphology, ecology, hydrology, sedimentary geology,
engineering, social sciences, and geochemistry and the synergistic combination of field investigations, physical experiments,
and computational models, NCED has facilitated the development of a quantitative, predictive Earth-surface science. It is a
paradigm shift that will enable us to address the challenges of the future and provide science-based solutions for adaptation
and mitigation of environmental change.
Our mission: to understand the dynamics of the coupled processes that shape the Earth’s surface—physical, biological,
geochemical, and anthropogenic—and how they will respond to climate, land-use, and management change. To use this
knowledge to deliver the science-based solutions necessary for addressing environmental change.