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2 Eight Themes for Managing the Living World THEME 1: LEARNING WHAT WE HAVE We are the first generation of scientists with the tools to address the dimensions of biodiversity on Earth… and ironically we may be the last generation with the opportunity to discover and understand Earth’s biodiversity before it is irrevocably changed or lost. James Collins, February 13, 2009 The availability of solid baseline knowledge of the full dimensions of biodiversity on Earth, from genes to species, communities, and ecosystems, is fundamental to the successful management of both the variety of life and the ecosystems that they comprise. Despite centuries of progress with docu- menting biological diversity, speaker after speaker demonstrated how, for many groups of organisms and many aspects of their diversity, knowledge remains grossly incomplete. Life is vast, and scientific exploration is na- scent. Speakers described how, as a result, humankind remains unprepared to recognize and respond to many of the changes in biodiversity being brought about through a range of direct and indirect human influences on the environment. During the symposium, some speakers observed that knowledge is especially incomplete for certain groups of organisms and in certain geo- graphic regions and environments. Understanding of microbial diversity (including bacteria, archaea, fungi, and so on) and its role in ecological pro- 11
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12 TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ECOSYSTEMS cesses is still in its infancy, despite the evident importance of these small and ubiquitous organisms in many of the key biogeochemical processes that are important for sustaining life. Modern technology (primarily in genomics) is making possible the study of previously inaccessible aspects of microbial diversity and microbial systems for the first time. It is also highlighting the limitations of past understanding, based as it was on only the very small fraction of microbes that had been cultured and studied. Numerous speakers addressed the implications of these scientific de- velopments. Paul Falkowski explained recent developments in the study of marine microbial diversity that show how their biochemical and physio- logical diversity underpins the functioning of the entire biosphere. Michael Donoghue demonstrated that microorganisms may provide the basis for transformational technological innovations, offering examples of microbial fungi that show promise as new antibiotics and even alternative energy sources. Rodney Brown and Philip Robertson cited research in microbial systems directed toward improvements in agriculture that may be necessary to feed burgeoning human populations while also limiting environmental impacts. Dr. Donoghue argued strongly for policies to support the discovery of biodiversity as central to the development of new technologies. For macroscopic plants and animals, some of the most biodiverse ter- restrial ecosystems remain among the least well inventoried. The tropical forest ecosystems of the Amazon described by Yadvinder Malhi and the cloud forests discussed by Christian Körner are both especially vulnerable to climate and other changes, but their biodiversity is especially poorly known. Some speakers noted that aquatic biodiversity is also inadequately understood. Mary Glackin showed that most knowledge about the world’s oceans is based on information gathered in the upper 100 meters of the water column, though the mean depth of the ocean is 4,000 meters. She emphasized the need for active exploration to better characterize ocean biodiversity, noting that the number of known marine fish species has increased to nearly 28,000, more than a threefold growth from the 8,000 identified in Darwin’s time. In the same 200 years, Boris Worm estimated a 7 percent rate of extinction and 36 percent rate of species collapse for coastal species, principally as a result of overfishing.1 Both also warned that changes in global climate, together with associated increases in ocean acidification and decreases in sea ice, may pose threats to the abundance and diversity of sea life. Worm, B. et al. 2006. Science 314:787-790. 1
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13 EIGHT THEMES FOR MANAGING THE LIVING WORLD New tools are available for the inventory of biodiversity, but further in- novation and application could assist synthesis, manipulation, and analysis, and might help assess response to environmental change. Several speakers described the burgeoning capacity to secure vast amounts of data, especially on genetic diversity, as well as opportunities to place data of all kinds in a spatial context through the use of new kinds of instrumentation for global and regional scale remote sensing in combination with geographic informa- tion systems (GIS). James P. Collins described how new genomics technolo- gies and cyber-enabled observatories, which he termed “game changers,” are leading to new programs for understanding biodiversity and ecosystems, in- cluding the National Science Foundation’s National Ecological Observatory Network, as well as global initiatives such as the Group on Earth Observa- tions Biodiversity Observation Network, and the biodiversity component of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (see Box 2-1). The explosion of new data at multiple levels and across many scales calls for new approaches to process and make information available and to achieve more effective integration. Cristián Samper urged the develop- ment of cutting-edge information systems that would provide broad access to the research community and to policy makers, as well as for education and outreach activities at all levels. He and other speakers referred to the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), the Global Biodiversity Information Facil- ity (GBIF), the National Institutes of Health genetic sequence database GenBank, and the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) as examples of the many databases developed by specific communities and individual institutions that are using new technologies to organize biological data for broad access. Dr. Samper emphasized, however, that these efforts need to be sustained, intensified, and coordinated if they are to realize their full potential. Furthermore, he noted that these effects are complementary to, but not a replacement for, traditional methods of archiving natural history data in other ways, such as through reference and voucher specimens in museum collections. Increasingly, data on species distributions are being combined with other knowledge (e.g., phylogenetic trees) or models (e.g., climate-change scenarios) to provide improved predictions and new kinds of insights. Us- ing GIS approaches, they are also increasingly integrated with other data to model species distributions and their associated environmental parameters. José Sarukhán described how the Mexican National Commission on Bio- diversity (CONABIO; Box 2-2) uses such tools to synthesize and analyze data and make them broadly accessible to citizens and decision makers.
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14 TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ECOSYSTEMS BOX 2-1 Pathways to Understanding the Dimensions of Biodiversity Next Steps Within a decade: What are the dimensions of biodiversity? Inventory of the Biosphere Within a career: What are the consequences of species loss? The Biology of Extinction Within a generation: What information is needed to represent eco- system services accurately in national accounts? The Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems Adaptations Required of the Scientific Community • Academic Community: —Value research that is discovery based as well as research with a strong theoretical-conceptual basis —Reward “team driven” as well as individual research achievement • Biodiversity Research Community: — dopt open-source biodiversity information and rapid posting A of new data —Develop and adopt new technologies for biodiversity assessment SOURCE: James P. Collins presentation What might next steps look like? We need an inventory of the bio- sphere within 10 years to get a better summary of what’s out there, and this could entail using new technologies. Then, over the course of a career, some individuals have to think about what a ‘biology of extinction’ might entail. We need better models to predict how ecosys- tems come apart, one or a few species at a time. . . . Within a genera- tion, we need to have a much better understanding of the dynamics of coupled natural and human systems. Natural scientists and physical scientists have to do a lot more work with social scientists in terms of theories, concepts, and methods. What information is needed to represent ecosystem services accurately in national accounts? We need to have that dialogue more aggressively and more creatively. James P. Collins, February 13, 2009
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15 EIGHT THEMES FOR MANAGING THE LIVING WORLD BOX 2-2 CONABIO Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity) Conceived as a • emand-driven research organization, d • romoter of basic (systematic, ecological, socioeconomic) p research, • ompiler of existing national and international biodiversity c information on Mexico, • enerator of human capacity in the area of informatics for g biodiversity, • n open resource of information to all society. a CONABIO implements and operates the National Information System on Biodiversity, providing place-specific, electronic data on the species that can be found in each geographical location in Mexico. CONABIO’s users include national, state, and local officials; researchers, consultants, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); and farmers, foresters, and peasant communities. The da- tabase has guided national-scale conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in Mexico, such as establishment of protected areas and biodiversity corridors, as well as contributing to understanding of Mexico’s ecosystems, genetic diversity, and natural landscapes. It is also used to inform local infrastructure and land-use decisions, such as the location of rural water treatment facilities. SOURCE: José Sarukhán presentation CONABIO, developed under the auspices of the government of Mexico, is a world-leading authority in the collection, synthesis, and utilization of biodiversity information in support of policy at all levels, from local to national. José Sarukhán, February 11, 2009
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16 TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ECOSYSTEMS Such projects, which have been replicated in other countries (e.g., Brazil’s Biota-FAPESP, the Biodiversity Virtual Institute of the São Paulo State Foundation for Research Support), reflect the increasing need for national governments to harness reliable data for both the planning and the imple- mentation of policy decisions. Such data also provide the opportunity to monitor environmental change, through careful observation of changes in the biosphere itself, and to use those data to implement new interventions that serve the global public good. THEME 2: LEARNING HOW ECOSYSTEMS ARE WORKING AND CHANGING Tropical forests face a number of challenges from climate change. These include rising temperatures, associated increases in water use, and in some regions a decrease in dry season rainfall. How tropical forests respond to these changes depends critically on the interactions with climate change. Yadvinder Malhi, February 12, 2009 It is now widely understood that by-products of the fossil fuels that have underpinned industrial growth in the last two centuries are trans- forming the chemistry of the atmosphere and the oceans with far-reaching effects on biodiversity. Several symposium speakers observed that climate change is only one among many anthropogenic drivers of biodiversity and ecosystem change. Closer integration of the world economic system has led both to the homogenization of farmlands, grasslands, and forests around the world and to the widespread dispersal of species, including harmful pests and pathogens. Some speakers also described important changes in the way in which people access and use terrestrial and marine resources. On land, habitats have been destroyed, transformed, and fragmented; water has been diverted to human use, altering hydrological flows; the chemical composi- tion of soils has been changed; and wild species have been depleted. In the oceans the changes are less easily visible but equally profound, and Boris Worm described how direct harvest of natural fisheries is transforming ma- rine ecosystems through the depletion of the largest predator species and the preferential harvest of the largest specimens of commercial favorites. New understanding of these processes is demonstrating the transformative and irreversible nature of some of these changes, leading several speakers to call for effective mitigation.
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17 EIGHT THEMES FOR MANAGING THE LIVING WORLD Climates have changed throughout earth history, but many sympo- sium participants noted that current rates of change are extraordinary and take us outside the boundaries of previous natural and human experience. Yadvinder Malhi described the challenges from climate change to tropical ecosystems that have already been greatly affected by human encroachment. Climate changes in coming decades are projected to equal those that, in the past, have occurred over millennia. Likewise, although organisms have an inherent capacity for dispersal, sometimes across great distances, and sometimes in waves, previous levels of dispersal are quite unlike the global movements of species that have been brought about by human travel and trade. As with the effects of climate change, these species introductions, described by Charles Perrings, often occur in habitats already disturbed and fragmented by human settlement and agriculture, and that are vulnerable to invasion. Moreover, Dr. Perrings contended, under climate change, species moving between broadly bioclimatically similar regions may be less likely to encounter predators and competitors capable of keeping them in check, since climate change itself alters the “natural” range of species, and species respond individualistically. The effect of anthropogenic modification on biodiversity and ecosys- tems depends on the capacity of the affected species to adapt to changes in their environment. As noted by several participants during the symposium, species unable to adapt will decline in abundance and potentially face lo- cal extirpation, or potentially whole-scale extinction of endemics. Species better able to adapt may exploit new conditions opportunistically, or may undergo rapid evolution, including the evolution of new traits resulting from changes in the nature and extent of selection pressure. Several sympo- sium attendees observed that, in general, scientists, managers, and policy makers lack knowledge of how such changes and other new circumstances will affect ecosystem function, and how both species and systems may re- spond to change. In turn, this limits the ability to predict the outcome of management interventions, and to formulate appropriate policy responses. Several speakers described the environmental consequences of closer integration in the global economy and the consequent widening and deep- ening of international trade. Especially significant is the dispersal of pest species in general, and pathogens in particular. For example, Ann Marie Kimball described how the rate at which novel zoonotic diseases are emerg- ing and being transmitted through markets is rapidly accelerating (e.g., avian flu)―as is the rate at which diseases are being spread through changes in the range of their vectors (e.g., West Nile virus).
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18 TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ECOSYSTEMS The economic costs of some of these ecological changes, such as those resulting from the spread of nonnative species, can be high. David Lodge described how the rapid spread of zebra mussels in American freshwater systems since 1988 has caused massive damage to native species and has clogged industrial intake pipes. The estimated annual economic costs are greater than $200 million. Ann Bartuska cited a study that identified the accumulation in the United States over the past century of more than 200 “economically significant” invasive forest insects and diseases (see Figure 2-1).2 Some of these may have entered the country with other species intro- duced intentionally, for example, for use in gardens or aquaria. Others may have entered entirely accidentally, for example, through packing material or fodder. Further economic costs can be incurred for agricultural systems through changes in the broader ecosystems of which they are part, such as loss of pollinators and predators. Alison Power explored both how agricul- tural practices can be threatened through broader environmental changes and how agriculture itself affects habitats, nutrient and water supplies, and soil health. Rodney Brown similarly emphasized the necessity of taking a complete systems approach in understanding “the inescapable intercon- nectedness of agriculture’s different roles and functions.” The potential for rapid evolutionary changes, both reversible and ir- reversible, was demonstrated by Michael Donoghue and Andrew Hendry, who described recent results documenting the subtle effects of invasive species, and overexploitation. 3 For example, introduced, nonnative weed species of Persicaria have hybridized with native species in South America to create invasive “superweeds”;4 and hunting pressure for trophies has resulted in the evolution of bighorn sheep that have smaller horns (Figure 2-2). Such shifts, which are rapid in the context of background rates of evolutionary change, have now been documented in a variety of vertebrates (fish, frogs, lizards, birds, mammals), as well as in plants, but may be even more rapid Holmes, T., J. Aukema, B. Von Holle, A. M. Liebhold, E. Sills. 2009. Economic 2 impacts of invasive species in forests: Past, present, and future. In The Year in Ecology and Conservation Biology, Ostfeld and Schlesinger, eds. New York: New York Academy of Sciences. Hendry, A. et al. 2008. Human influences on rates of phenotypic change in wild 3 animal populations. Molecular Ecology 17:20–29. Kim, S-T., S. E. Sultan, and M. J. Donoghue. 2008. Allopolyploid speciation. In 4 Persicaria (Polygonaceae): Insights from a low-copy nuclear marker. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 105: 12370–12375.
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19 EIGHT THEMES FOR MANAGING THE LIVING WORLD total insects Cumulative Frequency foliage- feeders sap-feeders “economically significant” Wood borers other pathogens FIGURE 2-1 Increases in invasive forest insects and diseases. SOURCE: Ann Bartuska presentation, from U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture As part of an analysis by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis of the economic impacts of invasive forest insects and dis- eases, 396 invasive species werefor Box 3-2 dates of introduction New Figure listed, and their bitmapped graph, were plotted as cumulative introductions over time by feeding guild. but average overall is 2 and axis on left are real type in regu- labels on right per year, showing that improvements The lation, detection, and eradication are just item up with increases USFS logo is separate keeping in trade. “Economically significant” pests were defined as those causing damage greater than $25,000. Note that the increase in wood borers since 1980 may result from an upsurge in container shipping, which pathway uses a lot of wood-packing material. Ann Bartuska, February 11, 2009
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20 TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ECOSYSTEMS FIGURE 2-2 The effect of trophy hunting of bighorn rams on heritable characteristics. SOURCE: Andrew Hendry presentation; adapted from Coltman, D. W. et al. 2003. Box 2-3 Undesirable evolutionary consequences of trophy hunting. Nature 426:655–658. Bitmapped Landscape, but limited in size by height (this height assumes no caption on the same page) Humans do things specifically to populations that drive their evolu- tionary change. The best example is harvesting of populations, whether it be fish, or other animals, or snow lotuses. This is an example from Ram Mountain in Alberta, where there is a small population of big- horn sheep that are targeted by trophy hunters. They are only allowed to kill sheep with a horn size that passes a certain point. Over 30 years, the mean horn length is going down quite substantially. The same thing has been happening with harvested fish populations. Andrew Hendry, February 11, 2009 and profound in smaller organisms with rapid life cycles (bacteria, fungi, planktonic organisms, and so on). Current models of environmental change frequently assume little or no evolutionary change or adaptation. Several speakers noted that better understanding of the evolutionary responses of organisms as conditions change and populations or species respond through evolution, migration, or
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21 EIGHT THEMES FOR MANAGING THE LIVING WORLD extinction may offer insights for predicting ecosystem change, particularly when integrated with knowledge from deeper history of past patterns of migration, evolution, and extinction. For example, the discovery of specific responses to changing environmental parameters, such as the ability or in- ability to shift flowering time in response to climate changes, can help in assessing the vulnerabilities of species and ecosystems as the world changes around them. Regarding microbial systems, where analytical abilities have been espe- cially limited until recently, new insights from new methods have implica- tions at all levels, from global engineering to public health. Paul Falkowski, in his presentation entitled “Don’t Touch Those Dials!,” enjoined scientists and policy makers to be cautious in proposing large-scale tinkering with the fundamentals of microbial systems that have evolved over billions of years and perform vital global biogeochemical regulatory functions through poorly understood biogeochemical systems. At a completely different scale, Ann Marie Kimball showed how rapid evolution facilitates the spread of disease-causing microbes, which can move rapidly as they adapt to new en- vironments and also respond quickly to disease-prevention measures (e.g., resistance to antibiotics). Rapid evolution at the level of microbes and mi- crobial systems, according to Scott Barrett, can pose special challenges, for example, in requiring coordinated international efforts to eradicate diseases. These observations highlight opportunities for productive research, to understand both the new evolutionary and ecological circumstances of our modern world and the possible evolutionary and ecological consequences. James P. Collins emphasized that the rapid changes and evolving pressures on ecosystems required a new, cyber-enabled observing system, one that includes hybrid operational and research platforms and standardized infra- structure, procedures, and quality control. Long-term measurements, he said, could allow tracking of changes. Open data policies would allow for research that could vastly increase understanding of ecosystems, and lead to the development of effective decision support tools. The need for such tools was also emphasized by Ann Bartuska, who underlined the importance of understanding and predicting ecosystem change to underpin policy, to justify regulation or interventions, and to help develop effective mitigation measures. Many symposium participants called for improved systems thinking in learning about how ecosystems work and are changing. Without such a systems approach, subtle and dynamic changes and interconnections will often be overlooked. In those cases, the full implications of proposed
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38 TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ECOSYSTEMS expanded upon many of these themes, with a dual emphasis on strategies for mitigating the impacts of massive environmental change and pathways to- ward adaptation, so that ecosystem services are maintained despite unavoid- able changes. Stephen Schneider introduced the discussion of climate with an emphatic call for treating adaptation and mitigation “as complements, not trade-offs, since both biogeophysical and social systems have inertia on the order of decades.” Schneider forcefully advocated the development of technologies and strategies that will take us quickly past an emissions peak and into a phase of decline, as soon as possible. Equally important, he called for adaptation strategies based on place- and system-based studies that examine regional, sectoral, and group vulnerabilities to environmental change. These local studies could be integrated with global and regional climate change predictions to provide guidance for policy makers. Many speakers emphasized the contribution that science can make to understanding such substantial environmental change and its causes, as well as the opportunity to use that understanding to increase societal resilience. Others examined the barriers to the application of these scientific findings, some resulting from broader societal and political resistance, others due to difficulties in engaging and communicating with the public. Journalist Andrew Revkin described the challenges of “growing population, growing complexity, and growing consumptive impact on this earth,” and cited stud- ies indicating that “even a well-educated person tends to go out into the me- dia environment and find the information that reinforces what they already believe.” He contended that no story that he will write, and no study that scientists will produce, will show people “in a crystal-clear, simple way, that this is the problem, this is the solution.” However, as Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen stated, “politicians won’t save biodiversity until it’s popular enough to put on a t-shirt.” Increasing societal capacity to grasp the magnitude of current environmental disruptions and to adapt to environmental change resides in both scientific progress and improved public engagement. Speaker presentations returned again and again to the close connections between human and natural systems. Human travel and trade have offered openings to pests and pathogens; overfishing has generated changes in marine ecosystems that are undermining the livelihoods of coastal peoples; intensive agriculture has transformed landscapes over much of the world; and climate change is testing the adaptive capacities of both organisms and ecosystems. In every case cited, new technologies are key drivers that have created opportunities to improve important aspects of human well-being,
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39 EIGHT THEMES FOR MANAGING THE LIVING WORLD while at the same time creating new challenges and threats, the cumulative effect of which is vast. The many cases of invasive species documented around the world offer graphic and well-understood instances of the need to maintain the resilience of local ecosystems to introduced species and the difficulties of doing so. Justin Ward summarized the threats to ecosystems posed by increasing economic globalization in his introduction to the session on trade, pests, and pathogens. The session’s speakers described the scientific research and monitoring and economic studies needed to guide more effective policy. The goal of the proposed policies would be to maximize the resilience of ecosystem services in the face of increased threats of invasion (see Box 2-5). The food provisioning services offer another example of the importance of equipping society to deal more effectively with ecosystem change. Rod- ney Brown cited the role that technology has played in an approximately fourfold increase in agricultural productivity of major commodity crops since 1950. To address the food needs of populations that might increase by 50 percent by 2050, that trend will need to continue, and both Dr. Brown and Allison Power agreed that genomics offers an important tool in reach- ing that goal. However, during that same period, the effects of agricultural systems on other ecosystem services have become increasingly evident. Dr. Brown described an evolution in agricultural studies from a state of what a colleague had termed “natural enmity” with natural sciences to the present, BOX 2-5 Successful Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) Systems • Agile organizations • Readily available funding • Cadre of volunteers and partners • Effective detection, identification, and control technology • Technology developed before arrival The characteristics of a successful EDRR policy for mitigating the damage from invasive species, presented by Ann Bartuska, Febru- ary 11, 2009.
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40 TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ECOSYSTEMS in which biologists and agronomists increasingly cooperate to understand the full suite of ecosystem services of which food production is a part. Alison Power described research that could help farmers and agribusi- ness deal with changes in pest control requirements, or adapt agricultural landscapes to better facilitate wildlife preservation. However, to transform the management of agricultural systems in ways that consider the full range of ecosystem services, these and similar research results will have to reach the farmers and agricultural business executives who make the production decisions. Research will also need to be bolstered by regulatory interventions and incentives to provide these services, Dr. Power said. She emphasized the potentially positive role that the system of land grant colleges and agri- cultural extension services could play in encouraging the adoption of new approaches. While the traditional role of these institutions in advising farm- ing communities has emphasized maximizing production in the context of local, national, and international policies and markets, these extension offices are now especially well positioned to assist in the engagement and outreach needed to adjust current systems toward a more sustainable ap- proach while also adjusting to the realities of climate change and the need to sustain ecosystem services. We need to take a new look at biodiversity, and develop a new and much more positive outlook. Instead of seeing the preservation of bio- diversity as a heinous, expensive task without reward, view biodiversity correctly as the source of innovations for the coming century and the solutions to many of the problems facing humanity. Our lives depend on knowing about it and taking advantage of it. Michael Donoghue, February 11, 2009 Improved decision making is required for human society to adapt to these and other changes, and this will depend on enhancing the capacity to predict the consequences of current actions, and to understand the ways in which the future will differ from the past. Sandra Díaz described the need for conservation of sufficient levels of functional diversity to provide criti- cal ecosystem services over a wide range of environmental conditions. She asserted that there is sufficient evidence of the mechanistic links between biodiversity in the broad sense and ecosystem processes and services to jus- tify the protection of the biotic integrity of ecosystems. However, the role of different aspects of biodiversity in specific types of ecosystem functioning
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41 EIGHT THEMES FOR MANAGING THE LIVING WORLD is still not well understood. New models of biodiversity change are needed, Dr. Díaz said, that extend our understanding of the interaction among global economics, biodiversity, and climate change; and adaptation strate- gies must be able to respond to evolution in knowledge. Larry Schweiger joined Andrew Revkin and Christian Körner in enjoining scientists to help communicate to the public the breadth of systemic risks faced by twenty- first century ecosystems, so that integrated thinking about the services that ecosystems provide becomes an integral part of the national debate on climate, development, and consumption. THEME 7: STRENGTHENING INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AND U.S. ENGAGEMENT AND LEADERSHIP States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or con- trol do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. Convention on Biological Diversity, Article 3 Cited by Harold Mooney, February. 11, 2009 In every session, one or more of the talks cited the need for coordinated multistakeholder and multijurisdictional action for the effective manage- ment of biodiversity and ecosystems. For policy to be effective in preserving biodiversity and its associated ecosystem services, they said, cooperation is needed across multiple sectors and jurisdictions, from the local to the international, and with diverse stakeholders, from local communities and small landholders to national governments and international agencies. In the opening session, which posed the challenges of the twenty-first century and examined emerging research and approaches to deal with them, José Sarukhán cited the work of CONABIO that uses informatics approaches to inform conservation and land use decisions from the local to the national levels in Mexico. During the discussion on invasive species and trade, Ann Bartuska and Ann Marie Kimball highlighted the need for regulatory action spanning the local to international levels in controlling invasive species, whether the threats they pose are to agriculture and forests or to public health. The diversity of the issues emphasized that every sector must play
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42 TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ECOSYSTEMS a part in an inclusive strategy to manage the living world in the face of the challenges posed by human activities. United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner noted the complexity of the current international regime, where more than 500 international environmental agreements address a myriad of issues with environmental dimensions, including trade; human, plant, and animal health; conservation; and specific biomes, habitats, re- sources, and species. This complexity, he noted, is a significant challenge. Leadership is necessary to improve the functioning of these agreements and to introduce greater coherence to the disparate goals of different sectoral approaches. Very often the interconnections among the issues covered by distinct agreements are poorly articulated or neglected entirely. Leadership is also needed, others noted, to implement actions that will make existing international agreements function better within their own spheres of responsibility. Some speakers contended that these agreements critically need U.S. engagement and leadership, noting that the United States has not ratified several key agreements, including the United Na- tions Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD). These agreements include many of the goals and strate- gies addressed by the speakers, but implementation is often inadequate. Moreover, several speakers charged that these and other UN mechanisms or organizations with a mandate to address international environmental issues, including UNEP, are severely underfunded, and are hampered by the lack of enforcement authority.10 Mechanisms mandated to make investments in global environmental public goods, most notably the Global Environ- mental Facility, are likewise insufficiently funded. Many speakers called for the United States to play a leadership role, both in securing greater global commitment to these bodies and in enhancing their effectiveness. Achim Steiner was one of the speakers who called for U.S. action, noting, “We need leadership in recognizing that developing countries need scientific support. It is no secret that the resources of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the scientific community, the universities, and the NGOs are extraordinary in comparison with what we will find in many countries across Africa.” Beyond the existing agreements and institutions, Mr. Steiner and others emphasized that the ecosystem and biodiversity challenges that are The CBD leaves specific decisions on implementation of the agreement to the parties 10 and, like most treaties, has a dispute-resolution article, which could be invoked by any party that feels that another party has injured it by not implementing the CBD. However, that enforcement mechanism has never been used.
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43 EIGHT THEMES FOR MANAGING THE LIVING WORLD the principal focus of this symposium—understanding, anticipating, moni- toring, and responding to changes in the global environment—urgently require international cooperation. Scott Barrett addressed some of the char- acteristics of successful international agreements related to the environment that drew heavily on scientific input. The successful cases that he cited, including limitations on hunting of fur seals, eradication of smallpox, and mitigation of the ozone hole, had specific characteristics on which negotia- tors capitalized in designing and executing the agreements. In all cases, there were strong incentives for buy-in by all relevant parties and an accepted distribution of costs. Dr. Barrett presented the similarities and differences of fisheries regulation, polio eradication, and climate change, respectively. He suggested that successful international cooperation on these issues requires high, if not universal, participation; near or total compliance; and actions that will effectively deal with the problem. Regarding the Kyoto protocol, he said that a better approach might be to negotiate separate agreements for individual sectors as well as for research and development of new tech- nologies to help address the problems of both mitigation and adaptation. An Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Ser- vices (IPBES) has been established to offer advice to governments on bio- diversity and ecosystem issues, in a manner analogous to the IPCC’s role in climate science. 11 Given its existing expertise in environmental science, including at the local level, several speakers, including Harold Mooney and Stephen Schneider, called on the United States to play a leadership role in building this mechanism. The role of trade in the accelerated spread of invasive species offers a complementary set of challenges and opportunities for international coop- eration, and Charles Perrings asserted that U.S. leadership in this area is crucial. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has broad powers related to trade, and Mark Lonsdale explained that the WTO can be of value in controlling invasive species. Australia, for example, uses measures stipu- lated in the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) to implement robust biosecurity controls. The On December 20, 2010, the United Nations 65th General Assembly agreed to 11 establish an IPBES with the following remit: (a) to identify and prioritize key scientific information needed for policy makers; (b) to perform regular and timely assessments of knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services; (c) to support policy formulation and implementation by identifying policy-relevant tools and methodologies; and (d) to prioritize key capacity-building needs to improve the science-policy interface. UNEP is charged with convening the first plenary of the new body in 2011. See http://IPBES.net.
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44 TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ECOSYSTEMS idiosyncratic attributes of invasive species, as described by Dr. Lonsdale, require both risk-averse and adaptive approaches. International coopera- tion that includes analyses of risk, careful inspections of cargo, and effective observation systems will be necessary to control and combat invasions. Dr. Lonsdale suggested that the WTO try to evolve from an adversarial ap- proach, grounded in jurisprudence, to a biosecurity management system that is more adaptive, cooperative, precautionary, and responsive to new information. He also noted that a key element in the acceptance of trade regulations is that they are applied domestically, as well as on imports. Policy makers, assessment groups, agencies, commissions, et cetera, need to be better coordinated to take into account the interactions among the drivers of global change, and their separate and synergistic impacts. This would include international-level conventions, secretariats, et cetera. Stephen Schneider, February 12, 2009 Ann Marie Kimball noted that the WTO Environment Committee needed to be strengthened to deal with biosecurity issues and that a WTO Health Committee should be established to address the diverse microbial invasions that cause both pandemics and agricultural crises. Charles Per- rings suggested the establishment and funding of an international mecha- nism to coordinate the actions of international bodies with responsibilities for different aspects of the invasive species problem, including (in addition to the WTO) UN-related agencies with responsibility for human, animal, and plant health, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) (see Box 2-6). THEME 8: ACCOUNTING FOR THE VALUE OF NATURE The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. Peter Raven, February 11, 2009 (quoting ecological economist Herman Daly) Ecosystems and biodiversity will continue to suffer as long as eco- nomic incentives promote short-term exploitation without regard for its effect on ecological externalities and for the potential long-term damage
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45 EIGHT THEMES FOR MANAGING THE LIVING WORLD BOX 2-6 Policies and Partnerships for Curtailing Invasive Species Nationally • nhance border surveillance against imports and exports of E invasive harmful species. • stablish and fund an interagency center to coordinate fed- E eral, state, and local efforts to prevent the export or import of invasive species, and control the spread of established species. Internationally • se the CBD, WTO, WHO, OIE, and IPPC to strengthen U sanitary and phytosanitary requirements on exporters; the United States should take a leadership role in this effort. • stablish an international mechanism a bit like the U.S. E Centers for Disease Control to provide countries with the information needed to protect themselves and their trading partners against risks associated with contaminated prod- ucts, as set forth in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and SPS Agreement. • stablish and fund an international mechanism to coordi- E nate the actions of international bodies with responsibilities for particular aspects of the invasive species problem. SOURCE: Charles Perrings presentation The problem of invasive species is global, and needs to be addressed at a global level by strengthening relevant Multilateral Environmental Agreements, enhancing monitoring and information, and coordinating international responses. Charles Perrings, February 11, 2009 caused. Of the ecosystem services identified by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, only the provisioning services are allocated through reasonably well-functioning markets that offer the private sector incentives to consider ecosystem services when they are making decisions. Even the provisioning services do not capture all the ecosystem effects of market transactions. Indeed, several speakers noted that many of the most important drivers
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46 TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ECOSYSTEMS of biodiversity degradation and loss are externalities of markets for foods, fuels, and fibers. The cultural services, these speakers contended, are less well served by markets, and there are fewer markets still for the regulating services. Although the CBD calls for monetizing the value of biodiversity in the context of providing access and sharing benefits, the treaty’s influence in this area has so far been limited. Insurance markets address some of the risks associated with the provisioning and cultural services, but the role of biodiversity in moderating variability in the supply of such services is rarely priced in the market. Bruce Babbitt contended that economic globalization, governed by the economic systems put into place after World War II, had been the “primary driver of environmental destruction.” It is not unfair to say that the world trade system, and the world finan- cial systems, are the primary drivers, now, of much of the destruction of biodiversity. . . . Since Bretton Woods at the end of World War II, we have created (first through GATT, now the WTO) a finely tuned, international economic system, that has clear, enforceable rules and regulations devoted to what? Devoted to maximizing the consump- tion of resources with complete disregard for the externalities and the unsustainable resource costs. We have created a global trading system in which any discussion of environmental externalities is absolutely unavailable. . . . It is a sort of nineteenth-century concept of a closed economic system, administered by a world group of trade mandarins who have made it simply a sacrosanct system. That must change. Bruce Babbitt, February 12, 2009 Numerous speakers offered examples of ways in which the failure of markets to appropriately price environmental resources has resulted in eco- logical damage. Jerome Ringo also observed that “people of color and poor people are disproportionately impacted by environmental damage.” He joined Larry Schweiger in advocating for the development of new technolo- gies that are more efficient and that will not only help to mitigate climate change and increase national energy security but also help to stimulate the economy and, Mr. Ringo said, “create jobs that are beneficial to all societal levels.”
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47 EIGHT THEMES FOR MANAGING THE LIVING WORLD Biodiversity in our global community of nations is increasingly a ques- tion of equity. Achim Steiner, February 11, 2009 Where markets have failed to reflect the environmental consequences of resource use, those consequences have most often been ignored. Speakers of- fered several potential mechanisms for correcting market failures and ensur- ing that the true value of ecosystem services is taken into account. Among those mentioned by various speakers were (a) regulation of activities that lead to the pollution or the degradation of ecosystems, (b) assignment of property rights to resource users, (c) development of systems of governance for common ecological services, and (d) use of market-based instruments, such as environmental taxes, subsidies, charges, user fees, and payments for ecosystem services. A key step forward in providing policy makers with more useful information, several speakers noted, might be to reform the system of national accounts to reflect changes in the stocks of ecological assets by amending overly simplistic and incomplete measures of GDP to incorporate elements of natural and social capital. Steve Polasky stated the challenge as a three-point problem: (1) improve understanding of the likely consequences of human actions on ecosystems; (2) express the value of these changes in terms that are readily understood by policy makers and the general public; and (3) link an understanding of effects and values to incentives in order to “mainstream” ecosystem services into everyday decisions and longer-term policies. Dr. Polasky’s description of the efforts of the Natural Capital Project to factor ecosystem services into decision making at the landscape scale highlighted promising approaches that are being developed. He emphasized that a more sustainable approach to biodiversity and ecosystem management requires that such principles be broadly accepted and widely applied. Harold Mooney endorsed these recent efforts to extend the system of national accounts to include the option value of nature, and long-term effects on ecosystem services. Ecosystems are capital assets—part of national wealth, but loss of wealth associated with declining ecosystem services is not reflected in national accounts. Harold Mooney, February 11, 2009
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48 TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ECOSYSTEMS The urgency of making reforms was stated most clearly by Bruce Bab- bitt. “The problem and the opportunity,” he said, “is to begin to appreciate that we have created a global economic system that does not take account of environmental or biodiversity considerations. The moment may be at hand to fundamentally transform this economic machine, which is so destructive to biodiversity.” CONCLUDING THOUGHTS The eight themes that emerged from the symposium have been highlighted many times before, in many different fora, for scientists, for policy makers, and for the general public. The emphasis at the symposium, however, was not just on each theme individually but on ideas for action in all eight areas if there is to be continuing progress toward conserving and managing species and ecosystems that sustain human society and sup- port its further development. The challenges described at the symposium are complex and daunting, but several speakers emphasized the need for multiple and coordinated actions across a broad front. In the more than 150 years since Darwin contemplated his “tangled bank,” the complexity of ecosystems at all scales, and the extent to which they are affected by human activities, has become ever more clear. Many symposium speakers expressed concern that human capacity for modification of the global environment has reached the magnitude of a geological force; the impacts have never been greater and continue to increase rapidly. Several speakers went on to say that the present trajectory is unsustainable and carries considerable systemic risks. And while the in- herent complexity of coupled natural and human systems makes prediction difficult, the effects of continuing perturbations are likely to be profound. Many speakers called for additional research to better understand the components of biological, physical, and sociocultural systems, as well as the interconnections within and among them, which will determine the nature and extent of future risks. While not disagreeing with the importance of research, other speakers reminded participants that much is already clear, and there is a strong basis for immediate action, including the development and implementation of national and international policies that are more firmly grounded in a systems approach. Technology has a role to play in mitigating these risks and increasing human capacity to adapt to chang- ing environmental conditions, but it is no substitute for the fundamental realignment of our relationship to the natural world implicit in the themes discussed at the symposium and highlighted in this report.