immediate steps to reduce losses; we must not wait for research to reveal in full detail how we may sustain biodiversity permanently.
The state of knowledge of biological diversity suggests that the most basic research requirement is to gain a better, more complete sense of ''what's out there.'' At the same time, we need to know more about how biological diversity is distributed, how it is faring, how to protect it and use it in a sustainable manner, and how to restore it. We also need to improve our ability to gather, organize, communicate, and apply this basic biological knowledge.
To achieve an acceptable standard of knowledge about the diversity of the world's biota, the following actions are needed.
National biological inventories should be organized, funded, and strengthened in each country of the world.
This should be the priority for development agencies in biodiversity research. National inventories offer exceptional possibilities for professional linkages and community development and provide the thorough knowledge of organisms necessary for intelligent management of biological diversity to solve any number of practical problems. In many cases this work, with appropriate investments, can be implemented through existing institutions, but should be coordinated through the establishment of national biological institutes or equivalent centers.
A strategy for gauging the magnitude and patterns of distribution of biological diversity on Earth should be coordinated and implemented.
A global survey, drawing on the work of national biological inventories and supplemented by extensive surveys of particular localities, should be undertaken immediately. The National Academy of Sciences study Research Priorities in Tropical Biology (NAS, 1980) recommended that a comprehensive, multidisciplinary worldwide survey of well-known groups of tropical organisms (for example, plants, vertebrates, and butterflies) be undertaken. This recommendation is even more timely now. Such a survey would serve as an index to