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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies 2 Biological Aspects of Conservation In the past, national and international development agencies have seldom relied on—or called for—basic information on biological diversity. This can no longer be the case. Many development projects include a significant natural resource component and thus require sober analysis of their environmental impacts. More broadly, international agencies and resource and planning ministries in developing countries need information about biological diversity to formulate development plans and specific projects that are both successful and sustainable. Pertinent information on biological diversity in most developing countries is too sparse or scattered to be of practical use. Often it is unavailable altogether. A good deal of "gray" literature exists—unpublished reports, files in government archives, studies of limited distribution. The most important of these should be analyzed and made more accessible. In general, however, the required information can be gathered and disseminated only through systematic efforts to strengthen the entire research process. Development agencies need to know which kinds of research are of greatest relevance as they assist client governments and develop the rationale to secure funding for this research. A large and growing body of literature describes conservation strategies appropriate to different species, ecosystems, and regions in developing countries. This includes journals such as Biotropica, Biological Conservation , and Conservation Biology. Recent agendas, involving a range of basic and applied research needs, can be found in Research Priorities in Conservation Biology (Soulé and Kohm, 1989); From Genes to Ecosystems: A Research Agenda For Biodiversity (Solbrig, 1991); and The Sustainable Biosphere Initiative: An Ecological Research Agenda (ESA, 1991). Subsequent chapters of this report focus on the socioeconomic and cultural aspects of biodiversity research in developing countries. This chapter provides an agenda for biological research that must be undertaken to provide a sound foundation for these human dimensions of successful conservation.
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies The state of knowledge of biological diversity, described in the previous chapter, suggests that the most basic research requirement is to gain a more complete sense of "what's out there." The committee that produced the 1980 National Academy of Sciences report Research Priorities in Tropical Biology recognized this fundamental need and called for a "greatly accelerated ... international effort in completing an inventory of tropical organisms" (NAS, 1980). Although these efforts have accelerated to a degree, the task has become far more urgent, complex, and challenging in the interim. Effective conservation of biological diversity requires more than just basic knowledge of its components. We need to know as well the distribution of biological diversity and those areas where it is most concentrated. We need to know the potential benefits that organisms can offer to humanity and, at least in a general way, how they and the biotic communities they form are faring. We need to understand better the ecological dynamics of the systems in which organisms exist, the temporal and spatial patterns that govern their fate, and the best means to conserve both organisms and habitats over the long run. We need to develop methods to use biological resources without depleting them or undermining the human communities with which they coexist. Finally, we need to learn better how to restore those lands and waters that have been degraded by unwise development. The challenge of biodiversity research entails not only the gathering of information but its management, application, and communication. Likewise, the quality of research depends upon the people and institutions who perform it. These considerations are especially important in the developing nations of the world, and are addressed as part of this research agenda. The specific recommendations offered flow from the general conviction that the comprehension and conservation of biodiversity in developing nations represent a challenge of such magnitude that all links in the chain of research and application must be strengthened to ensure success. These recommendations have been formulated with the understanding that many development agencies have central (global or worldwide) interests as well as country-specific programs. Research and related activities appropriate for both have been included. In general, to have the greatest immediate as well as long-term impact, centrally funded research should be conducted in concert with in-country activities, even when problems are addressed on a global scale. For example, research on salt-tolerant plants that can restore saline soil to agricultural productivity should be undertaken in a location where this is a problem, even if the work is centrally funded and conducted in collaboration with U.S. investigators. Furthermore, centrally funded research is likely to be more basic in nature, and linking it to in-country projects
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies can demonstrate to agency personnel how basic research is directly applicable to development activities. BIOLOGICAL SURVEYS, INVENTORY, AND MONITORING Successful, long-term conservation of an area or ecosystem relies on knowledge of its biological diversity coupled with integrated efforts to protect and manage that diversity in a sustainable manner. One of the first steps in this process is to ascertain its fundamental biological characteristics: the genetic strains, species, and ecological assemblages present; their distribution, abundance, and patterns in the landscape; their role in ecological processes; their proven or potential utility for human benefit; and trends in their status as a result of human or natural disturbances. Full understanding of biological diversity, even in a small area, is a task requiring decades, if not centuries, of intensive research. Biological surveys, inventories, and monitoring can, however, provide the basic knowledge required to enhance local scientific and technical expertise and to initiate sound conservation strategies. Biological surveys, focusing on species diversity, are necessary on both national and global scales. National biological inventories provide a finer-grained view of biological diversity and can be used to establish national conservation programs and policies, whereas a global survey will provide much needed information on the extent, distribution, status, and fate of biodiversity worldwide. These efforts can serve not only to tell us the status of biodiversity, but to identify valuable biological resources, some of which are unknown, while others are locally known but have potential for much wider use. Many plants of current or potential commercial value (e.g., the maize Zea diploperennis and the tomato Solanum pimpinellifolium , both recently collected from Mexico) were discovered in the course of routine plant surveys. Inventories and surveys also provide baseline data against which to monitor changes in biological diversity and to trace the environmental impacts of development projects. For all groups of organisms, sampling those that occur in threatened regions is of special importance because natural communities are being altered or destroyed so rapidly. Large numbers of endemic species are being lost in the world's critical centers of endemism, or "hot spots" (Myers, 1988). It should be emphasized that we do not have the slightest idea how many species of nematodes, mites, and many other taxonomic groups exist within or beyond these hot spots, nor do we know if other hotspots exist. If we are ever to know, we will have to sample these groups and areas. In cases where immediate information on an area's species diversity is needed, new rapid assessment methods
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies may be required (Roberts, 1991). Particularly in species-rich areas—but throughout the developing nations and in threatened habitats worldwide—inventory and preservation are of immediate and critical importance. To achieve an acceptable standard of knowledge about the diversity of the world's biota, the following actions are needed. National Biological Inventories National biological inventories should be organized, funded, and strengthened in each country of the world. This should be the top 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 can, with appropriate investments, be implemented through existing institutions, but should be coordinated through the establishment of national biological institutes (or equivalent centers) such as Costa Rica's Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (see sidebar). Information gathered in national inventories and stored in data banks provides a foundation for sustainable economic development and is important both in the formulation, preservation, and management of natural areas and in the design of improved agroecosystems. The establishment of national biological inventories, in fact, would entail the implementation of many of the other recommendations offered in this chapter and would serve as an integrating force and focus for research on biological diversity and its management. Given the scarcity of biodiversity data for most ecosystems in developing countries, the worldwide shortage of trained personnel, and an almost total lack of local taxonomic expertise, it is a substantial challenge to survey a country, protected reserve, or even a small potential project site. For this reason it is recommended that surveying activities concentrate on the biological groups that are best known as well as ecologically and economically important, primarily higher plants and vertebrates. Focusing on these groups would allow substantial short-term progress to be made in what must, of necessity, be a long-term, sustained effort. Local scientists working in national herbaria, museums, zoos, aquaria, arboreta, and universities should be responsible for these activities if possible. The surveys should involve strengthening these institutions and training technicians, parataxonomists, and graduate students. If local expertise is not available, local scientists should be trained by foreign experts invited to collaborate in the surveys. In the
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies INBio Costa Rica's efforts to inventory and manage biological diversity are coordinated through the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio). The inventory work at INBio is conducted largely by a "small army" of lay persons trained for the task, called "parataxonomists," who work in close collaboration with national and international curators and professional taxonomists. They are recruited from many sectors of the Costa Rican population. INBio organizes a five-month course in alternate years that includes basic information about the taxonomy, biology, and ecology of plants and insects, as well as basic instruction in collecting and curating techniques. This results in a large volume of partially identified specimens, and provides an informal but important means of information exchange. As they return to their home communities with an appreciation of the value of biodiversity, parataxonomists continue to be paid for their work in the field, bringing indigenous knowledge back to INBio. The parataxonomists also constitute a pool of individuals who may, and in many cases do, elect to obtain further training. INBio has also developed data bases to house and organize the large quantities of information collected daily. This illustrates yet another important aspect of INBio's work. While undertaking the national inventory of biodiversity and providing a focal point for its management, INBio also puts the knowledge of Costa Rica's biodiversity to work for its people. By developing the commercial potential of its biotic resources through partnerships with industry, Costa Rica can ensure that conservation activities support themselves, as well as the people of Costa Rica (Tangley, 1990). training of specialists, links with agencies and universities in the developed countries will be important. All surveys should be conducted by multidisciplinary teams able both to assess biological diversity and to describe the physical and socioeconomic characteristics of the area surveyed. In practice it is often impossible even to recognize the numbers of species present in a given sample without having a specialist's knowledge of that particular group. For that reason, both monographic studies, which constitute the principal activity of many systematic
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies biologists, and regional inventories are of primary importance. Because the shortage of trained personnel will affect not only the conduct of surveys but all aspects of conservation research, it is imperative that new rapid-assessment survey methods be developed and that intensive training courses be given on these methods, within country if possible, or at least regionally. The development of computerized data bases, which can provide information about organisms rapidly and efficiently on a regional, national, or global basis, is extremely important. Such data bases will be of use to a wide range of agricultural scientists, biologists, resource managers, environmental engineers, farmers, teachers, and others (Morin et al., 1989). They can be continually updated and corrected and, as countries bring them into operation, can simplify the coordination of surveys, providing a regional picture of biological diversity. These national and regional efforts, building on existing Conservation Data Centers in other countries, can well add up to a global strategy. In addition to the research priorities suggested here, priorities in methodology, training, and institution building are suggested in other sections of this chapter. Research Priorities Undertake biological surveys in all national parks, preserves, and conservation units, either as an integral part of conservation projects being run in those units or as part of a national natural resource assessment. Countries should determine which taxa are most important to survey. Employ statistical methods in surveys to estimate the abundance of species present or completeness of sampling. Conduct surveys on wild relatives of commercial domesticated and semidomesticated crop and animal species as part of all agricultural improvement programs. Conduct surveys of at least the higher plants and vertebrates for all agroforestry, diversified agriculture, sustainable agriculture, animal improvement, animal introduction, fisheries, and forestry project sites. Conduct initial surveys of aquatic flora and fauna to serve as baseline data for management, long-term monitoring, and project impact assessment. Monitor changes in species diversity in project sites during and after the project for a period of 10 years. Determine which species should be reintroduced and where populations can be self-sustaining. Evaluate photographic methods for rapid taxonomic surveys and associations in ecosystems.
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies Develop systems (e.g., using microcomputer programs for numerical keying of species characteristics and, ultimately, CD-ROM discs with video color images) to facilitate the identification of material collected during surveys. Development of these systems will benefit from the widespread availability of personal computers and computer "literacy" in most developing countries in recent years (NRC, 1989). These systems will also promote collaboration among scientists in industrial and developing countries. Develop identification manuals in local languages with workable keys. Include information geared to the general public and to users in different professions. Global Biological Survey 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 recommended that a comprehensive, multidisciplinary survey of well-known groups of tropical organisms (e.g., plants, vertebrates, and butterflies) be undertaken to provide an index to the patterns of distribution and the nature of communities throughout the tropics (NAS, 1980). This recommendation is even more timely now. Such a survey would not only serve as an index to diversity in the tropics, but would provide the cornerstone for a global-scale effort. This task cannot be postponed. The rapid decline of species of all groups and the deterioration of entire ecosystems are occurring so rapidly that even the possibility of a reasonably complete assessment will slip from our grasp if not undertaken in the next two decades. A global survey would give our estimates of diversity a stronger foundation, and help us understand all that we stand to gain or lose in this critical period. The initial focus of a global survey should be plants, vertebrates, butterflies, and a few others groups of organisms that are well known, well studied, or of particular economic importance (e.g., mosquitoes). Inventories of these high-profile groups, as noted, can serve as indexes to entire areas and as indicators of basic biogeographical patterns. Lesser-known groups can then be sampled and eventually more completely inventoried to supplement this information, providing additional insight into these broad patterns and the ways in which they are changing. For groups such as vertebrates, detailed study of all species present
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies in particular localities is the only way to learn about their abundance and distribution. Lesser-known but ecologically significant groups of organisms—insects, free-living nematodes, ciliates, mites, fungi, bacteria—deserve special attention. Present ecological and systematic knowledge of these groups is very limited. From what little we do know, it is clear that hundreds of thousands or even millions of species still remain to be identified and described. For these groups, research should focus on the development of new taxonomic techniques, and funds should be provided for training and employment opportunities. At the same time, comprehensive estimates of the number of species present in representative and threatened areas of the tropics and elsewhere must be undertaken (May, 1988; NSB, 1989; Gaston, 1991; Erwin, 1991). Study locations should be chosen carefully in order to devote sufficient effort to areas that are poorly known, species-rich, under imminent threat of destruction, and unique in their habitats and genetic stocks, such as Madagascar, island groups, and the Chilean Andes (see NAS, 1980; Myers, 1988; NSB, 1989). They must be organized so as to concentrate resources of time and expertise, and avoid dilution of effort. Coordination with national biological inventories is critical. These surveys, conducted at selected study sites, could begin to provide a sound basis for estimating the abundance and diversity of organisms on Earth. For example, the study of 200 scattered locations in great depth, or of more locations in less depth, could provide a vastly improved empirical basis for estimates. Already protected areas would, of course, be prime candidates for study sites, but even 200 locations would represent only a portion of those currently under some type of protection; the number of locations at risk is much higher (NSB, 1989). Coupling this with our knowledge of the abundance and distribution of organisms in already well-studied areas (such as La Selva in Costa Rica or Barro Colorado Island in Panama) will likewise be very important. By studying groups of organisms in areas where ecosystem functions such as the flow of energy and the cycling of mineral nutrients are understood, we will be able to evaluate better the characteristic ecological roles of those groups and use this information to arrive at some approximation of biological diversity under similar ecological conditions (May, 1988). This will also allow us to understand better the ecological basis of biodiversity and its functional significance within ecosystems (ESA, 1991). Marine biodiversity must also be considered much more prominently in the context of global biodiversity research. The diversity of marine systems and organisms is often overlooked, in large part because the marine environment is extensive, difficult to study, and mistakenly
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies assumed to have a limitless capacity to absorb human impacts. Global marine inventories would provide information about the processes that regulate biodiversity in marine communities and the impact of pollution and harvesting on these processes. In addition, the basic biological structure and the component species of marine systems are poorly known. The distribution and migratory patterns of most species remain unknown, and many benthic organisms remain undescribed. Accurate assessments of human impacts on these systems requires this baseline data. Traditional methodologies coupled with modern technologies (e.g., manned submersibles, unmanned remotely operated vehicles, and color-scanning of data to assess phytoplankton distribution over space and time) can, with appropriate support, make great strides in improving our understanding of marine biodiversity. These tasks could be undertaken on a regional basis (e.g., through the Regional Seas Program of the United Nations Environmental Programme), and at the continental and global scales. Research Priorities Initial efforts to coordinate a strategy for a global biodiversity survey should be supported. These should included regional and global conferences to reach agreement on methodologies and institutional linkages. Opportunities for global cooperation should be taken into account in the establishment and long-term planning of national biodiversity inventories. Support should be given to comprehensive surveys of localities and groups of organisms that can serve as indices and indicators of basic biogeographical patterns. Develop inventory and training techniques to allow increased taxonomic work on nematodes, ciliates, mites, bacteria, and other little-known taxa. Much more attention should be devoted to research on the diversity of marine communities and organisms. Screening of Organisms The screening of plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms for features of potential human benefit should be systematized and accelerated . National biological inventories should provide screening opportunities for new natural products and rational methods for using materials derived from them. The tropics alone contain more than 170,000 species of flowering plants. Although fewer than I percent have been examined
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies by modern medicine for utility or commercially exploited, even this small fraction has yielded a variety of useful drugs, food crops, biomass stocks, latex, oils, resins, fuels, and other products. Many have become major international commodities and the base of national economies. Furthermore, most people in the world depend on these plant products for medicine, fuel, and other goods. A wider understanding of biological resources, together with their appropriate use, can greatly enhance human welfare. At the same time, the very process of examining a nation's biological diversity for its economic potential can focus attention in a manner that advances broader conservation goals. International agencies charged with improving the status of people in developing countries have a singular opportunity to help these people realize that potential and to increase local understanding, preservation, and application of traditional resource uses. Screening research is essential in this endeavor. For what qualities and products should organisms be screened, and how should this type of research be integrated into the activities of development agencies? One part of a screening program should be directed toward finding products that can help solve problems unique to developing nations. In many developing countries, for example, traditional therapeutics can be used to treat diseases in communities that lack access to modern medicine and are rapidly losing access to traditional cures. Pharmaceutical compounds and less processed plant or animal extracts are particularly important in this regard. Experience suggests that developing nations themselves will have to undertake the majority of this type of research or create incentives for the involvement of pharmaceutical companies in the developed nations. These might involve, for example, the trading of raw materials from the tropics for screening as possible treatments for cancer, AIDS, and other diseases, in exchange for which the pharmaceutical companies would agree to screen for treatments for tropical maladies. Studies of traditional cures available in local markets and consultation with individuals locally trained in traditional skills are also important steps toward managing biodiversity for the improvement of health care. The screening process should also serve to identify organisms of potential benefit in agriculture and in the provision of environmental services. These include trees and alternative crops for use in agroforestry, mixed cropping, and other sustainable agroecosystems; effective biological control agents for agricultural insect and plant pests; and plants (especially legumes) of special importance for erosion control and land rehabilitation (NRC, 1975; 1979). Traditional food and fiber crops should also be screened to identify those that might be developed into national or international market commodities. Genetic engineers are already beginning to take advantage of screen
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies ing to identify and transfer useful genes from plants and animals. The variety of habitats in the tropics and subtropics, many of which are highly endangered, constitutes a veritable storehouse of genetic resources, exceeding anything that Temperate Zone experience suggests. The accelerated loss of individual species in the tropics thus also implies the loss of an unimaginably vast diversity of genetic structures (NRC, 1991a; 1991b). Candidates for new products should first be sought among the organisms known and used by indigenous peoples. If indigenous knowledge has not been documented and compiled, doing so should be a research priority of the highest order. Indigenous knowledge is being lost at an unprecedented rate, and its preservation, preferably in data base form, must take place as quickly as possible. Taxonomists, chemists, biochemists, anthropologists, ethnobiologists, and other scientists need to be trained to work in multidisciplinary screening teams (see Chapter 4). Beginning with interviews of local people regarding their use and management of local resources, these teams should be able to obtain information on the indigenous knowledge base, identify plants and animals for screening, and conduct screening studies. Resources must also be devoted to strengthening institutions at which such work is currently being done. Finally, because we are severely limited by our inability to quickly survey species-rich tropical areas, resources should be provided to develop improved bioassays and rapid screening methods. If possible, screening teams should be composed of local scientists. If this is not possible, the teams should work closely with local scientists and establish partnerships with local universities, agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and other institutions. In addition, this research will require a deep consideration of intellectual property rights. Legal opinions differ, but many patent experts agree that when indigenous peoples reveal their uses of plants and animals, their exclusive right to that information is lost, just as trade secrets enter the public domain when they are revealed. This complicated legal and moral issue can be dealt with only through careful planning and the negotiation of contracts guaranteeing equitable distribution of royalties to indigenous groups. The National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, Cultural Survival, and the Institute of Economic Botany of the New York Botanical Garden have formulated agreements that can serve as models for researchers. Research Priorities Identify tropical diseases for which (1) drug treatments are unknown or of limited effectiveness, (2) treatment is expensive and
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies appropriately manage and monitor existing reserves, take advantage of opportunities for sustainable land use and restoration, and coordinate ex situ conservation efforts, researchers and administrators must have access to information on the classification, distribution, characteristics, status, and ecological relationships of species. Much of this information, if it exists, is scattered and difficult to obtain. The development of computer data bases and inventories would be a major factor in overcoming this constraint. National biological institutes can provide a central location for these data bases, inventories, and information networks and promote the interinstitutional coordination necessary to their success. Many current computer programs specialize in the long-term management of information necessary for the conservation of biodiversity. In the United States, these include the Heritage and Conservation Data Centers (CDCs) of the Nature Conservancy; the data bases of botanical gardens, arboreta, museums, herbaria, aquaria, and zoos; the breeding bird and waterfowl surveys of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the Christmas Bird Counts of the National Audubon Society; and the lepidoptera surveys conducted by the Xerces Society. Notable among examples in other countries are the data bases of INBio in Costa Rica. In 1974 the Nature Conservancy initiated the first of what are now known as State Natural Heritage Inventories. This effort has been expanded to include all 50 states in the U.S., 2 provinces of Canada, and 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries. The Nature Conservancy's CDCs are continually updated inventories of the most significant biological and ecological features of the country or region in which they are located. These computerized centers offer a readily accessible source of information on biological diversity that can be used in conservation and development planning. All 70 CDCs now operating in the Western Hemisphere employ the same methodology and computer hardware. The CDCs in Latin America are staffed and operated by local scientists and conservationists. A quite different example is Tropicos, the botanical data base of the Missouri Botanical Garden, which serves as a tool in systematic research and in the production and revision of flora. It includes programs for managing herbaria, producing herbarium specimen labels, maintaining horticultural information on living specimens, and managing botanical libraries. The data base currently contains about 400,000 names of taxa. Entries include information concerning synonyms, literature citations, description, and distribution (at the country and two additional subunit levels). The system also has the capacity to generate plant descriptions for floras, character lists, chromosomal analyses, and information on the taxonomic status of specimens. Jenkins (1988) lists the following principal uses of these kinds of data:
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies Facilitating continuing inventory by organizing data well enough to determine what is and is not known; Setting and revising conservation priorities through an ever-improving picture of the relative endangerment and status of species, habitats, etc.; Selection and design of reserves through the identification of areas containing critical species or habitats and an understanding of their ranges and needs; Facilitating more efficient and sophisticated use of land protection methods by conservation administrators; Monitoring and managing biological elements—a species, community type, or other feature of interest—by enabling users to make rapid field assessments of their status and ecological response to management options; Site management; Providing information about sensitive sites and project design requirements to developers and development agencies in the planning process; Providing real data for environmental impact analysis and review; Providing access to additional information by including references to original sources, published and unpublished documents, professional sources, museums, files, data bases, and maps; Providing data for extrapolation in predictive modeling; and Providing field localities, biogeographic information, and other baseline data necessary for research concerning conservation principles. Given the myriad applications of a coordinated, well-designed, and well-maintained data base network, this will clearly be an important tool for developing countries. Fortunately, the examples cited above, as well as most others, can be run on personal computers that do not require large investments in software or hardware. Much of the required software can be obtained at cost or free of charge. Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems Additional research and technical development are needed to advance the utility of remotely sensed data for ecosystem monitoring in developing countries. The data from remote sensing techniques, coupled with the data management capacity of geographic information systems (GIS), offer unprecedented opportunities to assess and monitor ecosystem processes. Even regions that are experiencing rapid change, such as tropical
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies environments, can be closely surveyed through means not available a decade ago. Computerized geographical information systems have, in this same period, simplified the process (and decreased the expense) of adding new data and adjusting analysis. No one source of remotely sensed information is likely to supply all of the data to address biodiversity research needs in developing countries. Coarse spatial resolution sensors with high rates of data acquisition (e.g., the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) are needed to accommodate the vast land areas studied in tropical surveys. High-resolution sensors—for example, the Landsat MSS (Multispectral Scanner) and TM (Thematic Mapper), the Systeme Probatoire d'Observation de la Terre (SPOT), aircraft scanners, and mapping cameras—are needed to record spectral and spatial information to link intensive field-level ecological studies to forest community and biome-level assessments. In regions with frequent cloud cover, sensors that operate in the visible and near infrared have limited utility. In these areas, active microwave sensors can provide information about the land surface and forest canopy that would otherwise be unobtainable (Sader et al., 1990). The benefits of geographical information system technology go far beyond its ability to maintain information in a geographically referenced format. Information on soils, topography, climate, distribution of organisms, land use, and protected areas can both clarify and augment the measurements provided by remotely sensed data (Green, 1981). Gap analysis is one important application of remotely sensed data (Burley, 1988; Scott et al., 1991a, 1991b). Laws, policies, and, to a great extent, public opinion tend to focus our financial and intellectual resources on individual species. Gap analysis identifies gaps in the network of protected areas and compares these against the background of the distributions of ecosystems, vegetation types, and plant and animal taxa. Although gap analysis is still being developed, it holds great promise. Gap analysis can reveal priorities for conservation in a more systematic and quantified manner than previous methods, and can pave the way for the protection and management of sensitive areas. By adopting a broadly based ecosystem approach, it seeks to prevent species and communities from becoming endangered, allowing scarce human and financial resources to be applied more effectively. Other applications of remotely sensed data are already in use and producing much-needed information on the status of resources in tropical regions. Remote sensing was used, for example, to estimate available habitat for migrating birds in the Yucatan of southern Mexico (Green et al., 1987). In Thailand, Vibulsresth (1986) was able to differentiate "disturbed" from "undisturbed" dry dipterocarp forests.
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies Perhaps the most notable use of remote sensing data was the publication in The New York Times of images of the burning forests of Rondonia in Brazil (Matson and Holben, 1987). Difficulties involved in developing remote sensing and geographical information system capabilities include a lack of continuity in the data, the cost of data, and the lack of equipment and training opportunities (Grainger, 1984). Coordination of these research activities (again, within national biological institutes or centers) is also needed. If these problems can be overcome, programs at the regional and global level can proceed by using data from sensors already in orbit. Strengthening Scientific Networks Development agencies should use their financial and institutional resources to establish and encourage networks that foster communication among scientists working with biological diversity in developing countries. The effectiveness of all scientists depends in large part on their access to professional colleagues and to information in their field. Those who study biological diversity in developing nations face special difficulties. Traditional sources of scientific information—libraries, museums, universities—often lack the resources to maintain up-to-date collections and to disseminate the findings of their own researchers. The cost and inconvenience of travel to scientific meetings and conferences can be prohibitive; modern communication technologies are often unavailable. As the need for scientific information on biological diversity grows, and as the volume and quality of information increase, scientific networks must keep pace. These networks should serve to improve communication among scientists in developing countries, between scientists in different countries, and between scientists in the developing and the developed world. Support for scientific networks begins at the field research level, with increased financial support for operations and data analysis. The development of methods for reporting data and managing information, particularly computerized inventory data, has been discussed above. Scientific networks will play a leading role in refining these methods, coordinating research efforts, and improving the channels of communication from the field to the international level. Development agencies can best support this work by backing existing networks, such as the Latin American Plant Sciences Network (see sidebar) and the Association pour l'Etude Taxonomique de la Flore d'Afrique Tropicale, and by promoting the establishment of similar networks in regions where they currently do not exist. A number of steps that development agencies can take to improve
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies The Latin American Plant Sciences Network Red Latinoamericana de Botánica (the Latin American Plant Sciences Network), or RLP, is a consortium of six graduate training centers located in Mexico, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. In these centers, Latin American academic institutions collaborate to provide graduate level training in the plant sciences to students from throughout in the region. The centers also organize binational research projects, regional graduate courses, and scientific meetings. The primary aim of the network is to promote development of the plant sciences in an indigenous context in the countries of Latin America. It seeks, in particular, to strengthen the capacity of these countries to conduct basic research and training in biodiversity, conservation, and sustainable agriculture. In addition to providing educational opportunities for plant scientists, RLP supports the development of new centers of botanical excellence throughout Latin America, increased interaction among Latin American scientists, and the promotion of regional self-sufficiency through strengthened international relations. The network, which was established in 1988, also works with non-Latin American institutions in achieving these objectives, and has received support for its activities from the U.S. Agency for International Development and a number of private foundations (RLB, 1991). communication among scientists in developing countries would directly promote the formation and strengthening of networks: Improve access to bibliographic resources and other data bases by providing scientific and educational institutions with funds for journal subscriptions and book purchases. Support the publication of findings in international journals and local publications, especially those in vernacular languages (a considerable amount of data on the floras of many countries has gone unpublished for lack of funds). Require that proposals for agency-sponsored research in developing countries include funds in their budgets for the publication of results in a form accessible to scientists in the countries themselves.
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies Support the publication of newsletters. Finance the compilation of a worldwide directory of individuals working in the area of local knowledge systems, and support the preparation and publication of annotated bibliographies on selected topics related to local knowledge. Sponsor local, national, and regional workshops and conferences on biological diversity, and provide increased funding for scientists to attend international conferences. HUMAN RESOURCES All conservation work in developing countries, but especially basic research on biological diversity, is hindered by a lack of trained personnel. The recommendations offered below have been mentioned earlier in this report, but are reiterated here because of their fundamental importance. In some countries it may simply be impossible to carry out specific projects suggested in this report because few local scientists or resource managers have the necessary training and experience. Taxonomists and conservation-oriented ecologists and biologists, scarce to begin with, are overwhelmingly concentrated in industrialized nations. At the same time, career conservationists in developing countries must often contend with a lack of support from their own governments. Thus, the implementation of conservation programs in developing countries is often contingent on the availability of foreign expertise and the continued willingness of host countries to have their conservation programs dependent on foreign nationals. This dangerous situation must be remedied if the conservation of biological diversity is to become a continuing, ingrained activity in developing countries. In turn, both the fostering of a strong corps of local trained conservation personnel and the strengthening of institutions that guide, support, and coordinate their work, are necessary. In this context, the role of international networks is particularly important, including, for example, the Latin American Plant Sciences Network; the programs of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU); the Third World Academy of Sciences; the African Academy of Sciences; and the Unesco-supported African BioSciences Network. The urgent need for manpower to formulate and conduct research and applied conservation activities prohibits the lengthy process traditionally employed to train ecologists, taxonomists, or resource managers. There is simply not enough time to produce enough people by these methods. The situation demands new types of paraprofessionals and new ways of producing them. There is also a desperate need to strengthen the capabilities of in-country agencies and institutions
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies responsible for the conservation and management of natural resources. Development agencies, charged with institution and manpower development, have the unique experience, capabilities, and resources to address these problems. To strengthen the human resources necessary to survey, research, monitor, and manage biological diversity in developing nations, the following actions are needed. Developing Taxonomic Expertise International development agencies should sponsor and support the development of taxonomic expertise, both paraprofessional and professional, as an increasingly important part of their conservation programs. Many of the recommendations outlined presume the existence of the taxonomic expertise to carry them out. Yet the cadre of trained taxonomists necessary to perform this work simply does not exist. To describe, inventory, classify, monitor, and manage biological diversity, such expertise must be cultivated. It is the foundation on which the study and conservation of biological diversity are built. The situation is not new, and the call for a response has been heard before. The report Research Priorities in Tropical Biology (NAS, 1980) recommended that ''high priority ... be set on training and support for much larger numbers of systematists oriented toward tropical organisms. At least a five-fold increase in the number of systematists is necessary to deal with a significant proportion of the estimated diversity while it is still available for study. Governments would be well advised to allocate resources in an effort to achieve this objective.'' Since the 1980 report, little progress has been made in meeting this fundamental need. Another decade of neglect cannot be allowed to elapse. Taxonomic expertise for certain groups of organisms is almost nonexistent. For example, termites and ants constitute approximately 30 percent of the world's animal biomass, and are of enormous ecological significance. Yet there are less than a few dozen people worldwide who are able to classify, or even competently sort, specimens. There are not even five people in the world who can identify, sort, or characterize free-living nematodes. Some 12,000 species of nematodes have been described, including all that are animal parasites and cause diseases in domesticated plants. It is estimated that a million species of free-living nematodes may exist worldwide, but because there are no systematists working with them, no organized evaluation of the diversity in this group can be made. The story is similar for mites. Again, it has been roughly estimated that a million species exist,
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies yet only 30,000 have been described. Although it may not be possible to support specialists in these groups in all developing countries, it is imperative that the expertise to at least sample these species be encouraged. Many factors have contributed to the paucity of trained personnel, including a shortage of research and teaching positions for systematists, the lack of training grants, and competition from other areas of biology (NSB, 1989). Academic departments throughout the world have been trading organismal biologists for molecular biologists, with the result that fewer undergraduates are exposed to taxonomy and, hence, given the opportunity to pursue these fields in graduate schools. The situation must be changed through the creation of more positions for taxonomists at all levels and of programs to inform students interested in taxonomy of the opportunities that exist. In addition, support for research should be made available to students and faculty alike. These problems are especially prevalent in developing countries, where the need is most evident. The situation is exacerbated by poverty, scarce funds, inadequate institutional support, and a general lack of trained native scientists. Although developing countries contain 77 percent of the world's people and 80 percent of the world's biodiversity, they have no more than 15 percent of the world's wealth, and only 6 percent of the world's scientists and engineers live and work in them. The industrial countries and development agencies can do much to build a base of taxonomic expertise by providing more amply in their assistance programs for strengthening the institutions in which taxonomic work is based (see following recommendation). The positive side of this situation is that great rewards can be obtained by employing nontraditionally trained people in this work. The notable example of this, again, is INBio in Costa Rica. It should be noted that in augmenting the taxonomic proficiency of personnel in developing countries, many other areas of scientific research and application will be served. Systematists are indispensable for progress in all fields of basic and applied biology, including ecology, fisheries biology, range management, forestry, agriculture, horticulture, and the veterinary and medical sciences (NSB, 1989). To promote awareness of the basic importance of taxonomic work internally, international development agencies should develop and conduct crash courses in taxonomy and conservation, using approaches similar to those employed in plant breeding programs. Agencies can also provide an important service by designing and testing data management systems for ease of use by conservation paraprofessionals and for transferability across cultures. In some cases, it may be possible to meet these needs by strengthening existing training centers, such as Mweka in Tanzania, Garoua in Camaroon, Dehra Dun in India,
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies Bariloche in Argentina, and the Centro Agronómica Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE) in Costa Rica (McNeely, 1989). Strengthening Local Institutions Because the fate of biological diversity in developing countries depends ultimately upon the sense of stewardship, the scientific capacities, and the administrative structures within these countries, it is highly important that development agencies invest in strengthening local institutions. Only native institutions are capable of imparting the understanding of biological diversity to the general public and the proficiency among professionals that will result in effective conservation. It is especially important that development agencies support nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), educational institutions, museums, and libraries in developing countries, and foster effective operation of the government agencies legally charged with managing resources. Unless this local capacity grows, effective conservation will continue to rely too much on the concerns, expertise, and changing priorities of foreign institutions. The support of museums and libraries in developing countries is crucial. Museums often contain irreplaceable samples of the biota of their countries. In general, unfortunately, they are poorly supported. Whether they exist in universities or government ministries, or as public institutions, museums should receive special assistance from development agencies as baseline institutions for the collection and classification of organisms. Botanical gardens, arboreta, herbaria, aquaria, seed banks, and zoos, although generally uncommon in the developing world, are to be encouraged as essential for the documentation of local biological knowledge, and as locations for ex situ conservation efforts. Specifically, development agencies should assist nations in determining which germ plasm should be conserved ex situ, and which national institutions should be charged with the maintenance of different collections. Personnel should be trained in the latest curatorial techniques. The public awareness and educational activities of these institutions should also be improved and encouraged to involve local populations more actively—thereby improving the possibilities for recurrent cost recovery. Development agencies should provide seed funding for this kind of activity, with the prospect of phasing out funds as local support is generated from government, voluntary activities, and donations. It is especially important for development agencies to support those government agencies charged with the protection and management of natural resources (and hence biodiversity) both in the field and in ex situ collections (e.g., ministries of agriculture, forestry, fisheries,
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies energy, and parks). Only through strengthening these legitimate institutions can the preservation and sustainable management of biological resources be ingrained in the society. The diversity and complexity of ecological, political, social, and economic conditions in developing countries has led to the burgeoning of locally based nongovernmental organizations that serve as important conduits for the flow of information to, from, and among local people and communities. Some of these organizations focus on conservation, but many others with an interest and a stake in land use issues lack the experience, resources, and personnel to follow up on their concerns. National and international development agencies need to support the involvement of NGOs as intermediaries between government agencies, universities, and local communities in support of the methods and goals of biodiversity conservation. Such investments can have profound consequences. In the long term, providing funding and political support for NGOs will be more effective in shaping environmentally and socially acceptable land use policies, based on local needs and priorities, than the dictation of policy by foreign and international governments and institutions. Expanding Cooperative Research Programs New and existing programs of international cooperative research should undertake research on biological diversity as a fundamental part of their mission, and should be given the financial and administrative support to do so. International cooperative research programs that are currently devoted to crop agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, livestock management, and other resource uses in developing countries should give greater attention to biodiversity within their research and development programs. Biodiversity and its relationship to sustainable land use are so central to attainment of development goals that they should be fundamental considerations in carrying out all research programs involving natural resource management. In particular, these programs need to involve more systematists and other biologists to perform basic research on biodiversity in developing countries (NRC, 1991d). In the past, progress toward sustainable resource management has been hindered by policies and technologies based on discipline-specific research. In the future, land use and resource management must overcome these boundaries, and interdisciplinary research must provide the knowledge to do so (Soulé and Kohm, 1989). The conservation of biodiversity should not be pursued as an isolated area of research, but integrated into the activities of all research institutions and programs that affect land use in developing countries.
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Conserving Biodiversity: A Research Agenda for Development Agencies Research conducted under the auspices of the International Council of Scientific Unions and Unesco's Man and the Biosphere Program provide important models for the integration of biodiversity studies in a multidisciplinary research framework. In addition, several new cooperative research and training programs have begun to incorporate this approach. For example, within the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources Management (SANREM) Cooperative Research Support Program and the Program on Scientific and Technical Cooperation (PSTC), a competitive grants program designed to fund innovative research projects, both involve significant biodiversity research components (NRC, 1991d). The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) of the World Bank also promises to give greater attention to research on biodiversity. While these efforts are to be commended, the general level of financial and administrative support within international research organizations is still far too meager, given the magnitude of the problem. Put more positively, great opportunities exist for constructive and mutually beneficial cooperation between scientists working on the conservation of biological diversity and scientists in other fields of land use, resource management, and rural development. Development agencies should encourage this cooperation—not just as a new aspect of research, but as a new and increasingly necessary way to perform research.
Representative terms from entire chapter: