and products that can result from this first national marine biodiversity agenda will contribute significantly to the nation's emerging agenda on the conservation and wise use of the nation's biological resources. This initiative will require major new funding over a decadal time scale to achieve the objectives outlined in this report. In addition, existing programs and resources from federal, state, and private sources would augment any new funding (e.g., see Box 13).
We address here the broad aspects of implementation and directions for this marine biodiversity initiative. Future study plans will develop the specific processes and mechanisms for accomplishing the objectives of this initiative.
This proposed initiative would be propelled by the interactions and involvement of several agencies working under coordinated research umbrellas. Energetic and intimate working relationships with national and international biodiversity programs, marine laboratory networks, museums, and newly emerging fields (e.g., Box 14) will form critical research bridges. This initiative is envisioned in terms of a decadal time scale—a minimum time period to undertake the research efforts proposed here and to achieve a critical level of coordination.
The research questions posed in this agenda are envisioned as being addressed by both small and large research groups seeking designated funds from several agencies through a peer-review process. Once launched, early steps would include regional integration of research efforts. Coordination may include specific efforts to use the same experimental techniques and sampling methods to address the same or similar questions across different systems. The selection of which systems to study in which geographic regions should ultimately be determined by the competitive proposal process. Important decision criteria for funding would include the extent to which the proposed research addressed scientifically perceived environmental threats to the identified study system and the likelihood of achieving substantial new insights that can be applied to conservation and management. The regional-model system approach has the virtue of concentrating effort, but could risk too great a focus on special cases that may be so exceptional as to limit future applications and generalizations. To minimize such biases, regional-model systems should be chosen as much for their diversity of characteristics as for their taxonomic variety and imperilment.
This marine biodiversity initiative is not calling solely for entirely new data collections, experiments, and investigations. The existence of critical, and especially, long-term information or archived samples for a given site, region, taxon, and so forth, will be invaluable for interpreting results of new studies undertaken as part of this program. Such data would decidedly leverage time, effort, and resources spent on conducting new studies. In some special cases, existing data sets (for example, the CalCOFI data mentioned earlier) may be sufficient for addressing a given suite of biodiversity research questions. As noted by Angel (1992), "The information base on which to develop a predictive understanding of the interaction between diversity and ecological process can be greatly enhanced relatively inexpensively by systematically collating existing data and working up extant collections of material."