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 A good deal of "gray" literature exists—unpublished reports, files in government archives, studies of limited distribution.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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
Identify tropical diseases for which (1) drug treatments are unknown or of limited effectiveness, (2) treatment is expensive and
beyond the reach of most of the population, and (3) local remedies exist.
Screen local remedies for active compounds and determine how similar these are to existing drug formulations; identify opportunities for developing low-cost, standardized, effective treatments for curable ailments.
Examine indigenous cropping systems for biocontrol methods and agents; determine the efficacy of local means of biocontrol compared to agricultural techniques dependent on purchased inputs.
Study the relationship between the concentration of active compounds within different populations of species and the environmental conditions under which these populations occur.
Compare the qualities of local sources of waxes, oils, and other products to those of commercially available industrial and domestic brands.
Develop means to ensure that intellectual property rights are fully considered and secured during the screening process and subsequent development of products.
To detect, measure, and assess changes in the status of biological diversity, appropriate monitoring methods employing specific indicators of biodiversity attributes should be implemented.
National biological inventories and a global-scale survey will provide basic information about the degree and distribution of species diversity, while screening allows us to determine more systematically the current and potential uses of organisms for human needs. Such efforts must be complemented by the development and implementation of monitoring methods that track the continually changing status of biological diversity.
Because diversity is characteristic of life at multiple levels of organization—genetic, population, species, community or ecosystem, landscape or region, and global—monitoring presents almost incomprehensible challenges. Obviously, the changes that take place at all these levels cannot be constantly or completely measured, nor is it necessary to do so. An effective monitoring program, however, should recognize that various levels of biological organization do exist; that although they are distinguishable from one another, they are not disjunct; that, instead, they are ''nested'' within and affect one another; and that, in monitoring, different levels of resolution will be necessary to address different scientific and management-related questions (Allen and Starr, 1982; O'Neill et al., 1986; Noss, 1990). For example, tracing the impacts of acid precipitation on biological diversity requires an understanding of
regional biogeographic patterns related to topographic and climatic variation and soil variations at the landscape level; patterns of species richness within terrestrial and aquatic systems; the differential physiological responses of individual species to variations in acidity; and intraspecific genetic responses to selection pressures associated with acidification.
In practice, this hierarchic approach implies that a variety of indicators of biological diversity, and hence monitoring tools, must be employed (Noss, 1990). Many of these tools—Geographic Information Systems (GIS), other remote sensing data, landscape pattern indices, ground-level plant community sampling methods and animal censuses, and electrophoresis, to name a few—have long been in use, although their application to questions of biological diversity may be relatively recent. The key to successful monitoring programs is to maintain the ability to detect general changes in the status of biodiversity, to choose those tools that are adequate and appropriate for particular conservation problems, and to coordinate their use so as to test hypotheses of broad relevance to conservation.
A general guideline is to proceed "from the top down," beginning with a coarse-scale inventory of landscape pattern, vegetation, habitat structure, and species distributions, and then overlaying data on environmental stresses to identify biologically significant areas at high risk of impoverishment (Noss, 1990). Whereas extensive methods of monitoring (e.g., of forest cover) should proceed at the total landscape level, more intensive research and monitoring methods should be applied to high-risk ecosystems and to lower-order components of biological diversity (e.g., rare plant communities, communities rich in endemic species, endangered species, and disjunct populations).
Monitoring should not be undertaken as a separate activity, but integrated into other research activities. National and global inventories should monitor changes in ecosystem and species diversity during initial investigations and periodically thereafter. These inventories, in turn, should suggest genetic resources, species, and habitats that require more intensive monitoring. Long-term, site-specific ecological research (see below) should have, as one of its primary responsibilities, the monitoring of biotic diversity as a function of interspecific relationships (e.g., between native and introduced species), habitat variables (e.g., canopy openness in forests), and abiotic factors (e.g., disturbance regimes). Most research projects involving the application of conservation biology principles—for example, the design of reserves, the biology of rare and declining species, and the role of keystone species—should involve monitoring as a part of the research methodology.
In designing research projects, thought should be given to the manner in which results can be applied to other monitoring efforts. Conservation
Data Centers, computer inventories, and other information management technologies and networks should develop the capacity to receive and distribute data for monitoring purposes. The training of personnel should include instruction in monitoring methods, while the strengthening of in-country institutions should include an improved capacity to carry on monitoring programs.
In supporting enhanced monitoring programs, international development agencies should coordinate their work with that of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), and other organizations. The WCMC, for example, was established jointly by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the United Nations Environmental Programme, and the World Wide Fund for Nature to collect data on threatened, endangered, and very rare species in protected areas of the world, and to monitor the international trade in threatened species and wildlife products (McNeely et al., 1990). As expanded, longer-term biodiversity monitoring efforts become increasingly important, this kind of coordination will be necessary to avoid duplication of effort in what is already a demanding task.
Develop appropriate statistical analysis techniques for monitoring projects and validate the effectiveness of indicators for use in monitoring.
Explore and demonstrate the capabilities and limitations of remote sensing, satellite imagery, aerial photography, and other more experimental techniques for monitoring. What are appropriate levels of analysis for each? Can these technologies, which have been applied mainly in Temperate Zone countries, be transferred easily to tropical ecosystems?
Work with geographers to create up-to-date, well-documented vegetation maps based on detailed field studies that can serve as the basis for other monitoring methods. Document the status of vegetation and point out areas requiring further study.
Determine which ground-level plant and animal sampling methods best indicate the diversity of tropical ecosystems and are most capable of incorporation into monitoring programs. This should involve the adaptation to tropical systems of methods used in temperate zones, as well as the development of new methods especially suited for these regions.
Incorporate more monitoring responsibilities into long-term site-specific ecological research. These extended and detailed studies can
provide much of the information necessary to interpret shorter-term and necessarily less detailed monitoring studies.
Gathering basic information on biological diversity, through the means recommended above, must be a constant effort. In the meantime, the best possible conservation measures must be undertaken, especially where diversity is at greatest risk. These efforts also require research.
Conservation, in this context, should not be construed to mean either strict preservation or intrusive management, but these measures and all others that can protect and restore the biological diversity inherent in an area while improving the long-term well-being of the people who live there. This entails a spectrum of appropriate land uses, from parks and natural areas to extractive reserves to sustainably managed agroecosystems. In this effort, it is important to appreciate the different spatial scales on which different landuses operate; to understand them in their landscape, regional, and even global contexts; and to coordinate them so as to conserve their full range of values.
This is a massive challenge, and the role of the international development community is critical. Development agencies are able to provide the institutional and financial support necessary for both immediate and long-term research. They have access to expertise in the wide range of relevant fields and disciplines that must take part in the research. They have a record of accomplishment in collaborative research in many sectors (particularly agriculture) that can be adapted to research on the conservation of biological diversity. They are also able to coordinate research among developing and developed countries, among countries within a region, and among regions around the world. All of these features are vital to advances in conservation research and the application of findings in effective programs.
Research on conservation must integrate and extend the basic information gathered through biological surveys and inventories to increase our understanding of ecological dynamics in different systems and regions. Such understanding can be gained only through long-term studies of specific sites. These regions and systems should also be the focus for studies of basic concepts and emerging principles in conservation biology (including, for example, the optimal design of conservation reserves and buffer zones, the impacts of habitat fragmentation, and the involvement of local communities in conservation programs). Strategies for sustainable use of land and biological resources, and for returning something of the value of biodiversity
to developing countries, require greater scientific scrutiny. Finally, research on the restoration and utilization of degraded lands must become a much higher priority.
To advance our understanding of successful conservation strategies and methods, the following actions are needed.
To advance the understanding of ecosystem composition, structure, and function; to use this knowledge to link basic and applied research, sustainable land use and development, and the conservation of biological diversity; and to provide baseline data for environmental monitoring, support should be given to long-term ecological research at selected sites in developing nations.
Progress toward truly sustainable land use systems requires information on the effect of management options on ecosystem dynamics, and this information can be gained only through long-term research. Long-term basic and applied research is especially needed in the tropical ecosystems of the developing world, where few comprehensive investigations of ecosystems and land use have been undertaken. Development has proceeded essentially by trial and error, often with disastrous consequences. Without information on the effects of management decisions on ecosystems, and baseline data against which to measure these effects, development efforts will often continue to result in the loss of biological diversity and the degradation of other natural resources. The best way to develop this information base, avoid duplication of effort, integrate experimental design and results, advance our understanding of environmental monitoring, and focus on applied conservation and land use methods is to coordinate research at several selected sites.
Long-term research at specific sites has provided important insights into temperate ecosystems. In the United States, for example, studies of northeastern forests at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire have investigated the effects of different harvesting strategies on ecosystem processes (Bormann and Likens, 1979). Similar research projects are focusing on North American ecosystems as diverse as coastal estuaries, shortgrass prairies, coniferous forests, and arctic tundra. The Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program of the U.S. National Science Foundation works to support and coordinate 17 of these long-term research sites, providing a network of ecological investigations for comparative analysis (Franklin et al., 1990).
There has been movement toward establishing an international research network along similar lines (Risser and Melillo, 1991). The United Nations-sponsored Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Project 8,
which focuses on the development of a worldwide network of protected areas for long-term ecological research and monitoring, has many of the same goals (Unesco, 1974). Although much work has been done over many years at, for example, Barro Colorado Island and La Selva, very little truly long-term research has even been initiated in the tropics.
The international development community must play a leading role in supporting this type of research. As experience has shown, international development agencies can no longer afford not to have information on the long-term environmental consequences of development projects. Because they provide the resources for major management interventions in developing countries, they are the appropriate sponsors of studies assessing the effects of those interventions. Mechanisms to support continuing, site-specific, multidisciplinary studies should be built into the programs and funding procedures of development agencies.
In the past, development agencies have failed to undertake long-term studies for a variety of reasons. The typical two-to five-year project administration cycle has not been conducive to long-term planning or oversight. Funding procedures provided support for project installation and program implementation, but not for subsequent monitoring or environmental assessment. Long-term ecosystem monitoring was assumed to be beyond the agencies' mandates. In the future, to accomplish their mission, development agencies will need information that only long-term, site-specific research can provide.
Until recently, comprehensive ecosystem studies were comparatively difficult, time consuming, and expensive. The techniques for quantifying interactions among ecosystem components—for example, nutrient movement between soil, plants, microorganisms, and animals—were primitive and labor intensive. Recently, however, the development of portable equipment for sampling and biochemical analysis, and the application of microcomputers and microprocessors to laboratory analysis, have revolutionized our ability to study ecosystems. These innovations have made it possible to perform thousands of analyses where previously only a few could be undertaken by using large amounts of sample and crude reagents. As a result, the cost of analysis has decreased dramatically, bringing this kind of research methodology within the reach of countries and agencies with limited resources. Nevertheless, development projects that include long-term, site-specific research will be more costly and require sustained commitment of funds.
Long-term, site-specific studies require multidisciplinary teams of researchers able to integrate their investigations in an ecological framework. All relevant fields should be represented, including ecology, botany, zoology, microbiology, entomology, pedology, anthropology, economics, conservation biology, agronomy, forestry, and resource management specialties. The research program should specifically include studies of local cultural conditions and resource management practices. The combined study of ecologically important sites and of resource use techniques should serve to protect those sites specifically and the resource base in general.
The number of study sites need not be large. The high costs and limited availability of trained scientists also make it necessary to focus on a few carefully placed sites. Training programs should enable local scientists to acquire technical expertise, thereby compensating for the lack of local professionals (and the small number of foreign professionals in certain disciplines). Local scientists and paraprofessionals should be enabled to take over projects within a reasonable time, depending on local circumstances. So that local scientists can apply their training in the implementation of national conservation programs, it will be essential to strengthen the capacity of their national institutions to support and conduct long-term research, particularly in the areas of ecosystem analysis, meteorology, soil science, conservation biology, and resource management.
Goals and Guidelines
The overall goal of site-specific research, as described in Research Priorities in Tropical Biology, is to understand "how natural systems operate in processing and controlling resource flows, and ... to be able to predict the effect of modification, by management schemes, of the temporal and spatial distribution of ecosystem resources" (NAS, 1980). The report noted that research must combine traditional energetic and watershed approaches to ecosystem studies with a more detailed view of the biology and ecological roles of resident organisms. These remain valid general goals and guidelines for the selection of research sites in developing nations of the tropics and elsewhere. In the intervening years, our awareness of the importance of biological diversity in the functioning of ecosystems has deepened, confirming the need to focus on diversity as a research topic and, hence, as a criterion in the selection of research sites.
The 1980 report also recommended that tropical studies encompass a broader range of primary and modified ecosystems (including cutover forests, naturally reforested clearings, tree plantations, and various agroforestry systems) and devote more attention to the role that specific
management strategies had played in reducing biological diversity (NAS, 1980). These goals also remain valid, and should be applied generally to ecosystems in both tropical and non-tropical developing countries. Specifically, research should aim to do the following:
Understand the basic operations and interactions that characterize primary and secondary ecosystems.
Obtain information about the adaptive responses of organisms before opportunities for study are lost.
Identify ecosystems (and components) that are in most urgent need of conservation and preservation.
Provide an ecologically sound foundation for assessing, managing, and monitoring secondary ecosystems in the tropics and elsewhere.
Use knowledge of natural regenerative capacities to direct the restoration of degraded lands and improve watershed management.
Find ways to take greater advantage of the potential productivity of tropical agroecosystems.
Research sites should offer the opportunity to meet these research goals as well as the others described in this report, and should receive a commitment of support for at least a 20-year period. These aims are congruent with those of Project 1 of the U.N. Man and the Biosphere program, and national ecosystem studies should be coordinated with MAB's regional projects and their associated training activities (Unesco, 1974).
Recommended Areas for Site Selection
Research Priorities in Tropical Biology (NAS, 1980) included detailed recommendations for site selection. Again, this discussion remains current, and the findings are summarized here. The rationale behind site recommendations may be found in the 1980 report.
Sites recommended for selection included areas representative of biomes that are highly diverse, in immediate danger of extirpation, located in countries with a history of support for activities of this sort, and logistically convenient. The following locations were recommended:
Central Brazilian Amazonia;
La Selva site of the Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica;
Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak, Malaysia;
Estacion de Biologia at Chamela, Jalisco, Mexico;
Puerto Rico and Hawaii;
Barro Colorado Island field station of the Smithsonian Institution;
Savannas of East Africa; and
Other grassland areas such as the llanos of western Venezuela and eastern Colombia, the cerrados of Brazil, and the savannas of West Africa.
Research Priorities in Tropical Biology (NAS, 1980) also drew attention to the need to study relatively neglected aquatic systems in the tropics and recommended the following for intensive study:
Large rivers: the Amazon and Orinoco rivers and their main branches, and the Zaire;
Smaller rivers: the Musi River in Sumatra, the Purari River in Papua New Guinea, and other rivers similarly threatened with change;
Lakes: Lakes Valencia and Maracaibo in Venezuela, Lake Malawi in Africa, Lake Titicaca in South America, the volcanic lakes of insular Southeast Asia, closed-basin lakes, lakes that contain major assemblages of endemic species, and lakes subject to change in the immediate future;
Wetlands: the Sudd along the Nile, the Pantanal of Mato Grosso in Brazil, the Territorio Amapi in Brazil, those of Beni Department in Bolivia, and the Bangweulu Swamp of Zambia;
Major riverine wetlands: the várzea of the Amazon Basin, the delta and backwaters of the Orinoco, and the backwaters of the Zaire and Xingu; and
Peat swamps of Southeast Asia.
Since 1980, several important site-specific research initiatives have been implemented in the other developing countries, and should also be considered as potential sites. These include, prominently, Guanacaste National Park in Costa Rica, which was not envisaged a decade ago, and Manu Park Preserve in Peru, to which it was then more difficult to gain access. Abramovitz (1991) provides a comprehensive list of ongoing research activities in developing countries, many of which have the potential to be expanded into long-term ecological research projects (see also McNeely et al., 1990).
In addition, important marine sites need to be considered, especially (from both a biodiversity and a development standpoint) estuaries, mangrove forests, and coral reef ecosystems. Marine systems present special challenges in terms of long-term ecosystem research, and few examples of such projects exist. One such model is the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) program, which has monitored the California Current Ecosystem since 1949 (Thorne-Miller and Catena, 1991).
In considering these and other possible sites for selection, the MAB model for pilot projects should be followed if appropriate. Development agencies cannot support this type of activity in all countries, nor is it necessary for them to do so. Such activity is most appropriate in regions where sponsored projects involve major modification of the ecosystem (watershed development projects, for example, including large dams such as the Mahaweli in Sri Lanka, the Manantali in Senegal/Mali, and the Bardheera in Somalia) or where projects establish or provide support to a conservation area or park surrounded by zones of increasingly intense exploitation. Examples of U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) projects that fit this category include the Manu Park Project in Peru, the Cordillera Central Project in Costa Rica, the Masaola Peninsula Project in Madagascar, the Bukit Baka/Bukit Raya Project in Indonesia, and the Korup Preserve in Cameroon. If sites selected for intensive investigation are adjacent to or surrounded by MAB biosphere reserves or other natural areas (as, for example, in the case of the Bukit Baka/Bukit Baya Project), this would allow research to continue far into the future and to focus on the examination and application of principles in conservation biology (see the following recommendation).
At all long-term research sites, basic information is needed for comparison with other studies. Baseline ecosystem research should include investigations of climatic and geologic influences, water and nutrient cycling, soil chemistry and physics, primary production and ecosystem energetics, biological diversity and species richness, physiological plant ecology, trophic structures, herbivory, higher-order food webs, dynamics of microhabitats and patches, patterns and frequency of site disturbance, human impacts, and ecosystem stability (NAS, 1980; NRC, 1986a).
Research on biological diversity will be only one aspect, albeit fundamental and cross-cutting, of an overall program at long-term research sites. High priority should also be given to topics that are applicable to important management problems, including sustainable agriculture, forestry, and fisheries management. Many sites identified for detailed ecosystem studies are adjacent to or include agricultural areas. Studies of agroecosystems and agroforestry practices in the context of long-term ecological research, conducted in coordination with agricultural scientists, would be both theoretically instructive and of practical use in formulating sustainable production systems for the regions under consideration (NAS, 1980; NRC 1991d).
Given the scope and urgency of the situation, it is necessary to make
hard choices among the problems to be studied and the particular areas that should receive attention. These choices should be guided by the potential scientific significance of particular organisms, ecosystems, biological interactions, and indigenous resource management patterns, especially in light of their applicability to human welfare. These choices must also be guided by urgency—the recognition that imminent change might altogether preclude future study of certain organisms, ecosystems, biological interactions, and resource use patterns (NAS, 1980). Specific agendas relevant to the aims of the long-term site-specific research may be found in many documents; see, for example, Long-Term Studies in Ecology: Approaches and Alternatives (Likens, 1989), and others noted in the following section.
Conservation Biology Principles and Methods
Research on biological diversity in developing countries should focus on the application and further development of the methodologies and principles of conservation biology
Within the scientific community, conservation biology has emerged as an integrated approach to the questions and concerns raised in this chapter and in other parts of this report. The many basic and applied sciences, academic disciplines, and resource management professions affiliated with conservation biology have worked together to implement more effective means of protecting and managing biological diversity (Soulé, 1986).
The science of conservation biology has special relevance in the context of developing country needs. The implementation of conservation strategies in developing nations, particularly the establishment of biological reserves and parks, presents an opportunity to test the sustainability of conservation concepts and practices. Most of these originated in developed nations of the Temperate Zones, where human population pressures are much lighter than in the tropics, and where ecosystems are generally less diverse. Applying conservation technologies without first testing their effectiveness may yield results similar to those experienced when agricultural technologies developed in the Temperate Zone are transferred without modification to the tropics. Testing and comparing conservation methodologies may enable us to elucidate principles that can be more widely applied.
In a sense, the governments in developing nations are already performing large experiments with biological diversity, often with funding provided by international development and lending agencies. The building of a road or dam, the installation of an irrigation project, the implementation of a resettlement program, the expansion of agriculture, or the intensification of resource extraction—all are experi-
ments that affect the status of biological diversity. They are prevented from being research experiments in the true sense by the fact that data on the effects of the experimental treatments are not collected and analyzed systematically, and no controls are maintained for purposes of comparison. In many cases, research on biological diversity in the strictest sense could be advanced simply by requiring that development agencies conduct their experiments correctly. This problem, of course, also exists in developed nations: the type of long-range monitoring that would allow information about these activities to be applied to subsequent development projects is simply not supported or implemented adequately anywhere.
Given the number of species presently threatened with extinction due to habitat destruction, the lack of understanding of their basic biology, and the expense (in terms of money, energy, and constant human attention) involved in maintaining species outside their habitats, in situ conservation strategies are the most practical, cost effective, and dependable for the vast majority of organisms, particularly in the tropics. Establishing and maintaining protected natural areas are essential parts of the task. These must be planned and managed so as to embrace a maximal range of habitats and to create as effective a system as possible.
As a rule, on-site conservation works only where there is local commitment to it. This is especially important in developing nations, and effective conservation methodologies must be tailored to reflect this need. Development agencies, recognizing the importance of conserved areas as a source of future development options, have become involved in helping national governments and private voluntary organizations to establish and manage conservation areas. They have increased support for local involvement in the training of conservation and wildland managers, the formation of conservation strategies, the search for economic uses of conserved areas, and the development of substitutes for products now obtained from endangered species and habitats.
Providing an improved scientific basis for the conservation of species and habitats requires investigations into all aspects of their biology. For all species—but especially for those that are rare, threatened, or declining—research must illuminate their taxonomic status, genetic variation, life histories, population dynamics and ecology, distribution, habitat needs, and the effect of human activities on their circumstances. The impact of introduced species on biological diversity in many ecosystems, in particular island ecosystems, has been significant. In such cases, research should determine the role of these species and, if necessary, on possible ameliorative measures.
At the ecosystem level, research should focus on securing an
effective system of natural areas and reserves. Attention must be given to basic concepts in the design and establishment of reserves—the identification of ''hot spots,'' the size and configuration of protected areas, their coordination and linkage, the dynamics of natural disturbance regimes, and the effectiveness of buffer zones—and to the integration of these reserves with local communities and land use patterns. Research must synthesize these and other factors, taking into account the many scales—local, landscape, ecosystem, national, regional, and even global—at which conservation must operate to be successful.
Although ex situ methods are able to preserve genetic diversity only to a limited extent, these methods require increased research and emphasis. Research programs should include provisions to establish or strengthen systems of botanical gardens, zoos, stock culture centers, and captive propagation programs for the preservation of selected organisms that cannot survive in the wild. Ex situ methods are also highly important as part of an overall strategy to conserve wild and domesticated plant and animal genetic resources. Greater support is needed for the improvement of seed banks, crop collections, and other types of genetic reservoirs (NSB, 1989; NRC, 1991b, 1991c).
Research Priorities for Conservation Biology (Soulé and Kohm, 1989) is a complete guide to research needs in conservation biology, and is widely applicable to the challenges of conservation in developing countries. Other recommended documents are Research Priorities in Tropical Biology (NAS, 1980); Ecological Knowledge and Environmental Problem Solving: Concepts and Case Studies (NRC, 1986a); The Sustainable Biosphere Initiative: An Ecological Research Agenda (ESA, 1991); Funding Priorities for Research Towards Effective Sustainable Management of Biodiversity Resources in Tropical Asia (Ashton, 1989); and From Genes to Ecosystems: A Research Agenda for Biodiversity (Solbrig, 1991). Development agencies can provide an important service by making these documents more readily available to scientists, resource managers, agencies, and other institutions in developing countries.
Sustainable Use of Biological Resources
Research should be conducted on strategies for the sustainable use of biological diversity and for returning something of the value of biodiversity to developing countries.
Sustainable use implies that current human needs can be met without
degrading the resource base for future generations. Although many strategies for accomplishing this have been advanced, few have undergone scientific scrutiny. Substantive research results are needed to guide policymakers in choosing among these (NRC, 1991d; ESA, 1991).
Much of the emphasis in conservation has involved securing and managing protected areas of special concern, as discussed in the previous section. As critical as this is, conservation of biological diversity in developing (as well as developed) countries cannot be achieved through the establishment of protected areas alone. Conservation and management measures must apply to surrounding land uses as well. Strategies for sustainable use must complement protection efforts, and countries and localities that use biological resources on a sustainable basis need to benefit financially for their efforts.
The establishment of extractive reserves in tropical forests is one strategy that has recently attracted much attention. Such reserves are managed to provide access for local people to extract or harvest products in a nondestructive fashion. Recent studies have demonstrated dramatically the potential value of tropical forests for extraction activities (Peters et al., 1989). Extractive reserves, however, are limited in the extent to which they can provide an adequate livelihood for forest dwellers, since beyond a certain limit of market saturation extraction will drive the price and income down, and encourage substitutes or more intensive (and potentially harmful) production methods. Research is needed on the economics of this process to identify both its potential and its limits.
A second strategy with great potential is the so-called debt-for-nature arrangement, in which portions of the international debts owed by developing countries are purchased by intermediary groups—in practice, private conservation groups have served in this role—and exchanged for other equity, usually funds in the currency of the debtor government. Under these arrangements, debtor governments agree to devote land and funds to in-country conservation activities. In Ecuador, for example, the World Wide Fund for Nature helped to negotiate a debt purchase, the funds from which will be used to support park management and conservation education. Debt exchange is still a new tool for conservation, and will not by itself relieve either the debt crisis or the pressures on biodiversity. Nonetheless, it holds great potential, and biologists should work together with economists and policy experts to adapt and refine it.
In addition to such specific strategies, the conservation of biodiversity must also be pursued through the accelerated development and implementation of sustainable agroecosystems (NRC, 1991d). Biological diversity cannot be conserved effectively unless human demographic
pressures are addressed and alleviated—that is, unless people have enough food, income, and social stability to prevent overexploitation of resources and continual movement into less exploited areas (especially those of high biological richness). To meet these needs, all productive land uses must be modified and better coordinated at a landscape level so as to safeguard those biotically diverse features they retain. A variety of agroforestry and agropastoral systems, home gardens, modified forests, and other sustainable land use systems—many of them based on traditional management techniques—can be applied toward this end, and special emphasis should be given to their use on degraded and abandoned lands (see following section).
Determine the capacity of minimally disturbed forest to provide useful and valuable products on a sustained basis;
Develop the means to secure income for local people and communities through local processing, the protection of intellectual property rights, commercial agreements and investments, and incentives for the adoption of sustainable land uses.
Determine how the juxtaposition of intensively managed systems (agriculture and plantation forestry), lower intensity land use systems (e.g., agroforestry and home gardens), and neighboring forest reserves affects productivity and biological diversity within landscapes;
Determine the influence of natural areas on managed agroecosystems (through, for example, pollinators, pests, predators, parasites, and antagonists; nutrient-pumping associations; and moisture conservation and microclimatic effects); and
Determine how the productivity of degraded and abandoned lands can be enhanced and sustained so that pressure on remaining natural systems is reduced.
Restoring and Using Degraded Lands
Increased support should be given to research on the restoration and utilization of degraded lands and ecosystems in developing countries .
Heavy resource exploitation—deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, nutrient depletion, and salinization; pollution; overharvesting and mismanagement of fisheries; surface mining; disruption of hydrological systems; and indiscriminate wetland drainage and filling—has left landscapes and ecosystems in both developing and industrialized nations in a state of biological and social impoverishment. Efforts to
restore these areas of acute degradation, as well as partially damaged ecosystems, are essential if the cycle of environmental decline, nonsustainable land use, and socioeconomic instability is to be broken.
Until now, efforts to conserve biological diversity have concentrated primarily on inventory and classification, in situ and ex situ preservation, the exploration of indigenous knowledge, and the development of techniques and policies in support of sustainable use. These endeavors, as evidenced by the recommendations in this report, must continue and must expand. At the same time, the restoration of degraded lands and ecosystems should assume a more prominent position in the spectrum of conservation activities. Not only must the loss of biological diversity be arrested, but the damage must be repaired to the extent feasible (Cairns, 1988). Restoration allows us to see in degraded lands not just a past failure to conserve, but a future opportunity to conserve—to rebuild biological diversity for its own sake and for the benefit of the people whose livelihoods depend on it.
The application of restoration techniques provides many benefits. Restoration requires source pools and baseline information on ecosystem functions; this, in turn, is an additional and often overlooked rationale for the protection and long-term study of natural areas and ecological reserves. By recreating lost habitat, supplementing that which exists in protected areas, and serving as gene pool reservoirs, restoration efforts can provide directly for the conservation of biological diversity. Restored forests, pastures, range, arable soils, wetlands, and aquatic systems also provide critical environmental services by protecting soils, moderating hydrological processes, sequestering carbon dioxide (the principal greenhouse gas), catching sediments and pollutants, and serving as buffer zones (Jordan, 1988).
Restoration also yields important social and economic benefits. Returning systems to productivity will enhance the economic value of these systems as extractive reserves and for sustainable agriculture, agroforestry, forestry, fisheries, and livestock production while helping to relieve the pressure to exploit intact land. In addition, active programs of restoration offer opportunities for social services through the education, training, and employment of personnel necessary to implement them. These benefits will often accrue where they are most needed: in areas where resource degradation has not only depleted biological diversity but led to ingrained poverty and destabilized rural communities.
Research on restoration is especially important in the humid tropics, where degraded lands currently support few people and where restoration directly involves the preservation and enhancement of biological diversity and the encouragement of sustainable uses. It is estimated that more than one billion hectares of degraded lands have accumulated
in tropical countries over the last several decades, and that about 700 million hectares are in need of reforestation (Grainger, 1988). These lands can potentially be used for agriculture, agroforestry, plantation forestry, sustainable livestock production, human settlements, and other managed land uses. At present, however, most of these lands lie degraded, regenerating as conditions permit but usually producing little benefit to man.
In addition to reducing the pressures on the remaining tropical forest, bringing degraded lands back to production would very likely supply all the food, fiber, clothing, shelter, and fuel needs of all the people in the tropics who presently must resort to deforestation. Reforestation can also play an important role in slowing the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a contribution that would be further augmented if new forests were managed to provide renewable energy sources as substitutes for fossil fuels (Houghton et al., 1990). Given the current rate of population increase, these areas must eventually be restored to some level of sustainable use. It makes sense, therefore, to concentrate efforts on tropical forest restoration as a matter of urgency.
Restoration research, though practiced on a small scale for a number of years in some developed nations, is a relatively new field of investigation in developing countries (Jordan et al., 1987; NRC, 1989). Currently, only a limited theoretical foundation can be applied in site restoration, and there are very few cases in which these theories have actually been tested (e.g., Janzen, 1988; Uhl, 1988; Uhl et al., 1990; Nepstad et al., 1991). As critical as it is to implement restoration in tropical forest regions, these efforts should be extended to other areas and systems in developing countries, including wetlands, riparian zones, hill lands outside the tropics, coral reefs, rangelands and grasslands, areas affected by salinization, and areas affected by mines and other industrial developments.
Development agencies must play a larger role in encouraging these efforts and applying restoration techniques more widely. As knowledge builds with experience, it will become possible to derive generalized principles of restoration ecology and management, including identification of the constraints on and opportunities for restoration under different ecological conditions and circumstances; the purposes and benefits of different restoration "regimes"; the impact of site size on potential restoration strategies; and the coordination of restoration with other conservation activities.
Unfortunately, there is ample space in which to experiment. At this time, it is important to encourage experimentation by supporting research and demonstration projects across a range of ecosystems in a variety of social and cultural settings. As of now, there are few institutions or professionals with the necessary expertise in restoration.
In the long run, however, the training of scientists and technicians in developing countries must be a significant component of restoration programs.
Study the impacts of different prior landuses on restoration potential, identifying the principal factors that affect restoration in different systems.
Establish thresholds beyond which ecosystem recovery from anthropogenic disturbance will not occur.
Study and compare natural and anthropogenic disturbance regimes in ecosystems, and succession and recovery processes (both natural and manipulated) in degraded sites.
Compare the rate of ecosystem recovery when different mixes of species are used for site restoration (e.g., trees; trees and shrubs; or trees, shrubs, and herbs).
Study and compare the impacts of introduced exotic species under controlled conditions to prevent their escape before the potentially detrimental effects of their use in restoration are understood.
Establish the site requirements for the reintroduction of specific forest species with high forestry and fuelwood potential.
Compare the physical and biological properties of disturbed areas where trees are reestablishing and where they have not reestablished; identify causal factors (in particular, the influence of soil biota) and evaluate different species for their ability to revegetate disturbed areas;
Identify the social and economic constraints on, and opportunities for, restoration work in different systems; compare the environmental, economic, and social implications of restoration through different agroforestry and annual cropping systems.
To be most useful, scientific information on the extent, status, value, use, and preservation of biological diversity must be coordinated, accessible, and applicable. This is especially important in developing nations, where inadequate infrastructure, information technologies, and networks can be primary constraints on research and effective conservation activities. Because of their extensive experience and institutional structures, international development agencies can play a vital role in overcoming these constraints. As they do, it is important
to remember that the channels of communication for information on biological diversity must remain open. Information must both be made available to and draw on the work of scientists, resource agencies, national institutions, and nongovernmental organizations in developing countries.
In the decade since the publication of the NAS (1980) report Research Priorities in Tropical Biology, the rapid evolution and increasing availability of information technologies, in particular personal computers and geographical information systems, have revolutionized our ability to organize and analyze information. This has significant implications for the conduct and application of biodiversity-related research. Information networks, in particular, not only allow in-country researchers to take advantage of the work of other scientists but give them a greater sense of purpose and a broader understanding of the context in which they are working. This knowledge is especially important to scientists working in the same region (such as the Amazon basin), in similar systems from different regions (such as tropical rain forests), and on elements that move between regions (such as neotropical migrants).
Scientific information need not be disseminated through the highest technology to be of significant use. A modest field guide or parataxonomist training manual, properly designed and distributed, may be more effective in terms of real needs and real results than a new computer program or satellite image. Determining and coordinating local, national, and regional information needs represent major challenges for development agencies. Several of the most significant information needs—computer inventories, identification and classification programs, remote sensing capability—have been mentioned in the context of previous recommendations.
To enhance the availability and application of scientific information for the purposes of managing and conserving biological diversity, the following actions are needed.
Computer Data Bases and Inventories
Resources should be devoted to the development of computer data bases, inventories, and information networks for the collection and collation of information. Support should be given to the improvement of interinstitutional coordination, system design, and operational administration through the establishment of national biological institutes or equivalent centers.
As conservation faces greater competition for resources, the need for coordination and shared information to prevent duplication of efforts becomes paramount. To select and design new reserves,
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:
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;
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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,
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,
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,
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.
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.