INFRASTRUCTURE FOR SUSTAINING BIODIVERSITYSCIENCE.
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Science and the Public Trust in a Full World:
Function and Dysfunction in Science and the Biosphere
The ecological symptoms of unsustainability include shrinking forests, thinning soils, falling aquifers, collapsing fisheries, expanding deserts, and rising global temperatures. The economic symptoms include economic decline, falling incomes, rising unemployment, price instability and loss of investor confidence. The political and social symptoms include hunger and malnutrition, and, in extreme cases, mass starvation; environmental and economic refugees; social conflicts along ethnic, tribal, and religious lines; and riots and insurgencies. As stresses build on political systems, governments weaken, losing their capacity to govern and to provide basic services, such as police protection. At this point the nation-state disintegrates, replaced by a feudal social structure governed by local warlords as in Somalia, now a nation-state in name only.
Lester R. Brown, 1995
The Transition from Empty to Full
That grim prospect from Lester Brown summarizes lucidly the course of the current civilization in the eyes of pragmatic ecologists who deal daily with the dependence of the human undertaking on the long-sustained biotic functions of the earth. It has little to do with “biotic diversity” and much to do with the erosion of the capacity of the biotic systems of the earth to continue to support a vigorous, successful, and continuing civilization. The phenomenal technological and economic successes of the current moment mask the elementary fact of the
dependence of all life on a habitat of diminishing dimensions. It is the current diminution of the biosphere that is the subject of this forum and this paper.
Herman Daly, the economic philosopher, has observed that the world has made a transition from “empty” to “full” and that the rules for success in management of human affairs have changed (Daly 1993). No longer are resources large in proportion to demands; the easy compromises available among competing interests in an empty world are of the past. The transition is recent, the product of the decades since 1960 as the human population has doubled once again and technology has offered an even more comprehensive capacity for turning the earth to human succor. The intensification of use of the whole earth comes to focus in a series of problems with biotic resources, although the immediate issues might appear to be energy, such as oil in the coastal zone, or the disposal of wastes, or the commitment of land to roads or to shopping malls or to industrial uses. The critical issue in each instance is a threat to one or more biotic resources, including food, human health, and the normally biotically controlled function of the biosphere.
Science has a special role in defining what will work in a biophysical sense in this new world, in which intensification of use will continue but in which each use must be held within dimensions of resources that are in fact diminished by the current use. The sum of these local activities is the world as a whole, the biosphere. Suddenly, in recent decades, within this century, incremental local disruptions of normal biotic functions are accumulating as global disruptions. The transition presents a major political challenge to governmental systems that were developed when resources seemed globally abundant and opens a new realm for the definition of civil rights. In a democracy, we establish government to protect each from all and all from each. What are the dimensions of protection as challenges to the human habitat become more acute and effects of local actions accumulate as global disruptions or impoverishment? The issue of how the world works and how it can be kept working in the largest interest of the public becomes central. The question is biophysical first and only secondarily economic and political, but success in the evolution of all three realms is essential. Science in general and ecology in particular have responsibility in joining in the definition of human rights in this new worldrights to clean air, clean water, food that is free of poison, a wholesome habitat that is not drifting into biotic impoverishment, and a world that is not itself being steadily impoverished biotically. What is clean air? Clean water? A stable and healthful habitat? What are essential human rights in a full world? What is it that we form governments to do for us all? And who will define that task and hold governments to it?
The Evidence that the Earth is Full is Global Biotic Instability
The most powerful evidence of the transition to a world that is full, as opposed to empty, is the series of global transitions under way now. The most important are the warming of the earth and the progressive reductions in the capacity of the earth for supporting life: biotic impoverishment. The two are mutually
reinforcing. The accumulation of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere is the cause of the warming. The accumulation is due in part to the destruction of forests. A rapid warming has the potential for speeding the destruction of forests and accelerating the warming (Houghton and others 1998; Woodwell 1995; Woodwell and others 1998). The two processes are also open-ended, actively developing, directly threatening to human welfare, and, at the moment, not addressed effectively by any government or society despite various agreements to act. We have squandered trillions of dollars in the second half of this century on the mere possibility that the mismanagement of international affairs might lead to a nuclear war that could reduce the earth to a cinder in a few hours. We are currently engaged in vicious arguments over whether it is worth any effort to deflect the global changes that are in fact bringing increments of global impoverishment that move the world toward the same end, only more slowly. The difficulty is in part that the increments of change are small to the point of being inconspicuous to ordinary people; they are obscure for the moment but have the potential intrinsic in exponential growth for emerging suddenly as overwhelming problems that might, at that moment, have surged beyond control. The difficulty is also that action requires a reduction in the use of fossil fuels, a step that is unpopular with politically powerful commercial interests around the world.
The fact is that all interests, commercial and public, will suffer in a world afflicted by the chronic and rapid climatic disruptions already inevitable as a result of past accumulations of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. The changes entail cumulative and progressive increments of biotic impoverishment. Although the increments might be obscure minute by minute and are further obscured generation by generation as each generation starts with a baseline that is already eroded, the effects ultimately become conspicuous as erosion of the human habitat.
The rate of the warming offers one criterion for appraising the global rate of disruption. The warming has proceeded at a global average over recent decades of 0.1–0.2°C per decade. It is expected to proceed at that rate or higher throughout at least the next century. It has proceeded and will continue to proceed at 2–3 times that average rate in the higher latitudes, according to both experience and the most widely accepted projections (Houghton and others 1996). While the global warming was about 0.5°C between 1895 and 1990, the average for Canada as a whole was about 1.0°C and, for the Mackenzie District of northwestern Canada, about 1.7°C (Gullet and Skinner 1992). We might inquire as to the historical rates over recent millennia to establish a basis for judgment of how the biosphere was functioning before massive intrusions by humans. Even during the glacial periods, the rates of temperature change globally appear to have been closer to 0.1°C per century than per decade. Such a rate is consistent with the time required for the regeneration of forests and fish populations that must establish themselves in new habitats and consistent with adjustments in migratory patterns of animals.
The greatest hazard associated with the warming may be the systematic and rapid impoverishment of forests and tundra of higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere in response to the speed of the warming with the release of large
additional quantities of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere (Woodwell and others 1995). Insurance against such an eventa disaster in any appraisalwould argue for intensive efforts now to stabilize, or even to reduce, the current burden of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. The effects go far beyond forests to involve virtually every use of land, including agriculture, aggravating well-known problems there by introducing continuous changes in patterns of precipitation and temperature globally.
If there is doubt as to the details of the effects, examples of the extremes of impoverishment are abundant. Locally, they appear as the salinized playas of agricultural India that support no agriculture or higher plants or as land eroded to rock by the effects of the combination of intensive agriculture, intensive grazing, and erosion under monsoonal rains, a baking sun, and winds. Government experts in India a few years ago acknowledged that one-third of the land area had been removed from agriculture into impoverishment by those processes and other human uses. Such land has little or no value and is not normally incorporated into national statistics or economic appraisals, but the transition from forest through various forms of agriculture to impoverishment is probably the greatest current land-use transition (Houghton 1997). It is already affecting human food supplies, as summarized so brilliantly over recent decades by Lester Brown (1997). Irrigation from the earliest times, including the civilizations of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, has resulted in salinization and the destruction of agricultural productivity and contributed to the demise of successive waves of civilization (Fagan 1999). The process continues, and the effects are accumulating and are all too often irreversible.
The Starting Point for a World that Works
The causes of biotic impoverishment include virtually any chronic disturbance, from mechanical and physical to chemical and biotic (Woodwell 1990). The effects are similar in all instances. But the question of where to start the measurement of incremental change remains. It is one of the classical questions in ecology, similar to “What is undisturbed?” and “What is climax?” The analysis is useful, but a definitive answer is hardly necessary. Our interest is pragmatic, immediate: we might identify it as the “integrity of biotic function”, thereby setting forth a new goal, whose identification, measurement, and defense become major challenges to science. In so doing, we acknowledge that we know more about the conditions necessary to keep biotic functions substantially intact than we know about the functions themselves. And it is possible that we will know how to tell in a simple, comprehensive way the extent to which we are successful in protecting details of the human habitat. Most of all we need a simple, quantitative basis for appraising increments of impoverishment.
Measurements of Impoverishment
The most systematic approach to definition, where the degree of disturbance could be measured directly and objectively, has come from experimental studies
of systematic disturbance. One of the most revealing studies involved the effects of chronic exposure to ionizing radiation on a late successional oak-pine forest in central Long Island, New York (Woodwell and Houghton 1990). In that instance, perhaps surprisingly, a virtually perfect physiognomic gradient in size and structural complexity was produced in both the residual community and the successional community that developed later. The most sensitive species was the pine Pinus rigida, which was removed from the intact oak-pine forest at exposures that were low enough to have little or no effect on the oaks or other species. At slightly higher exposures, the oaks, with the exception of the scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia), were eliminated. The scrub oak, a high shrub, was eliminated at slightly lower exposures than the shrub cover of Vacciniaceae. Within the shrubs, the taller-statured huckleberry (Vaccinium baccata) was more sensitive than the ground-hugging lowbush blueberry (V. pennsylvanicum). The pattern of greater resistance in low-growing, ground-hugging species persisted within the herbaceous plant community and extended to mosses, lichens, and soil fungi. The less the stature, the more resistant to disturbance. The response left certain mosses and lichens to the inner zones where the radiation exposures were higher and certain soil fungi to the innermost zone from which even the most resistant lichens were excluded. The gradient was spectacular and obvious, although there was no basis in earlier studies for the assumption that chronic exposure to ionizing radiation would produce anything approaching a systematic community-level response.
The results, however, were startling in their similarity to familiar gradients of structure in vegetation produced by gradients of stress elsewhere, including chronic disturbance. The immediately obvious parallel was with the transition from forest to tundra, which is compressed on mountains in New England to a few thousand feet of elevation and involves some of the same species and most of the same genera. The same pattern of structural change emerged from later studies of gradients of pollution downwind of smelters (Woodwell and Houghton 1990). Again, the list of species emerges as the most informative data on the status of the community.
If we use the experience gleaned from those gradients, we can establish a scale against which to test other transitions and on which to hang new data as they accumulate. I have pooled my own experience with the effects of ionizing radiation and other chronic disturbances, such as pollution from smelters, with F.H. Bormann's (1990) experience and observations of the effects of air pollution, including acid rain, to prepare a tabular scale showing the steps in impoverishment of forests (table 1).
Bormann came to the conclusion that most of the forests of eastern North America are being affected now by air pollution in various forms and that the effects include not only a reduction in the growth of trees, but also an increase in mortality over large areas. These transitions are in the range of stages IIB, the open-canopy stage, and IIIA-3, the herb stage of treeless savanna, in the classification of damage outlined in table 1. There is little question that the death of red spruce (Picea rubens) on the western slopes of the Appalachians is due to acid rain and air pollution. Succession is under way (the second sorting), and the impoverishment has not yet progressed to the cryptogam or erosion stage, but
continued chronic disturbance in those zones has the potential for producing these stages as well.
Similar effects are now accumulating in the much more diverse mixed mesophytic forests of the Appalachian plateau to the west (Little 1995). The region would be described in the scale of table 1 as now in stage IIB, the open-canopy stage.
Bormann (1990) also reported the results of research with special chambers designed to measure the growth of trees fed with ambient air and with air treated only by filtration through charcoal. The experiment was carried out in eastern New York in the Hudson Valley and showed that the filtering increased the growth ofpopulus saplings by 15–20%. The implication is that in rural New York in a region that probably has air similar to much of the rest of eastern North America, there is an air-caused inhibition of growth of around 15–20% that does not produce conspicuous symptoms of damage to leaves or other plant parts. The implications are profound: a 15–20% reduction in the amount of energy fixed by forests over very large areas. Similar studies of agricultural crops have shown similar inhibition of growth (Heck and others 1982). The reduction in total energy available to support life in this region is prodigious. By this criterion, the forests of eastern North America, presumably over large areas, are in the stages described in table 1 as I, stressed, and IIA, symptomatic stress.
A somewhat different series of changes in Alaskan forests is being reported by Juday (1997) and Stevens (1997) in response to the warming of Alaska as permafrost melts and destroys roads and as insect pests of forest trees appear and linger in places heretofore protected by climate. The process has long been expected and can only be amplified as the warming proceeds (Univ. of Alaska 1983).
One of the greatest natural tragedies of the century occurred in the tropical moist forests of the Amazon Basin and Kalimantan, the southern two-thirds of the island of Borneo, in 1997–1998. Both regions suffered from an unprecedented drought as a result of the strongest El Niño yet experienced. The El Niño involves a warming of the surface waters of the central and eastern Pacific and global climatic changes that include the severe droughts in the normally moist regions of the southwest Pacific and central South America. Both regions have forests that are being heavily cut, opening the forests to further drying and susceptibility to fires. Both regions are also being settled by governmental programs that open the land to those displaced from industrialized agriculture elsewhere or from overpopulated urban areas. Sources of ignition are abundant, and thousands of acres burned in 1997–1998, covering both regions with smoke so dense that breathing was difficult and airports were closed for days to weeks at a time. A major airplane crash and a collision of ships were attributed to the smoke from Kalimantan, which was dense from Celebes to Singapore. The effect was the substantial destruction of the forests in both places, well within the range of stage IIIA, the savanna stage, in our scale, probably reaching IIIA3, the herb stage of treeless savanna, in extensive areas.
Coastal marine waters are subject to similar impoverishment, although the changes are less conspicuous.
The Public Interest in a Full World:
Human Rights Require Definition by Science
Recognition that the continuation of current trends in human use of the earth is leading to progressive biotic impoverishment raises basic questions of the role of governments and the recognition and protection of human rights. Again, a focus on the biophysical aspects helps to clarify the social, economic, and political objectives. If the biophysical objective becomes the protection of biotic functions in maintaining the global and local environment, we should have little difficulty in defining the qualities of air, water, and land required to protect those functions. The biota will run itself and perform the functions without human guidance, but the conditions under which the biota can run itself without chronic disruption and systemic impoverishment must be defined and maintained. Success requires that the public recognize an overwhelming human interest in the protection of the biosphere as the only human habitat.
The challenges to science are large: What does it take to keep the biosphere functioning with substantial stability decade by decade when human populations are increasing and human effectiveness in capturing resources for human use increases daily? How much forest does it take to defend the public's interests in a stable and wholesome landscape, in a stable global carbon budget, in water flows that support the diversity of resources that have evolved over time in each region, and in water quality that is also consistent with stability of the landscape? Such questions challenge virtually all conventional approaches to the environment and to economics and government, but they are scientific and technical issues first and political and economic issues only secondarily. They are, however, the focus of increasing interest in basic human rights in a democracy, as outlined in detail recently for forests by Ann Hooker (1994) in a discussion of the public's interests in forests.
The answers will address the need for defining how land and water are to be used in this world of intensified demands. Answers will involve zoning of land and water in a pattern already becoming clear as attempts are made to preserve coastal fisheries in the United States. The establishment of the system of “marine sanctuaries” ringing the nation offers one of the most progressive steps in acknowledging the absolute need for defining the steps required to keep biotic resources functioning and available in the long term. The program is embryonic and only feebly supported by the public and by government, but it is an essential step that requires intensive scientific support now to determine what will work in restoring the coastal zone. Much is known, but much remains to be learned, especially at the regional level in determining how to provide for both the protection of the zone and its use in the production of indigenous fisheries.
A similar challenge exists on the land starting from both the bottom and the top. The global challenge is conspicuous as climatic disruption at the moment. But the global challenge is also in restoration of normalcy in the global cycles of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur, for example. The local challenge might be conspicuous in the need for restoring whole landscapes in Haiti; India; West Africa; Madagascar; Sudbury, Ontario; and Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. But it, too, is global in that
no corner of the earth is unaffected by human disruptions that are having biotic consequences and causing increments of erosion measurable on the scalar system of table 1, shown graphically in figure 1.
The stage is set for a rejuvenation of science in definition and defense of the broad public interest in the preservation of a habitable earth. It should come not through an endangered species act or an emphasis on an inchoate interest in biodiversity, but through emphasis on the preservation of the biotic functions locally that keep the water clean, the air clean, and the landscape intact.
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The Response of the International Scientific Community to the Challenge of Biodiversity
Biologists became increasingly alarmed at the loss of biodiversity during the 1970s and 1980s. The issue was treated mainly at the national level at that time and was primarily the concern of conservationists rather than scientists. The prospect of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, encompassing such issues and raising them to treaty status, found the international scientific community ill prepared.
Nevertheless, before the summit, the international scientific community had taken some action to identify the scientific issues requiring action. For example, the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) and the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) held a workshop on the ecosystem function of biological diversity in Washington, DC, in 1989 (DiCastri and Youngè 1990), which identified possible subjects for study and was adopted as the framework of an international program of biodiversity science, named DIVERSITAS in 1992. The World Conservation Union (IUCN), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Resources Institute (WRI) had been most progressive in holding a series of regional consultations and workshops in developing a global biodiversity strategy (WRI and others 1992) containing a daunting 85 recommended actions. Finally, the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) organized ASCEND 21 in Vienna in 1991 to develop an agenda for science and development in the next century (Doodge and others 1992). ASCEND 21 not only reviewed problems of environment and development, scientific understanding of the Earth system, and responses and strategies, and made eight recommendations for action where focused on
additional research required, but also recognized the need for the scientific community to strengthen links with development agencies and other organizations charged with addressing environmental problems.
Science was full of expectations at the time. Issues of concern to scientists were on the agenda of ministers at a level that scarcely could have been dreamed of even in the middle 1980s. The anticipation was that key scientific questions and other issues related to the magnitude and description of biodiversity and its significance at the ecosystem level were to be addressed. Scientific questions transcend and do not recognize national boundaries; indeed, that is one of the beauties of science. They also can require concerted international efforts and resources for their elucidation. In this paper, I examine the extent to which the aspirations of the scientific community have been met, with particular reference to major international biodiversity initiatives.
The Convention on Biological Biodiversity
The Convention on Biological Diversity (UNEP 1992), now ratified by 175 governments, is concerned with the sustainable use of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of benefits arising from it. For what is essentially a political treaty, the Convention contains a surprising number of articles related to scientific issues or requiring a scientific base for their implementation. These include articles related to inventorying and monitoring, in situ and ex situ conservation, research and training, public awareness, assessment and minimization of adverse effects, technology transfer, and technical and scientific cooperation.
The implementation and work plans of the Convention are discussed by government delegations and observers at conferences of the parties (COPs), which have met almost annually since the convention came into effect in 1994. Also, a Subsidiary Body for Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice (SBSTTA), which has met annually since 1995, considers matters referred to it after each COP. Topics discussed to date have included agrobiodiversity, a clearinghouse mechanism for information exchange, marine and coastal biodiversity, freshwater ecosystems, forest biodiversity, indicators, monitoring and assessment, and taxonomic capacity-building.
The current financial mechanism for implementing the Convention is the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Most of the funds it supplies support the incremental cost of projects within less-developed signatory countries, although some regional projects and a few enabling activities unrelated to a country have been supported. The effectiveness of the GEF is a continuing cause of concern to the parties to the Convention.
Progress in implementation has been slow, an overriding view that emerged from Earth Summit + 5, which was convened by the United Nations in New York City in June 1997. Many of the issues highlighted as continuing concerns depend on the biological sciences for progress: the preservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in freshwater, oceans and forests, and progress toward sustainable agriculture.
A major development linking the Convention to the scientific community was the signing of a memorandum of understanding with DIVERSITAS (see below) in November 1997. As a result, a meeting of experts was convened in Mexico City in March 1998 to prepare recommendations on scientific research that should be undertaken for the effective implementation of the Convention. The report was welcomed by the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention in Bratislava in May 1998 and referred to the next meeting of SBSTTA, to be held in Montreal in June 1999, for further consideration. The Bratislava meeting was also important in agreeing on the need to develop a Global Taxonomy Initiative.
Global Biodiversity Assessment.
The first major global scientific project in support of the Convention was the Global Biodiversity Assessment (GBA) (Heywood 1995). This work aimed to provide an extensively peer-reviewed assessment of our current state of knowledge on all aspects of biodiversity. The project was initiated by UNEP. The steering group first met in Trondheim in May 1993, funding details were finally agreed on early in 1994, and the 1,140-page volume was published in November 1995. The GBA was an extensively reviewed assessment of the known, so it was not appropriate for it to make recommendations, which is not always appreciated. However, it did tackle thorny questions such as the numbers of known and estimated species, extinction rates, and the ecosystems at greatest risk.
The statistics related to the GBA are impressive: The exercise involved 16 steering-group members, 26 section coordinators, five major workshops and review meetings, five editorial-group meetings, three section workshops, 385 contributors, and 536 peer reviewersoverall, 1,003 scientists (not allowing for those acting in more than one capacity). The project was made possible through a US $3.1 million award from the GEF. Although at first this might appear excessive, the true cost has been estimated to be about 6 times that figure in a GEF-commissioned independent review of the project.
The successful realization of such a major work by the world's scientists in so short a time demonstrates unequivocally that if the resources are available, scientists are prepared to change their itineraries and commit to deliver the required product.
The DIVERSITAS program is the major international response to the scientific challenges of the Convention. Conceived at the Workshop on Ecosystem Function and Biological Diversity held by IUBS and SCOPE in Washington in 1989 and named DIVERSITAS in 1992, it had as parents SCOPE, the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and IUBS. The conceptual frameworks and agendas for various aspects of biodiversity research being developed under the program attracted increasing interest, and the sponsoring organizations now include ICSU, International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS), International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP), Global Change
and Terrestrial Ecosystems (GCTE), and IUCN. ICSU is now the lead body on the scientific organizational front, and substantial financial support has been received for the secretariat from UNESCO. The steering committee is currently chaired by José Sarukhán. Through the links of the biological unions to the various international specialist scientific organizations (for example, the 83 scientific members of IUBS), DIVERSITAS has the potential to obtain input from an enormous treasure-house of expertise and to bring together biologists who rarely see or communicate with those in related disciplines, and who even might speak in different languages or “biobabble” (Lovelock 1995). One important achievement of both DIVERSITAS and the Gaia-hypothesis debates has been to bring together scientists from disparate fields and to focus them on common problems. The resulting synergism is not only stimulating and intellectually challenging, but also facilitates the holistic approaches demanded by considerations of both the conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity and global ecology.
DIVERSITAS is divided into five core programs and five special target areas for research, or STARs (figure 1). These are all interlinked and related to a
consideration of the human dimension. The core programs focus on the effect of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning; the origins and maintenance of and change in biodiversity; systematics, inventorying, and classification; monitoring of biodiversity; and conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of biodiversity. The STARs, selected because they were judged to be particularly neglected topics of crucial importance to our overall understanding of biodiversity, are devoted to soil and sediment biodiversity, marine biodiversity, microbial biodiversity, and freshwater biodiversity.
For example, in the case of soil, although we know something about the functional interconnections of the groups of organisms present, we are almost totally ignorant of the numbers of species of bacteria, fungi, and nematodes, in particular, that are involved in specific ecological processes. Even the techniques that exist for examining soil biodiversity are not standardized, and a first step in this STAR was to prepare an authoritative synopsis of the methods now in use (Hall 1995).
Although DIVERSITAS is still in the process of developing action plans and seeking funding for the core programs and STARs, substantial progress has been made in several. In 1991, the IUBS-IUMS Committee on Microbial Biodiversity, the implementing body for the microbial biodiversity STAR, recommended the development of a Biodiversity Information Network. Later named BIN21 and expanded to all aspects of biodiversity, this now operates from the Fundação de Pesquisas e Tecnologia André Tosello in Campinas, Brazil, and is used extensively (Canhos and others 1994).
The importance of wild relatives of domesticated organisms was recognized from the outset as an issue that needed to be addressed. The importance of this subject has been confirmed by the development by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of a global plan of action for plant genetic resources (FAO 1996). As a component of its conservation core program, DIVERSITAS is contributing to plans for implementing that action plan.
SPECIES 2000, an element of the systematics, inventorying, and classification core program, originally launched by IUBS and cosponsored by the Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) and IUMS, has been supported by both UNEP and the Convention. This project aims to index the world's species by the establishment of a federation of interlinked global master species databases and a comprehensive name-finder tool (Bisby and Smith 1996; figure 2). The formation of a federation between key organizations that have data pertinent to the mission of SPECIES 2000 has been impressive. A pilot system is already operational on the World Wide Web, and now funding is needed to build authoritative databases for the groups of organisms that lack them.
Establishing a firm basis for communication necessitates both a system like that being developed for SPECIES 2000 and a more stable protocol than currently used for the scientific naming of organisms. This is clearly a responsibility of international science, and to this end, IUBS and IUMS are collaborating in the production of proposals for a unified BioCode to regulate the names of all organisms from a date to be agreed on (Greuter and others 1998; Hawksworth
1995). The IUBS General Assembly in Taipei in November 1997 has recommended this for consideration; the bodies concerned with the different codes were urged to also incorporate elements of it into existing codes.
A prerequisite to address our ignorance of perhaps 80% of the species with which we share the planet is a sufficiency of scientists who are able to recognize the known and describe the newly discovered. A shortage of biosystematic skills is inhibiting the ability of nations to implement the Convention, as recognized in the decision of COP3 in Buenos Aires in 1996 to support a global taxonomy initiative. The shortage of biosystematists has been a concern of biologists for more than 50 years. Data in the GBA show that only 6,989 biosystematists published new scientific names in 1992 (Heywood 1995). The Systematics Agenda 2000/International component of the systematics core program of DIVERSITAS is developing plans to address these gaps in knowledge and skills, and progress is reported by Joel Cracraft (this volume).
The need to implement a Global Taxonomy Initiative was endorsed again at COP4 in 1998 (see above), which considered the Darwin Declaration drawn up by representatives of various systematic institutions and organizations in Darwin, Australia, in February 1998. DIVERSITAS, in conjunction with Environment Australia and the GEF, then met at the Linnean Society in London in September 1998 to consider how to develop this initiative (Australian Biological Resources Study 1998). Later meetings organized by DIVERSITAS and Systematics Agenda 200/International in New York in September 1998 and by DIVERSITAS in Paris in February 1999 assessed needs and ways of defining priorities and making recommendations for consideration by SBSTTA in June 1999. This is a most welcome development involving scientists as partners in developing guidelines for actions to be taken by governments and supported by international agencies, such as the GEF.
Also pertinent to the shortage of biosystematics capability is a complementary intergovernment initiative, BioNET-INTERNATIONAL (BI). Launched in 1993 and facilitated by CAB INTERNATIONAL, BI is a strategy for enabling developing countries to establish and sustain realistic self-reliance in biosystematics (Jones 1997). The seed was sown at the Golden Jubilee of the Systematics Association in 1987 (Haskell and Morgan 1988). BI is organized into a series of seven regional locally organized and operated partnerships (LOOPs; figure 3). The LOOPs are established with the support of the governments involved and develop agendas and work programs appropriate to their needs. The focus is on the species-rich groups that are least understood, notably arthropods, fungi, and nematodes. The LOOPs are supported by networks of institutions in developed countries that commission the work. The Technical Secretariat of BI supports the establishment of LOOPs and assists in obtaining donor funding for the implementation of their programs. BI has been successful in securing funds from a wide array of donors, including the Swiss Development Corporation, the UK Department for International Development, UN Development Programme (UNDP), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technick Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), and the Centre for Technical and Rural Co-operation.
This paper has been eclectic in focusing primarily on two major international initiatives. My intention was not to denigrate in any way the remarkable work of such bodies as the IUCN, the World Conservation and Monitoring Centre, WRI, and the UN agencies. My purpose has been threefold: to show something of what can be achieved if the resources are available, to discuss the vision of scientists who are concerned with organizing a major thrust to address issues of biodiversity, and to consider the challenges that must be faced in transforming this vision into reality.
Pleading does not work with funding agencies, especially if we seem to ask for funds to do what we have always done and enjoy doing. Agendas must mesh, as they did with the GBA, and do with BioNET-INTERNATIONAL and the Global Taxonomy Initiative. Neither is it a matter of being just a salesperson. Arriving at donors' doors with our wares to sell and expecting them to open their checkbookseven if we believe that what we have to offer is in danger of being lostdoes not work.
We need new skills and approaches. Major funding is always linked to political agendas, and it is those we must influence at the formative stage. McNeely (1995) has encapsulated the requirements to be met at the political level. We also need to learn how to talk to politicians. Scientists are cautious by nature, tending to present tentative results that always seem to call for further research, but politicians want answers as quickly as possible.
We must avoid what is viewed as a “green maze” between science and politics: when there are conflicting opinions, the reaction of politicians and donors is to leave well enough alone. In August 1997, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt told the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America that in the case of climate change, although there was a scientific consensus, there was not a public consensus (Macilwain 1997). A key virtue of the assessment approach, as seen in the GBA, is to present a scientific consensus view of what we know. This approach is being translated into a consensus of what biodiversity science should be doing in the DIVERSITAS model, but if these thrusts are to realize the required level of support, they need to take the wider public along too.
A credibility gap also has to be filled. Scientists involved in field studies of organisms have always been a source of amusement to cartoonists, and the scientist stereotypes portrayed in current television and cinema productions do not help. We need to meet this challenge of credibility by presenting ourselves as being capable of helping politicians implement their agendas. This is an issue for individual, as well as collective, action. As individual scientists, we must take time out from the pursuit of knowledge to be public-relations workers from the local to the national and international levels.
At the international level, ICSU has a key role to play in the elevation of science in the political arena. Now the primary nongovernment sponsor of DIVERSITAS, ICSU is composed of the various international scientific unions and national academies of sciences and their equivalents. It has the potential to be perceived as the voice of world science, and it merits recognition and
representation at the highest political levels whenever scientific issues and priorities are under debate. ICSU is undergoing a review of its structure and role, in which raising profile and credibility must be seen as key matters for the future health of scientific endeavors.
We scientists also must be prepared to act in concert now. It is no good to say that we will get organized tomorrow. The window of opportunity to secure major international funding in some parts of biodiversity science might already be closing. A worthwhile reflection is that it took 7 years to provide DIVERSITAS with a secretariat that could begin serious consensus-building on the scientific tasks required.
In this article, I have endeavored to show by example how the international scientific community is responding to the challenge of biodiversity. We have seen what can be achieved through coordinated and adequately funded efforts in the GBA, and now we have a vision of what subjects need to be addressed through DIVERSITAS. The challenge is to put energy into working at the political and donor levels if we are ever to transform scientific potential into realityresults required by and delivered to others.
I am indebted to Colleen Skule-Adam and Patricia Taylor for comments on an earlier draft.
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The Millennium Seed Bank at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
In response to the increasing rate of extinction of plant species (Ehrlich and Ehrlich 1981; Prance and Elias 1977), the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, decided in 1972 to begin seed-banking and research on seed conservation. Accordingly, the seed bank was set up at our second garden in the country at Wakehurst Place in Sussex, a safe location removed from a major urban area, not under the flight path of Heathrow Airport, and at an altitude of 200 m, well above sea level. Although we regard in situ conservation as the ideal, the world will certainly lose many species if we do not promote ex situ methods as well.
Seed banks are one of the most effective and economical means of conserving plant species where habitats are under threat (Miller and others 1995). In the last 2 decades, the current Kew Seed Bank has undertaken collaborative collecting expeditions in over 20 countries, and collecting activity has increased substantially over the last few years. These efforts have made the Kew Seed Bank the largest and most diverse bank that is devoted to wild plants and is run according to internationally approved standards. However, because financial resources are sparse, the bank collection still represents less than 2% of the world's flowering-plant flora. Viewed against the background of a rapidly increasing loss of biodiversity, that prompted us to investigate the possibility of increasing even more the rate of seed conservation and seed-banking undertaken by Kew.
In 1994, aided by a consultant, Sir Jeffery Bowman, we carried out a detailed study of the worldwide situation. Our survey indicated that there was very little
coverage of noncrop plants in seed banks and minimal research into optimal collection, processing, and storage procedures for such species. That finding was supported by a recent review of the state of the world's plant genetic resources for food and agriculture by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO 1996), which concluded that there was a clear need to strengthen capacities for ex situ conservation cost-effectively and that the necessary increase in seed-banking activity and supporting research would require national, subregional, regional, and international collaboration. The report also confirmed the heavy emphasis (94%) on crop plants among the 6 million seed accessions held worldwide, the minimal coverage of truly wild species, and the slight coverage of forest, forage, ornamental, aromatic, and medicinal species and underused crops. Moreover, the FAO report highlighted the fact that only 13% of the 6 million accessions were held in secure long-term facilitiesthat is, where seed was stored according to internationally approved standards of temperature and moisture content, where the power supply was reliable, and where procedures for safe duplication and regeneration were in place. The current Kew Seed Bank, which was mentioned specifically in the FAO report, meets all those criteria for a secure, long-term seed bank.
On the basis of such information and with impetus added by the UK ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity (UNEP 1992a), Kew concluded that a substantial increase in efforts to collect, conserve, and research seeds of wild species was vital. Moreover, Kew feels that it is uniquely placed to play a leading role in this process, not only because of its existing collections, its expertise in seed conservation, and its location within a geologically and politically stable country, but also because of its well-established network of collaborators and its horticultural and taxonomic expertise, which has earned it an international reputation as a center of excellence for botanical research. That expertise and a belief in collaboration will be vital to ensuring the international cooperation needed to tackle a problem of this scale.
The opportunity to achieve the great increase in Kew's seed-conservation activities was provided by the Millennium Commission, one of the distributors of national lottery proceeds in the UK, which was set up for partial funding of projects to celebrate the new millennium. In December 1995, the commission awarded Kew's Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) project a grant that would eventually total up to £30 million, which is just over one-third of the total cost of the project. With the help of the Kew Foundation, we have raised over £16 million in counterpart funding, including a grant of £9.2 million from the Wellcome Trust and a sponsorship of £2.5 million from Orange, a UK communication company. The MSB will continue to focus on wild species rather than crop species, many of which have their own seed banks or germplasm collections.
The MSB project has been presented to and discussed with representatives of national and international organizations involved in plant genetic-resources conservation, including FAO, the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Botanic Gardens Conservation International, the World Conservation Union, the United Nations Environment Program (including the Secretariat to the Convention on Biological
Diversity), the United Nations Development Program, the Global Environment Facility, and the World Bank. In addition, relevant UK government departments (Department for International Development formerly ODA, Department of the Environment, and Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) and conservation bodies have been consulted, and the proposal has been presented at several scientific conferences. All such meetings have confirmed not only that a largescale seed-conservation project is necessary and would not duplicate any existing activity but also, inasmuch as Kew is a world leader in seed-banking for wild plants, that it is ideally placed to be the focus for such a major conservation effort.
The Aims of the Millennium Seed Bank
The MSB project will establish an international center of excellence for seed conservation at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Wakehurst Place. The project has six main aims:
• to collect and conserve seeds of most of the UK spermatophyte flora (seed-bearing plants) and a further 10% of the world's spermatophyte flora, principally from the drylands;
• to encourage plant conservation throughout the world by facilitating access to and transfer of seed-conservation technology;
• to carry out research to improve all aspects of seed conservation;
• to make seeds available for species reintroduction into the wild, for academic research, and for screening for potential new uses of plants;
• to develop the public's interest in the need for plant conservation; and
• to provide a world-class building as the focus for this activity.
The UK Seed Conservation Program
For Kew to function actively in seed conservation overseas, it is important that it make an input into plant conservation within the UK, where genetic erosion and endangerment are also high (Anon 1994; Wynne and others 1995). Common species will be included to supply material off-season or abroad, to add seed-biology information, to compare with in situ populations through time, and to guard against changing fortunes resulting from climate change (see Jackson and others 1990). No country holds a near-complete representation of its spermatophyte flora. Kew aims to enable the UK to be the first such country and hopes that the example will stimulate other countries to follow suit.
Our initial objective is to have conserved within the MSB, by the year 2000, seed from at least one population sample of every native UK plant species that produces bankable seed.
Stace (1991 and pers. comm.) has indicated that the native flora of the British Isles consists of some 1,571 species of vascular plants, of which 1,442 are spermatophytes native to the UK. The remainder are ferns or plants that occur only in Eire. Those figures do not include the microspecies of the apomictic
(reproducing without meiosis or formation of gametes) genera Rubus, Hieracium, and Taraxacum, which have been grouped together into the more distinct aggregates numbering 13, 11, and 9 respectively. The Kew Seed Bank holds 552 species (plus some microspecies), so 890 need to be collected; 361 of these are restricted or rare. Within the target for collection, we estimate that six species produce seeds that cannot be banked (the recalcitrant species), and 11 rarely or never produce seed. That leaves 873, of which 163 (including 77 aquatics and 51 orchids) produce seed that will need research work before we can ascertain the likely success of banking.
Seeds for the MSB will be collected in collaboration with many individuals and conservation organizations throughout the UK, including the statutory bodiesEnglish Nature, Scottish National Heritage, the Countryside Council for Wales, and the Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland)and those like the Botanical Society of the British Isles and the Wildlife Trusts. A member of our collecting staff will work full-time on the project for the next 2½ years, but many of the remaining collections will be made by partner organizations; their work will be coordinated by the MSB. Training sessions for volunteer collectors from within the partner organizations are under way.
Where appropriate, difficult species will be collected through a contract arrangement with specialist organizations, and the more common species will be collected by voluntary groups, such as the Wildlife Trusts, and will attract the payment of an honorarium. There will thus be high public involvement. If the seed-production seasons are abnormal, it might be necessary to get the volunteers to retry some species the next year. It is envisaged that the less than complete genetic representation (especially of inbreeding species) that results from stopping at the initial objective of one population sample per species will be gradually improved by donation to the collection and by further collecting later in the project.
Target-species lists have been provided to the Wildlife Trusts and several other organizations to induce offers of collection. These lists have been produced from an extensive Excel database, now substantially developed, that lists all the UK native spermatophytes by their scientific and common names broadly where they occur, the status of existing collections, their rarity, and any special problems related to them (for example, that they are aquatic). It is proposed that other useful information, such as flowering or seeding date, be added to the database in due course. By May 1999, seeds from 71% of the species that are native to the UK have been collected and booked.
The Arid-Land Seed-Conservation Program
Since the early 1980s, the focus of the Kew Seed Bank has been on tropical drylands. Such lands, which are experiencing habitat loss because of desertification, particularly in Africa (UNEP 1994), have been identified as the ecosystem for which ex situ conservation is most appropriate, compared with the tropical rain forests (the other ecosystem undergoing extensive damage). The origin of habitat loss in the drylandsdrought and the factors that exacerbate it, such as overgrazing (Binns 1985)is less open to substantial manipulation with local political
or economic tools. Consequently, other actions are necessary to underwrite the survival in situ of biological diversity in the tropical drylands.
The drylands cover one-third of Earth's land surface, including many of the world's poorest countries, and support almost one-fifth of its human population (UNEP 1992b). Rural people rely on plants in almost every aspect of their lives, and Kew's Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (SEPASAL) database lists over 6,000 such plants with uses as varied as land stabilization, hedging, nitrogen fixation, contraceptives, dyes, and cooking utensils (Davis and others 1996). Products derived from plants in the drylands are also important to people in developed countries, for example, the pharmaceuticals sennoside A and B, atropine, and ephedrine and such industrial products as gums, resins, waxes, and oils (Goodin and Northington 1985). There is great scope for many more dryland plants and their products to be developed for human welfare, including those with unique morphological, physiological, and chemical adaptations induced by the particular environmental stresses of arid lands. Some of these adaptations, such as salt tolerance and the C4 and CAM mechanisms of photosynthesis, might be valuable sources of material for plant-breeding. Other characteristics that confer tolerance to drought, predation, and disease are also likely to be present in dryland plant material. In addition, many arid-land species have evolved elaborate chemical defenses that make them important potential sources of insecticides.
Some practical benefits of seed-banking follow the choice of the drylands as a target for seed collection: species are often found within discrete populations; populations often exhibit defined flowering and fruiting periods in response to climatic conditions; and vegetation is usually low (often less than 5 m high) and relatively open, allowing convenient access for seed collection. Furthermore, although the seed-storage physiology of only 2% of the world's flora has been studied, it is thought that the majority of higher plant species from drylands will exhibit “orthodox” seed-storage behavior (retain their viability after drying) and therefore be suitable for long-term conservation in seed banks.
Prospective countries have been identified for partnership on the basis of several factors: existing successful collaboration; ease of access; extent of arid, semiarid, and dry subhumid land (Goodin and Northington 1985); number of endemic plant species (WCMC 1992); and the floristic regions in which they occur (Taktahjan 1986). On that basis, 18 countries have been identified as having high priority for collaboration; of these, eight (Australia, Brazil, Kenya, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, and the United States) contain the most diverse dryland floras (table 1). In addition, we will accept donations of seed from nondryland countries (or from the wetter regions of the high-priority countries), provided that collections have been made in accordance with national and international regulations.
The world's spermatophyte flora is estimated to number 242,000 (Mabberley 1990); 10% is therefore 24,200 species. Within the collaborating countries, success in collecting and conserving seeds of 10% of the world's plant species will depend heavily on input from the countries' conservation organizations themselves; the overriding consideration in any targeting of taxa for collection will be
our partners' priorities for conservation, in line with the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Nevertheless, it was recognized early in the project's development that some focusing of collecting activity is important. For the last few years, the collectors for the current Kew Seed Bank have given special interest to 30 plant families selected on the basis of an analysis of species represented in Kew's SEPASAL database (table 2).
This list of target families is now being reviewed and revised to include coverage of globally threatened species and endemics, with input from the World Conservation Monitoring Center and partner institutes in collaborating countries, such as the National Museums of Kenya, and adequate representation of “higherlevel” (order and above) taxonomic diversity as a surrogate for character and evolutionary diversity (see, for example, Williams and others 1994). It is also intended to give due weight to various ecological and functional considerations, such as appropriate representation of “keystone species” in particular plant communities, as more becomes known about such species.
Obviously, some flexibility will be essential to take account of changing circumstances. We expect a continuous process of review and refinement of any lists of desiderata as the project develops.
The arid-land collecting program will build on existing links between the current Kew Seed Bank and institutes in many dryland countries established during collaborative collecting expeditions in over 20 countries in the last 2 decades. The main planning phase for the overseas conservation program will be in 1996–1999; the main collecting phase will be in 1999–2009. Initial efforts will focus on seeking collaboration with the high-priority countries, including the United States, so that seed-collecting in these countries as part of the project could start by the
year 2000. For the remaining dryland countries, contacts with those with which we are collaborating or have collaborated in the past will be maintained or renewed, and contacts will be established in the others during the next 2 years with a view to securing partnership for later in the project period.
The needs of collaborating countries will differ according to their current levels of expertise and their national priorities for biodiversity conservation, so the MSB project will aim to provide a comprehensive seed-conservation service to meet varied requirements. The key services offered to collaborators are training and technology transfer, long-term storage of seeds until facilities exist in their own countries, benefit-sharing from the use of seeds, and access to our research expertise and data.
All seed-collecting, storage, and distribution will be carried out under bilateral agreements that cover profit-sharing as a result of intellectual property rights. The agreements have been developed as part of Kew's institutional program to ensure full compliance with the Convention on Biological Diversity. We are also in consultation with Michael Gollin (attorney at Spencer & Frank, Washington, DC, who has particular experience in contracts related to pharmaceutical screening) and Neil Hamilton (director of the Agricultural Law Center, Drake University Law School, University of Iowa).
The project will increase the number of collectors from the current two to around 28 in the year 2000. Five collectors and a coordinator will be based at the MSB; the remainder will be based overseas in partner countries. It is hoped that most of the overseas-based collectors will be recruited from the collaborating countries to collect their national floras and will be funded by international donor agencies, such as the Global Environment Facility and the European Union.
The key aim is to sample the breadth of dryland plant diversity, concentrating on a wide range of species. Interspecific variation is often the initial screen for potential use. Although only one population sample per species will be collected as a key objective, substantial genetic variation is likely to be present in collections; most species will be outbreeders (see Richards 1986), and intrapopulation variation will be greater than with inbreeders (von Bothmer and Seberg 1995). The samples collected can be used to research species botany, including breeding system, and so more carefully tailor later sampling strategy. To sample genetic diversity within a species more fully, more populations would need to be collected (Brown and Marshall 1995), but that is more appropriate after successful initial trials or research. The sampling strategy for each population will be that practiced for over 20 years by the Kew Seed Bank and is similar to that recently reiterated by Brown and Marshall (1995); key factors will be to sample randomly and evenly within a population and from sufficient individuals (at least 50 where the size of the population permits). Where populations are very small (20 or fewer), collections from individual plants will be kept separatesomething that is impractical for more individuals. Collectors will visit most populations once during the seeding period, so it is proposed that no more than 20% of the seed available on the harvest date should be taken from annuals, biennials, and short-lived perennials. Thus, the survival of the parent plant population should not be threatened.
In achieving the 24,000-species target, allowances have been made for duplicate and poor-quality collections. In addition, it is envisaged that 10% of the target will consist of unsolicited samples, some from within the target area and many from outside.
Voucher specimens, representing the population sampled, are always collected. At least one of these specimens is deposited in the national herbarium of the host country. The specimen returned to the MSB will be identified by reference to Kew's comprehensive herbarium collection and associated bibliography. Data recorded in the field will be as objective as possible. All populations will be located with Global Positioning Systems, either in the partner countries or in the MSB. Such systems will be used, where possible, to guide collectors to likely diversity hot spots and, in some circumstances, to predict where a particular species might be found (see Guarino 1995). They might even be able to guide collectors to areas where the greatest genetic diversity would be expected within a species range. For instance, Nevo and Beiles (1989) hypothesize that species ranging across mesic and xeric environments display the greatest levels of genetic diversity in hot deserts, where rainfall and climate unpredictability are highest.
All collections destined for the MSB will be returned from the field as quickly as possible, thereby minimizing the loss of initial seed viability, which can strongly influence longevity (see Smith 1995). Samples thereafter will be processed as they are in the current Kew Seed Bank (see Prendergast and others 1992). The procedures are adapted from those used by seed banks that store crop germplasm (see Ellis and others 1985). They involve accessioning, drying, cleaning, x-ray examination, counting, packaging, freezing, and testing of germination. The main differences between processing of wild and crop germplasm are related to the handling of “empty” or insect-damaged seed (Linington and others 1995), seed dormancy (Linington and others 1996), and identification of seed storage behavior by testing germination after drying and freezing (Smith and Linington 1996). Storage of seed will be mainly at -20°C in a variety of storage containers. Subsamples will be rechecked for germination initially every 10 years, as in the current Kew Seed Bank, but retest intervals are expected to be modified for different collections in the light of results from the seed-research program of the MSB project. It is expected that 22 processing staff will be based in the collaborating countries and a further 22 in the UK.
Seed samples collected will be shared equally between partner countries and the MSB and deposited in facilities in the country of origin, if available. The MSB will act as a backup, providing a duplicate store for an agreed proportion of the seeds. For countries where local facilities are not available, the MSB will store independently both partners' shares of each collection and provide advice and assistance on establishing a bank in the country of origin. The MSB will, in turn, back up some of its collections at the Scottish Agricultural Sciences Agency, East Craigs, Scotland, to achieve a double indemnity against loss.
Seed-Banking in the United States.
The United States contains a considerable area of arid lands, and three collaborative expeditions have already taken place in the country. A meeting was held in November 1996 between one of us (R.S.) and Peggy Olwell, chairperson of the Native Plant Conservation Committee, a partnership of nine federal agencies and 54 nonfederal cooperators, to discuss the MSB project. Considerable support for
the project was shown, and an invitation was extended to attend its bimonthly meetings and become a nonfederal member. Contact about the MSB has also been established with the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), a nonfederal member of the above committee and an entity with which we have previously collaborated on technical matters in wild-species seed-banking. Michael Bennett, keeper of the Jodrell Laboratory, gave a presentation on the MSB during his visit to the Missouri Botanical Garden (home of the CPC) in May 1997. Again, an interest in collaborating was expressed. Similar enthusiasm for involvement with the MSB has been shown by representatives of the Boyce Thompson Southern Arboretum, the Desert Botanical Garden, and the University of Arizona Desert Legume Program.
A meeting with the staff of the US Department of Agriculture's National Seed Storage Laboratory at Fort Collins to discuss collaboration with the MSB took place in August 1997 to coincide with a conference on plant genetic resources.
Research, Information Flow, Technology Transfer, and Training
For the MSB project to succeed, it must not be merely a museum of seeds. It will also be accompanied by considerable research on seed-collecting, processing, and storage and by extensive training and, where needed, technology transfer to our collaborators.
The integrated seed-banking and seed-conservation research program of the MSB offers a unique opportunity to increase knowledge on the seed biology of a considerable amount of dryland biodiversity. The value of this information will be fully realized if it is made readily available to potential end users, and this will be facilitated through technology transfer and the provision of advice and training. Thus, this part of the MSB project will have the following main objectives:
• To generate detailed primary datasets on the seed storage and germination of about 1,500 species through research.
• To construct a seed-information database on about 20,000 species using inhouse and public-domain information.
• To ensure benefit-sharing through information flow, technology transfer, and formal training.
The Seed Conservation Section has been involved in research in the conservation of seeds of wild (nondomesticated) species for over 25 years. The research has already established that wild species differ from domesticated species in their seed-storage and germination behavior, but their conservation and use as seed are generally practicable.
The seed-storage behavior of only about 7,000 species has been investigated to any degree of certainty; and of the remainder of the world's spermatophyte flora, an estimated 37% of species occur in families where less than 1% of those species have had their behavior investigated (derived from Hong and others 1996).
Moreover, the dryland floras are among the most poorly known botanically of all the biomes (Frodin 1984), and details of seed characteristics of dryland species are similarly restricted to about 300 species (Gutterman 1993). Thus, with the key aim of sampling the breadth of dryland plant diversity, the MSB project will inevitably be dealing primarily with species new to seed-conservation science. Two main problems are envisaged. First, about 4% of species handled are not expected to be readily suited to conventional storage protocols, and modifications might be required of all phases of the banking activity (collecting, processing, and storage) to ensure their conservation. Second, a smaller proportion of species are likely to require detailed investigation of their germination requirements so that their genetic potential can be readily released. In addition, research on predicting seed longevity of bank collections will be required as a management tool for setting seed-viability retest intervals to improve the balance of seed consumption during the monitoring of viability and the need to maintain seed stocks. Overall, it is envisaged that the total number of species requiring research on germination and storage will be about 150 per year. There will be 21 research staff and space for 15 visiting researchers.
Research to improve collecting. The collecting phase of species conservation offers the first opportunity to identify potential seed-storage problems and apply modified handling procedures to ensure that seeds retain maximal quality before seed-banking. Thus, the current research program in this regard will be expanded and focus on improving the field diagnosis of seed-storage behavior and maximizing the harvest quality of the collections.
On the basis of information generated automatically during the processing of seed for storage in the MSB and other databases worldwide as they become available, a relational database of seed information will be constructed for over 20,000 species. It will be compatible with other databases within Kew (such as SEPASAL) and outside Kew and be used to develop a field diagnostic algorithm for potential routine seed conservation.
The vast majority (86%) of desiccation-tolerant seeds collected should remain viable for at least 200 years (Hong and others 1996) under international standard bank conditions. Historical data (see Bewley and Black 1994) and retest data from the Kew Seed Bank support that contention. However, although all collections made will be moved from the field to Wakehurst Place as quickly as possible, at least two aspects of their physiology might change before their arrival: desiccation tolerance and potential longevity (Hay and Probert 1995; Smith 1995). Developing methods to minimize and control such changes is of paramount importance if long-term storage is to be guaranteed for all collections.
Research to improve processing. The rapid and reliable distinction between the two extremes of seed-storage behavior (desiccation-tolerant and -intolerant) and subjecting of collections to appropriate processing are ever more urgent as the systematic ex situ conservation of species progresses.
Most bank collections undergo some field drying as part of the natural process of maturation of the parent plant. And it is often necessary to clean and partially
dry some fleshy fruits for logistical reasons before dispatch and to reduce the opportunity for fungal infestation of the seed lot during transit to the bank. However, it has become clear recently that such postharvest practices have potentially large effects on the long-term maintenance of seed quality. For example, studies on crop seed have indicated that even a small alteration in moisture content could switch the physiological mode of the seed into or out of self-repair and hence affect seed quality. Also, the method of seed dehydration can have a profound bearing on the extent of desiccation tolerance.
To complement the first-step diagnosis of behavior in the field, more-detailed laboratory-based investigations are needed at a more mechanistic level to understand the process of desiccation intolerance. It would be an important advance, not only to seed conservation but also to seed science in general, if a universal set of markers of desiccation tolerance could be identified. Such a development would allow the screening of seed lots that had been identified by the field diagnostic as being of highest banking uncertainty to undergo rapid biochemical diagnosis.
Although studies, principally at the Kew Seed Bank, have resulted in the development of germination algorithms for many families, it is still estimated that a substantial number of previously untested species in a broad range of families will require further research to allow efficient germination. Families that do not respond to normal germination algorithms, such as Compositae (Linington and others 1996), and families for which no germination information exists require particular attention. This element of the research program will provide a unique opportunity to make detailed studies of dryland-species regeneration strategies and to model population responses to environmental cues, thereby substantially increasing our knowledge of dryland-seed biology.
Thus, our research objectives are to improve seed-drying methods, to continue the search for a biochemical diagnostic procedure for desiccation tolerance, and to develop effective germination-test regimens for dryland species further.
Research to improve storage. A large amount of seed is needed to quantify the longevity response at a single temperature, so there is also a need to provide a fundamental understanding of the mechanism of viability loss to develop a rapid and efficient system of diagnosing the storage potential of collections from a small quantity of seed.
Earlier sections of this review have clearly identified the need to quantify further how seed longevity in a species can be affected at all stages of the conservation process (collecting, processing, and storage). Of particular importance is the recent suggestion that the optimal storage conditions for orthodox seeds can differ (Vertucci and others 1994). Thus, long-term experiments, some of which should be at seed-bank temperatures, are required to establish whether there really are long-term implications of this suggestion. Our review of orthodox seeds (Hong and others 1996) has revealed that the potential longevity in storage under seed-bank conditions is known to vary considerably; predicted longevities vary over a factor of 200 in the 52 species representing 23 families for which seed-storage responses have been quantified sufficiently to allow comparison under identical conditions.
Further quantification of the variation in the rates of viability loss is needed so that appropriate retest intervals can be set and unnecessary depletion of the collections avoided. Moreover, it is appropriate to consider the cause of the intrinsic differences in dry-seed longevity. Increasing evidence of nonorthodox seed-storage behavior across species of many families demands that nonconventional storage environments be considered for the storage of some species. It is predicted that 163 species in the native UK spermatophyte flora will be difficult to collect or conserve and will therefore require researching. A brief survey of dryland species suggests that a substantial number will possess nonorthodox seeds as a result of either low desiccation tolerance or sensitivity to seed-bank temperatures. Improved short-term storage protocols are required for whole seeds to allow highviability seed to be available as the starting material for long-term conservation. In addition, long-term storage of nonorthodox seeds under nonconventional temperatures for seed-banking, including cryopreservation, is suggested.
The computerization of records for the seed-bank collections was started in 1981 and now includes information on nearly 11,000 accessions. Information recorded includes passport and management data. Passport data include date of collection, name and affiliation of collector (Kew or other), geographic location, type of material, number of individuals and proportion of population sampled, voucher and taxonomy, and distribution policy. For regenerated seed stocks, the following details are recorded: parent plant plus sibling data, generation, where grown, isolation conditions if any, number of seeds sown and number of plants harvested, date of harvest, voucher, and distribution policy. Management data cover x-ray record, bank location, original and current seed number, storage temperature, number and type of container, original and retest germination results and conditions, verification details and taxonomy, location of duplicate collections, interval of retest, and distribution date.
Some of the seed-bank database and summarized research datasets will be used to develop a relational seed-information database that should cover more than 20,000 species by the year 2010. Information will probably include the physical and chemical characteristics of the seed and optimal collecting, storage, and germination details. The database design is expected to ensure a high level of connectivity to other databases in and outside Kew, thus maximizing the potential use of the database as a management tool for our collections and as a means of providing advice on seed conservation to our collaborators and the public, for example, throughout data outlets in the public interpretation area (winter garden) of the MSB building.
Information Flow, Technology Transfer, and Training
Since 1992, the Seed Conservation Section has published over 90 scientific articles. In addition, the list of seeds that is used to publicize the material available for use and summarize the group's activities has been published biennially. More than 280 scientific visitors to our facilities have been accommodated since 1992;
during the same period, the research group welcomed 12 foreign visiting scientists at undergraduate to postdoctoral levels. Moreover, collaborative projects were initiated with 20 institutes in the UK and abroad, including five of the eight countries with the highest-priority for collaboration with the MSB. The group has considerable experience in organizing conferences, running training courses (over 280 students have attended our formal training courses in the last 5 years), and supervising PhD and MSc student projects.
It is envisaged that each year up to 57 trainees or researchers from collaborating countries will visit the MSB for at least a month, and there will be shorter-term visitors. The new MSB building will include accommodation for up to 28 visitors from collaborating countries at any time. That will facilitate training and technology transfer, which we see as being achieved in a number of ways: advisory visits by MSB staff, for example, to help develop seed-storage facilities; opportunities for scientists to come to the MSB to gain practical experience in specialized seed-conservation techniques, such as the identification of high-quality seeds and long-term seed-storage techniques; and opportunities to attend formal training courses. Training will be available at all levels of expertise, from technician to postdoctoral, and for various periods, from 1 month to several years.
In addition to the data produced from the routine processing of and research on seeds, the MSB will provide collaborators with general information service on many aspects of seed conservation. Visiting scientists will have opportunities to access Kew's vast resources, including the herbarium and library, and, by arrangement, other parts of Kew, such as the Jodrell Laboratory and the Center for Economic Botany. In addition to existing databases, such as SEPASAL, further databases, such as the seed-information database, will be developed throughout the project for use by collaborators. Collaborators will receive updates of important developments in seed conservation, including details of the latest key publications.
The MSB is one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. However, the biodiversity crisis that the world is facing calls for such large-scale remedies to avoid disaster. We have been encouraged by the response to the MSB project both by the public and by many sources of funding as expressed in the fact that within the brief period of 2 years of planning we have been able to obtain £45 million ($73 million) for the project to add to Kew's own commitment of about £8 million ($13 million). That seeds will be stored in both the MSB at Kew and seed banks of many collaborating countries must not detract from the need to maximize the efforts of in situ conservation, which allows species to continue to interact with their environment and allows the process of evolution to continue.
We thank Gillian Wechsberg for compiling much of the information presented here. We are also grateful for the help of Simon Linington, John Dickie, Hugh Pritchard, and Robin Probert.
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Charting the Biosphere:
Building Global Capacity for Systematics Science
Managing the Biosphere:
The Essential Role of Biodiversity Science
About 175 nations have ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity and thereby signaled their intention to strive, in principle, for a sustainable world. This raises a simple question: Do we possess sufficient scientific information about the biosphere to manage it sustainably, even assuming that the political will for doing so exists? The answer to this question clearly is no.
That being the case, the pessimists among us might claim that we now live in the best of all possible worlds with respect to what we know versus what we need to know. The pessimists would therefore argue that our ignorance can only get worse as the global trends of environmental transformation accelerate, because as the world's ecosystems get more and more degraded and destroyed, it will require an increasing amount of knowledge to put things back together again and to make up for the lost goods and services provided by these biotic landscapes.
At the other extreme, the optimists among us might claim that, given a political imperative to use our biological resources sustainably, we already have a sufficiently large body of knowledge, and if only it were made available to the world's nations, resource management could become much more efficient and cost-effective and move us far in the direction of sustainability.
Contributing to the pessimists' view is the fact that the world community, sometimes including scientists who study biodiversity, often fails to recognize how much knowledge it will require to manage the biosphere to the point where it can pro-
vide meaningful and healthy lives for the world's people into the future. Obviously, scientific information is not sufficient by itself to right the world's environmental wrongs, but it is essential (Cracraft 1996). Several vignettes will emphasize this point.
First, the United States spends more money each year on environmental science than any other country, yet the evidence suggests that we are not managing our lands sustainably (PCAST 1998). Although much of the reason for this lies in a political-economic imperative to exploit our resources for short-term gains, an insufficiency of scientific knowledge has hindered proper management in many cases (NRC 1993a,b). Land managers are continually saying that they lack sufficient knowledge about the resources under their stewardship. One has only to examine how forest lands are being managed in North America to see the extent to which that insufficiency contributes to inappropriate land management (papers in Kohm and Franklin 1997; Pickett and others 1997).
Second, we are not the world. Many of us live in industrial economies that are privileged beyond belief. Much of the world, in contrast, is relatively poor and lacks even the rudiments of decent scientific infrastructure (Cracraft 1995). It is said that countries housing 80% of the world's biodiversity have only about 6% of the world's scientists. We can quibble about the numbers, but the observation is correct enough to make the point: Most of the world's nations will not have a reasonable chance of achieving a sustainable future unless knowledge about their natural resources is improved dramatically and quickly. Consider one simple example. In a recent perspective on biological research efforts in Serengeti National Park, Sinclair (1995) listed numerous gaps in basic biological knowledge of that system that impede efforts at effective resource management. Not knowing the causes of death in the wild dog (Lycaon pictus), for instance, hinders any informed design for its recovery program. Given that the Serengeti is probably the most thoroughly studied protected area in Africa, the obvious question is, What about the protected areas in other countries of that magnificent continent? Where will the biological knowledge to manage those ecosystems come from? If Serengeti is taken as an exemplar of the amount of knowledge that will be required to achieve effective conservation management, it is difficult to believe that inputs of researchers and financial support from developed countries will ever be sufficient to address similar needs in other parts of Africa. The only solution is to see the capacity in each country increase.
Third, because it is exceedingly difficult to comprehend the extraordinary dependence of most of the world's people on natural ecosystems, we tend to underestimate the magnitude of the problem confronting us. Around the world, people use tens of thousands of species to meet their daily needs. If these uses are to be managed in a sustainable manner, much more biological information will be required than the scientific community can deliver today. And, to emphasize the depth of the problem, that information will generally have to be gathered at, and applied to, the local level, much like the information needed for the wild dog in the Serengeti. We cannot expect to accumulate knowledge in some abstract database and not have it mean something to the people whose livelihoods and future depend on it.
Scientific knowledge of biodiversity must accumulate year after year if the biosphere is to be managed effectively. The health of the world's people, their food supply, and the ecological services provided by intact ecosystems are all threatened when knowledge of biodiversity does not advance.
One way of seeing the need is to do a simple thought experiment. Ask what might be the consequences for society if systematics knowledge had been frozen 40 years ago, with no new advances allowed. Here are some examples:
• Society would be without the benefit of all the agricultural systematics research that has mitigated the devastating effects of pests and invasive species over the last 40 years.
• Society would be without an understanding or identification of many vectors of disease that were discovered during this period.
• There would be no knowledge about many of the newly emergent diseases that have ravaged human societies, AIDS being the most pernicious.
• Medical science and biotechnology would be years behind current levels because the thermophilic bacteria that have made possible the polymerase chain reaction and all its benefits for diagnostic medicine would not have been discovered.
• None of the wild crop relatives that were discovered in the last 40 years would be available for improving our foods.
This demonstration of the importance of systematics to society could be expanded easily (Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 1996; Biodiversity and Conservation 1995; BioScience 1995; Cotterill 1995; Janzen 1993; Miller and Rossman 1997; Patrick 1997; Systematics Agenda 2000 1994a,b; Thompson 1997). The other biodiversity sciences are equally important for society, and “freezing” their knowledge at what it was 40 years ago would have similar adverse consequences. In ecology, for example, we would lack much of the basic science that has underpinned the new disciplines of landscape ecology, restoration ecology, and conservation biology. Without that knowledge, managing our biosphere would be essentially impossible.
Investment in biodiversity scienceeven what is often thought to be mundane, unexciting, or old-fashionedis one of the best investments society can make for its long-term well-being. The poor old systematist toiling over the discovery, description, and identification of groups of insect pests or disease vectors potentially will contribute as much to society, in saving millions of lives and billions of dollars, as will most so-called modern research. We need to cherish and nourish all biodiversity scientists because our future depends on them (Cracraft 1996).
What is it?
Systematics is the most fundamental of the biodiversity sciences inasmuch as it is concerned with discovering, describing, and monographing Earth's species diversity. Like most sciences, systematics can be defined by its research questions and objectives. Within systematics, taxonomy is the science of discovering,
describing, and classifying species and groups of species; phylogenetics is the discipline that attempts to understand the evolutionary (historical) relationships among species and groups; and classification is the means by which that understanding is translated into hierarchical (Linnaean) groupings and information systems that form the basis for effective communication about life's diversity (Systematics Agenda 2000 1994a,b).
Given that broad view of the systematics enterprise, systematics-science capacity can be taken to include all the components of infrastructure and human resources that support the systematics research effort and make its results available to those who need them. The most important infrastructure relevant to systematics is specimen-based collections housed in systematics research institutions of various kinds (Cotterill 1995, 1997). The world's collections contain over 2 billion specimens, and these constitute society's only permanent record of Earth's biodiversity. Collections take many forms, and for systematics to flourish, systematists must have access to them: natural-history museums, herbariums, frozen-tissue collections, seed banks, type-culture collections, and, for some types of studies, living material in zoos and botanical gardens. Systematics infrastructure includes the computational means to store information about collections, particularly the information associated with specimens; to analyze character-based information for phylogenetic analysis; and to facilitate communication with systematists at other institutions. Infrastructure also includes libraries through which a researcher can obtain access to prior systematics work and facilities for training of professional and paraprofessional scientists and support staff; these constitute the human resources needed for systematics research.
Systematics collections serve a much broader role than providing a basis for scientific research, and it is the broader role that is often important for many countries (Cotterill 1997). Through their exhibits and other programs, collectionbased institutions, such as museums and botanical gardens, are essential in educating the public about the benefits of, and threats to, biodiversity. These institutions also are sites for formal science education of people as varied as young schoolchildren, professionals, and paraprofessionals. Little of this could take place without the scientific collections that form the foundation of educational programs.
An Agenda for Systematics
Earth's biodiversity is poorly known. Although 1.7 million species have been recognized and described (Hammond 1995; Heywood 1995; May this volume), many specialists think that tens of millions of species are unknown to science. Our understanding of the relationships of these taxa is still in its infancy, but it is this understanding that serves as an organizing framework for information systems useful to both basic and applied biology. The world's natural-history collections house a treasury of biodiversity information associated with their specimens; for the most part, very little of this information is available digitally to the world user community (Blackmore 1996; Systematics Agenda 2000 1994a,b).
Systematics-Science Capacity in the Developing World
Countries differ greatly in their capacity to undertake research in systematics. Recent compilations in the UN Environment Program's Global Biodiversity Assessment (Heywood 1995) describe the global patterns of numbers and sizes of plant collections and numbers of institutions that house collections of various sorts (museums, zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens); these patterns can be expected to reflect the general level of systematics capacity in each country and among regions. Figure 1 summarizes the numbers for six regions. Europe and North America, not unexpectedly, have the highest capacity, followed by Asia. South America, Australasia, and Africa have the least capacity. It is enormously difficult to obtain accurate numbers because such collections are defined, counted, or estimated in different ways; but the figure shows the pattern mentioned earlier: the species-rich areas of the world have the least capacity. The situation could be even worse than the figure suggests; within many of these regions, one country, such as South Africa within Africa or Australia within Australasia, dominates the statistics. Many countries lack the rudiments of capacity, and a surprising number have no botanical or zoological collections.
The numbers of natural-history collections, zoos, and other infrastructure also constitute a measure of the availability of scientists and training facilities essential
for developing human resources. The numbers indicate that many regions of the world lack adequate capabilities for professional and paraprofessional training.
As mentioned earlier, systematics capacity in the developing world is inadequate to confront the loss of biodiversity and to serve as a basis for its effective management as a resource for sustainable development. At the same time, systematists recognize that systematics capacity in the wealthy countries is incapable of filling the need. In fact, systematics capacity in the developed nations is barely adequatemany authorities would say totally inadequateto meet those countries' own demands for systematics information (Blackmore 1996; Oliver 1988; Parnell 1993; Systematics Agenda 2000 1994a,b). We have no choice but to develop systematics capacity in all nations, particularly in the species-rich regions where the need is greatest.
An Overview of Systematics Agenda 2000 International:
Building a Global Science Initiative
Many international organizations have called for a more thorough understanding of life's diversity through increased systematics research. It is generally estimated that we know perhaps 5% of Earth's species. Given that current knowledge and use of the known species generate trillions of dollars of economic activityindeed, that use is the engine of the world economyand sustains the lives of all of us, it is reasonable to expect that substantial increase in knowledge of the world's biota will add immeasurably to societal well-being in the form of new uses and benefits. The international biodiversity science program, DIVERSITAS, has recognized the need for increased research in systematics. Thus, systematic biology was recently added as a core research element of the program. Filling that role is Systematics Agenda 2000 International (SA2000I). Systematics Agenda 2000 began as a consortium of systematics societies in the United States but has expanded internationally as a program of the International Union of Biological Sciences and as a component of DIVERSITAS (Blackmore and Cutler 1996).
The activities of SA2000I are organized around three broad missions encompassing the major research fields of systematic biology: inventorying and describing of biodiversity, understanding the history of life, and using that understanding to create predictive classifications and information systems for the world user community. Since its inception, SA2000I has advanced the view that systematics knowledge of life's diversity is essential to ensure societal well being. To fulfill this societal role, systematics must solve the problem of expansion of relevant infrastructure and human resources, especially in countries that now have little or no capacity.
Inventories are at the heart of the global discovery effort, but many countries are ill equipped to take stock of their biological heritage according to their own needs and priorities. In an effort to correct that, SA2000I held a workshop on inventories at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in September
1998. The workshop was designed to assess country requirements for inventories, establish how priorities can be set to meet inventory needs, determine the best research strategies to satisfy country goals, and undertake an assessment of current capacity. The workshop also addressed issues and strategies for building capacity (AMNH 1999).
Knowledge of phylogenetic relationships is often seen as an academic exercise of little practical importance. In fact, phylogenetic hierarchies are the foundation for creating the predictive classifications and information systems that are of immeasurable value to society. The use of biodiversity is made possible by understanding where a taxon belongs in the hierarchy and how its characteristics compare with those of close relatives. Indeed, at some level, all uses of biodiversity depend on knowledge of phylogenetic relationships and how they are translated into information systems.
Although systematists have made major strides in the last decade in understanding the interrelationships of life, corroborated hypotheses of relationships are still lacking for most groups, including some of the best studied, such as birds and mammals. That lack of understanding constitutes a critical impediment to developing efficient information systems. Phylogenetic research is global in its perspective; given the rate at which phylogenetic relationships are being resolved and the uncoordinated nature of present research, it will take many decades to achieve a satisfactory overview of the history of life. Such a delay will hinder our efforts to build bioinformatics systems that are maximally predictivea goal that is integral to the clearinghouse mechanism of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
To address this need, SA2000I will be organizing an international research effort to produce a corroborated phylogeny of the higher taxa by the year 2010. This will be accomplished by coordinating research activities within and among working groups of investigators focusing on specific major taxa, with priority given to those of high societal importance. SA2000I's international research effort will also be concerned with incorporating new technologies, such as those associated with the Human Genome Project, and with building capacity for phylogenetic research in countries that lack it.
SA2000I has major efforts under way to improve the accessibility of systematics information. The research program on phylogenetics will contain a component on how phylogenetic information can be made widely available. A very successful effort within SA2000I and DIVERSITAS is Species 2000, an international initiative to assemble a scientifically reliable database of all the world's currently described species in a framework that links species names to other databases that house information about them. This program is of immense importance for managing what we know about biodiversity.
The systematics community recognizes that a major impediment to managing and sustainably using biodiversity is that the vast majority of the information associated with the specimens housed in the world's natural-history institutions
is unavailable to users of systematics information. Many museums and herbariums are making an effort to put their collections on databases, but for the largest institutions this is a formidable and expensive task. The costs of verifying the information and maintaining it electronically are also high. Yet, the benefits of this information to the world's nations are too substantial to ignore. The industrial nations, which house 80–90% of all the biological specimens, have an obligation to repatriate the information so that it can be used for resource management and other activities. How to overcome the many challenges, particularly in terms of costs and effective information management, has not been addressed sufficiently at the international level.
Building Systematics Capacity:
What strategies should be adopted to confront current impediments to building systematics science internationally and to redress the imbalance in capacity between the developed and the developing countries? Two general things must happen. First, the wealthy countries must increase their commitment to promoting systematics. This includes not only increasing their own scientific research and capacity, but also ensuring that those programs benefit developing countries as well (for example, through training); and they must increase aid targeted to building and improving systematics capacity in developing countries. Second, the developing countries must do more to help themselves. Even if needed financial resources ultimately come from outside, developing nations must recognize the importance of systematics for their future prosperity and seek ways to increase its capacity.
Many positive things are happening, of course. The world's nations, through the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Global Taxonomy Initiative (Australian Biological Resources Study 1998; Environment Australia 1991), have acknowledged the critical role of systematics and have called for countries to increase their capacity. Funding for systematics has increased in many developed countries, and that has provided benefits to nations in developing regions as well. And many developing nations have themselves initiated programs to increase systematics capacity. A number of these efforts are worth highlighting because they provide models for other countries in their efforts to create or improve systematics capacity. The projects discussed below are by no means the only successful initiatives, and a particular example might not be the most effective or appropriate for another country, but they encompass an array of different approaches.
Costa Rica: INBio. The Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio) of Costa Rica was established in 1989 and has gained worldwide renown for its program of national biodiversity inventory, bioprospecting, and training (Reid and others 1993). Inventory efforts not only are designed to increase knowledge of the Costa Rican biota and to incorporate it into electronic databases, but also are a major component of the country's bioprospecting efforts. Costa Rica is taking a lead role
in transferring its successes to other tropical countries through training workshops. [For a more detailed description, see Gámez this volume.]
Mexico: CONABIO. In 1992, Mexico established the Comision Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO) to coordinate and promote research activities in many Mexican institutions. A major objective of CONABIO is to inventory the biota of Mexico; to accomplish this, CONABIO has begun to form databases and network its own national collections and has sent scientists to museums and herbariums around the world to create databases of Mexican specimens in these collections. The result is one of the most comprehensive geo-referenced sets of biodiversity information linked to voucher specimens found anywhere in the world. [See Soberón this volume for a description.] In addition, CONABIO has major programs designed to train professional and paraprofessional taxonomists.
Indonesia: LIPI. To meet its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity, Indonesia has undertaken an ambitious Global Environmental Facility project designed to increase systematics capacity and provide a framework for documenting and managing its biodiversity. Through the Research and Development Center of Biology in the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), a nondepartmental government institution, infrastructure and human resources are being strengthened. New collections and research facilities are being built, and an intensive program of training of professional systematists at overseas institutions has begun. In addition, information associated with specimens is being put into databases, and computer facilities are being expanded to provide managerial support for the collections.
Bangladesh: National Herbarium. Another example of building systematics capacity is the construction of the new Bangladesh National Herbarium. The government of Bangladesh included a new herbarium in its aid proposal to the United Kingdom's Overseas Development Administration (ODA) in 1989. The project was accepted, and ODA (now the Department for International Development) asked systematist Vernon Heywood to act as consultant to plan the building, equip it, and set up a staff training program. The UK contribution to the project is over £1.2 million (US $2 million), and the government of Bangladesh covered the cost of site preparation. The project includes, in addition to the new herbarium building, laboratories, a library, and modern equipment and electronic communication systems. For its part, the government of Bangladesh is providing running costs, a scientific staff of 14, and technical and support personnel. The herbarium opened in 1998, and already there are plans to expand its original scope. This effort is noteworthy in that it was possible with little initial investment to create a locus for infrastructure-building and capacity-building that will extend well into the future.
Southern Africa: SABONET. A final example is the Southern Africa Botanical Network (SABONET), a consortium of the herbariums in 10 southern African nations. Supported by funds from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and the US Agency for International Development, SABONET is building
capacity through improved and expanded infrastructure, training, inventorying, databases, and information networks. A major goal of the project is to strengthen the core group of professional and paraprofessional botanists in each of the 10 countries so that programs of inventorying and monitoring can be undertaken, collection management strengthened, and training expanded.
Recommendations for Building Systematics Capacity
These are encouraging times for systematics (Scoble 1997). The preceding examples show that many countries are improving their systematics capacity dramatically. But much remains to be accomplished. Most countries in the speciesrich regions of the world have little capability for systematics research and training, and wealthy countries, although providing support through various national or international aid agencies, are not providing sufficient support to have a major effect in most of the poorer countries.
The various activities described above provide a framework for formulating some recommendations that have relevance for countries that wish to improve their systematics capacity, even if sometimes it must be at a relatively low level (see also AMNH 1999; Wheeler and Cracraft 1997).
The significance of SABONET is that it shows how a regional cooperative program can synergistically improve the capacity and scientific knowledge base of many countries for less money than would be required if it were undertaken country by country. Such cooperative ventures also raise the capacity of countries that have the least capacity to the point where they might be able to pursue systematics programs independently. SABONET began in the scientific community itself and shows what can result when scientists in different countries work together. Such regional cooperation makes sense, especially because many of the countries lack sufficient capacity to undertake research or training programs on their own. No country can house all the necessary expertise, but regional cooperation and sharing of information are possible. This can be particularly effective if the countries involved share a regional, ecologically coherent biota. That would be true, for example, of the countries in East Africa, the countries of Central Africa that share the Congo Basin, countries in West Africa, the Andean countries of South America, and countries that share the Amazon Basin.
Building Capacity within Countries.
The previous discussion described how different countries have found distinct ways of improving systematics capacity. Some, such as Indonesia, have undertaken major programs to improve their national systematics collections. Others, such as Mexico, have attempted to enhance cooperation and coordination among existing collections. CONABIO, moreover, has invested a relatively small sum of money to form databases of collections in other countries and has thereby substantially expanded its systematics knowledge base and its ability to manage Mexico's biological resources.
Individual countries can take the initiative to seek donor funds to improve systematics capacity. Most of the countries discussed have sought GEF funding or are in partnership with donor countries. In many poor countries, a relatively small amount of money can have a large long-term effect. The creation of the Bangladesh National Herbarium is a case in point, and such cooperative programs can lead to long-term commitments on the part of the recipient nations to maintain human resources and training.
Many aid proposals from developing countries could include a systematics research component that would establish or upgrade their capacity to preserve in natural-history institutions a permanent record of their biological diversity. Such collections would also provide key support for long-term monitoring and management programs. A particularly cost-effective approach to incorporating systematics information into biodiversity activities would be to emulate the example of CONABIO and seek funds to form databases of collections that have large holdings of specimens, which could then be used in electronic databases for management purposes.
The Role of the Wealthy Countries
Wealthy countries must do more. Small programs in wealthy countries can have large effects. The United Kingdom's contribution to building the Bangladesh National Herbarium is an important example. In the United States, the National Science Foundation initiated a short-term competition, Partnerships for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy (PEET), designed to improve systematics knowledge of little-known and neglected taxa and to train new students in them. A small number of funding cycles have already had a substantial impact, and continued support is certain to produce a pool of expertise that will have a long-term and worldwide influence because many of the students being trained are from developing countries.
Wealthy countries need to make a substantial contribution to building worldwide systematics capacity. Perhaps no other initiative would be as effective as providing funds for compiling databases of the largest natural-history collections and making that information available to other countries.
The Role of Systematists
Very few of the activities described above could have taken place without the leadership of the systematics community itself. Scientists must convince policymakers of the importance of systematics research and systematics infrastructure and work with them to design effective programs. Such programmatic activities as DIVERSITAS and SA2000I will be particularly helpful in providing a framework for promoting systematics within countries and establishing regional consortia.
I thank Peter Raven for his inspiration and leadership in pulling the Forum on Biodiversity together and for inviting me to participate. I am grateful to Vernon
Heywood for sharing information about the Bangladesh National Herbarium. Tania Williams and the staff of the National Research Council provided considerable help, for which I am appreciative.
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Science and Technology in the Convention on Biological Diversity
The Convention on Biological Diversity (United Nations Environment Programme 1992) made its debut at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992, where it was presented for signature (UN Conference on Environment and Development 1992). At this historic event, 152 states and the European Community signed the convention. Since then, 175 states and one regional economic integration organization have ratified the convention (http://www.biodiv.org [1999, July 28]). With this near-universal membership, the convention rapidly has become one of the most important forums for international environmental-policy guidance.
One of the most important features of the convention is its relationship with the scientific and technological communities. The scientific community, operating through a wide network of institutions and individuals, provided the scientific basis for international action on the conservation of biological diversity. The problem was defined in terms of institutional change. The outcome not only was a diplomatic effort to consolidate existing subregimes dealing with the conservation of biological diversity under the auspices of what became the Convention on Biological Diversity, but also went beyond that consolidation and embedded existing regimes in a much broader context.
The process of regime creation took the form of the convention's medium-term program of work, which ended with the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP), held in Bratislava, Slovakia, in May 1998. This meeting had the important task of reviewing the implementation of the convention, evaluating the effectiveness of its internal organization, and establishing a longer-term work
program for the convention. One of the main issues discussed in Bratislava was the place of science and technology in the evolution of the convention. To put this issue into perspective, we place the discussion in the context of the institutional structure and functioning of the convention. The institutional history of the convention is evolving in three phases. We believe that the success of the convention will depend largely on the degree to which scientific and technological issues will be integrated into its operations during its upcoming third phase.
The Genesis of the Convention
Role of Epistemic Communities
Interest in the fate and state of life forms is not new; it has been a dominant feature of intellectual inquiry and popular perception for centuries. The organization of this process into international concerns is associated with the post-World War II period, especially with the establishment of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in 1948. This and many national institutions around the world, as well as activities in sections of the UN system, provided a basis for the emergence of an epistemic community that is devoted to a variety of concerns related to the conservation of biological diversity.
This community has made politicians and international negotiators aware of the need for international instruments on different aspects of biological diversity. Scientistsparticularly those from the biological disciplinesin leading research institutions and universities all over the world, particularly those from the United States, have emphasized the need to conserve biological diversity in all its aspects and by all means.
Much of this work has been done through ad hoc scientific activities, such as those which resulted in the formulation of major biodiversity-related initiatives. Most of these efforts concentrated on the traditional field of conserving wild species and uncultivated land through the establishment of national parks. However, in the 1960s, concerns about integrating conservation with human activities started to play a prominent role in international forums. The Intergovernmental Conference of Experts on the Scientific Basis for Rational Use and Conservation of the Resources of the Biosphere, which convened in Paris in September 1968 under the auspices of the UN Scientific, Educational, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), was a major step in this process and resulted in the establishment of the Man and Biosphere Programme, emphasizing humanity's place in the natural order of things and the importance of the ecosystem approach to conservation of nature (Di Castri and others 1981; UNESCO 1993).
Science and International Action
The UN Conference on Human Environment, held in Stockholm in 1972, gave high priority to the need to conserve natural resources, including natural ecosystems and endangered wild species and their habitats (Stockholm Declaration of the Conference on Human Environment and Action Plan 1972). The Action Plan on Programme Development and Priorities, adopted in 1973 at the first
session of the Governing Council of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), identified the conservation of nature, wildlife, and genetic resources as having high priority. Since then, conserving of biological diversity has remained one of the most important functions of UNEP. While these groups focused on conservation, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) emphasized the use of genetic resources. Institutional innovations to respond to the scientific and technological aspects of conserving and using the genetic resources of plants for food and agriculture were developed within the framework of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) (Pistorius 1997; Fowler and Mooney 1990).
In the meantime, the number of international and regional legal instruments related to biological diversity increased, all of which sought to address specific aspects of conservation and sustainable use. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat of 2 February 1971, 1982), the Convention for the Protection of the World Heritage (Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural heritage of 23 November 1972, 1982), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora of 3 March 1973, 1982), and the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats of 19 September 1979, 1982), to name but a few, were adopted. However, no common framework existed to deal with the different levels of biological diversity, that is, genes, species, and ecosystems. Furthermore, little was done over this time to provide a global view of trends in biological diversity.
In the middle 1970s, interest grew in providing a global picture of the loss of species. Much of the statistical information was provided by a few agencies of the UN but research institutions, the US National Academy of Sciences, and especially the scientific journals started to call for a fresh look at the issue of the loss of species. One of the most important efforts to provide such a picture was the Global 2000 Report to the President of the United States, commissioned by President Ronald Reagan (Council on Environmental Quality and the US State Department 1980). Although this report focused primarily on tropical forests, it laid the basis for further global assessments of the status of biological diversity. It was also here that the term biological diversity started to get special attention. The report not only dealt with conservation, but also emphasized the economic importance of biological resources.
The historic National Forum on BioDiversity, held in Washington, DC, September 21–24, 1986, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences and the Smithsonian Institution, gave prominence to the term biodiversity (Wilson 1988). That meeting and other complementary events within the framework of the IUCN provided the scientific basis for creating an international regime for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. This received much-needed political impetus from the World Commission on Environment and Development, chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland. Its report in 1987, Our Common Future, called for a Species Convention, emphasizing global cooperation but also
recognizing the sovereign rights of states to the natural resources under their jurisdiction (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987).
International Negotiations on Biological Diversity and Their Results
The process of creating this regime fell to UNEP, which convened the Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Biological Diversity in June 1987 to harmonize the existing conventions related to biological diversity. With this decision, what was originally a scientific endeavor became the subject of international diplomacy. The group agreed on the need to create a binding international instrument on biological diversity.
In May 1989, the Governing Council of UNEP established the Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Biological Diversity to prepare an international legal instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity (Decision 15/34 of 25 May 1989). During its second special session in August 1990, the Governing Council of UNEP again discussed the mandate of the working group and the possible content of a convention. Decision SS II/5 asked the working group to consider the need to share costs and benefits between developed and developing countries and the ways and means to support innovation by local people (Decision SS II/5 of 3 August 1990). The ad hoc working group, which came to be known in February 1991 as the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC), held seven working sessions, which culminated in the adoption of the Nairobi Final Act of the Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity. After 5 years of negotiations (Sanchez and Juma 1994; McConnell 1996), the convention was presented for signature on June 5, 1992.
The convention defines biological diversity as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems” (article 2). The objectives of the convention are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources, including the appropriate access to genetic resources, appropriate transfer of relevant technologies (taking into account all rights over those resources and technologies), and appropriate funding (article 1).
The character of the convention was shaped mainly by issues that dominated the preparations for UNCED, and it is a convergence of the conservation efforts that arose from the work of such institutions as IUCN. It also has taken on a number of issues concerned with international equity. The only major feature that is peculiar to the convention is the promotion and regulation of access to genetic resources, as outlined in article 15 and other relevant provisions.
On the whole, the convention has retained its scientific and technological character, as reflected in the number of its articles that deal with technical issues. Article 7 covers identification and monitoring of biological diversity and of processes and categories of activities that have possible substantial adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. This article includes
the obligation to maintain and organize relevant data. Article 8, on in situ conservation, is committed to a variety of activities that range from establishing a system of protected areas to restoring and rehabilitating of degraded ecosystems to controlling alien species and modified organisms. Article 9, on ex situ conservation, looks to conserve the complementary components of biological diversity outside their natural habitats. Article 10 stipulates obligations about the sustainable use of biological diversity, including cooperation between government authorities and the private sector in the development of methods for the sustainable use of biological resources. Article 12 strives for increased research and education in the field of biological diversity. Article 14 covers the impact assessment of effects and the minimization of adverse effects. Article 18 asks contracting parties to promote international technical and scientific cooperation in the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. Finally, article 26 is the control provision which strives to have nations report on the measures that they have taken to implement the convention and their effectiveness in meeting its objectives. The main challenge is how to relate the important promise of the convention to practice.
Structure and Functioning of the Convention.
The convention's structure is defined by a number of internal and designated organizations. The main internal organizations, within the convention are the Conference of the Parties (COP), the Secretariat, and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice (SBSTTA). The convention also has established two mechanisms: the financial mechanism and the clearinghouse mechanism. At its first meeting, the COP designated the Global Environment Facility (GEF) as the institutional structure that implements the financial mechanism on an interim basis. The clearinghouse mechanism, which is devoted to technical and scientific cooperation, is implemented through the Secretariat in Montreal.
The COP. The COP operates by consensus and deals with the internal governance of the convention. Its main function is to keep the implementation of the convention under review by considering national reports and the advice of the SBSTTA or any other advisory body or processes and by adopting protocols to the convention. The COP also reviews the implementation of the convention by contacting the executive bodies of other conventions that deal with the same matters with a view to establishing appropriate forms of cooperation with them. It makes these contacts through the Secretariat.
The COP also may establish subsidiary bodies to obtain whatever scientific and technical advice is deemed necessary for implementation of the convention. Finally, the COP may consider and undertake any additional action that may be required to achieve the purposes of the convention in the light of experience gained in its operation.
The Secretariat. The COP is supported by the Secretariat, which was established under article 24 to arrange for and provide service to meetings of the COP, to perform the functions assigned to it by any protocol, and to prepare reports on the execution of its functions under the convention and to present them to the COP. The Secretariat is also charged with the mandate of coordinating with other relevant international bodies and, in particular, entering into such administrative and contractual arrangements as may be required for the effective discharge of its functions.
SBSTTA. Article 25 of the convention established the SBSTTA to provide the COP and, as appropriate, its other subsidiary bodies with timely advice relating to the implementation of this convention. The SBSTTA was designed to be open to participation by all parties and to have a multidisciplinary approach. Its members are government representatives who are competent in relevant fields of expertise, and it reports to the COP on all aspects of its work.
The specific responsibilities of the SBSTTA are to provide scientific and technical assessments of the status of biological diversity; to prepare scientific and technical assessments of the effects of types of measures taken in accordance with the provisions of this convention; to identify innovative, efficient, state-of-the-art technologies and know-how related to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and to advise on how to promote the development and transfer of such technologies; to provide advice on scientific programs and international cooperation in research and development related to conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity; and to respond to scientific, technical, technological, and methodological questions that the COP and its subsidiary bodies may ask.
The Financial Mechanism. The convention established its financial mechanism to provide financial resources to developing-country parties as grants or concessions. The mechanism functions under the authority and guidance of and is accountable to the COP. The GEF conducts the operations of the mechanism. The COP determines the policy, strategy, program priorities, and eligibility criteria for access to and use of financial resources under the mechanism. The function of the GEF as the institutional structure that implements the financial mechanism on an interim basis is governed by a memorandum of understanding signed by the COP and the Council of the GEF.
The Clearinghouse Mechanism. Article 18(3) of the convention established the clearinghouse mechanism to promote and facilitate scientific and technical cooperation. At its second meeting, the COP established a pilot phase of the clearinghouse mechanism and agreed that this phase would start by promoting the exchange of information, with emphasis on the role of emerging information and communication technologies. The clearinghouse mechanism works closely with the financial mechanism in promoting the establishment of basic communication facilities for the parties of the convention.
Global learning: Normative and programmatic functions. Because of the nature of the convention as a legally binding instrument, meetings have focused on normative and programmatic activities, leaving operational activities to governments and international institutions. The normative activities of the convention include, first of all, providing overall guidance on policy and advice on biodiversity-related activities through decisions of the COP.
This includes the decision to take an ecosystematic approach to the objectives of the convention. Detailed programs of work have been or are being elaborated on themes of biological diversity in marine and coastal areas, agricultural areas, inland waters, and forests. The programs of work include elements of integrated management, living resources, protected areas, alien species and genotypes, and methods of production, such as mariculture or agroforestry.
Interpretive community. The COP functions as an interpretive community that seeks to clarify certain aspects of the provisions of the convention as well as those of other relevant bodies. So far, the most advanced interpretive activities of the COP have been related to such issues as the role of the clearinghouse mechanism and the transfer of technology. This interpretive function also has benefited from the advice of the SBSTTA and has drawn on the results of other international processes and meetings.
In addition, the COP has sought to clarify the interpretation of biodiversityrelated activities in other forums. For example, the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) under the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) benefited from input from the convention. A more elaborate interpretive effort is the current process to renegotiate the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources of the FAO to bring it into harmony with the convention. Another interpretive activity is the realignment of the work program of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) with the convention's Jakarta Mandate on Marine and Coastal Biological Diversity.
Guidelines for national implementation. Other normative activities include providing flexible guidelines for national implementation, for example, in the access to and benefit-sharing related to genetic resources and in the protection and promotion of, and reward for local and indigenous innovations, knowledge, and practices. The COP also has provided guidelines for preparing national reports in accordance with article 26 and has developed indicators for biological diversity to be used at the national level.
Harmonization of procedures, standards, criteria, and indicators. The biodiversity regime is setting norms and standardizing procedures, especially through continuing negotiations under the open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group on Biosafety, which has finalized a protocol for adoption by the COP at the end of 1998. This activity also is contributing to the development of international environmental laws related to the precautionary principle. Further work on
identifying opportunities for harmonization has resulted from the advice of the SBSTTA on criteria and indicators for biological diversity in forests.
Scientific and technical assessments. The use of scientific and technical input in the implementation of the convention has been debated considerably, especially in the context of reviewing the operations of the SBSTTA. Scientific input has been either parallel to the convention process or on an ad hoc basis. This has been partly because SBSTTA meetings are held annually, which does not allow effective mobilization of the available scientific and technical knowledge.
For example, the Norway-UNEP Expert Conference on Biodiversity, which was convened in May 1993 in Trondheim, Norway (Sandlund and Schei 1993), played a key role in bringing the biodiversity community together. Its results were used in the preparation for the first Intergovernmental Committee on the Convention on Biological Diversity (ICCBD) meeting held in Geneva in September 1993. The Norway-United Nations Conference on Alien Species was hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment in July 1996 (Sandlund and others 1996); the proceedings provided input to the SBSTTA and to the third COP in November 1996.
Unlike other environmental treaties, such as the Convention on Climate Change and the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, the Convention on Biological Diversity has conducted no formal knowledge assessments. Instead, a Global Biodiversity Assessment (GBA) was undertaken by UNEP after the convention went into force (Heywood 1995). The GBA was an independent, peer-reviewed scientific analysis by more than 300 experts from more than 50 countries on current issues, theories, and views about the main aspects of biological diversity. Governments were invited to nominate experts to review the GBA in their personal capacity; more than 1,100 experts from more than 80 nations participated in this peer-review process. The report, however, has been used only informally in the framework of the convention, and there has been no follow up by the SBSTTA, although many of the reports prepared by the secretariat have relied on the GBA as one of the most authoritative sources of information available about biological diversity.
Numerous research institutions and networks are seeking to incorporate the agenda of the convention in their programs, and some of them are becoming participants in the activities of the convention. One of these is DIVERSITIES, a scientific research program sponsored by UNESCO. Furthermore, considerable scientific work, management methods, and techniques for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and its components are already available in the relevant institutions.
National reporting. One key instrument for promoting the implementation of the convention is national reporting. The first national reports were made available to the secretariat at the end of 1997. They will form the basis of a synthesized document that will be presented to the COP for consideration and further decision-making. Strengthening of national capabilities for reporting will require concerted effort by the convention in conjunction with its financial mechanism. These reports not only will provide the COP with the basis for further guidance
on policy, but also represent one of the most important instruments for monitoring progress. In this regard, the work being carried out by the SBSTTA on biological-diversity indicators will be important for enhancing the normative role of the convention.
Engaging the Scientific and Technological Community
Mobilization of Science
It is evident that if the convention is to conduct its normative functions effectively, it will need to devise methods to mobilize the best available scientific and technical expertise. The main medium for such activities is the SBSTTA. Central to this issue is the continuing debate about the modus operandi of the SBSTTA. A number of options are open to the convention, the first of which is that the role of the SBSTTA itself needs to be reviewed in light of its operating experience. Some evidence suggests that the SBSTTA is emerging as a platform and focal point for international scientific networks. Benefiting from this opportunity will require adjustments in how the SBSTTA functions, especially in relation to its expert groups and meetings. Such groups and meetings, as well as liaison groups, can form the basis for a wide range of intersessional scientific activities.
Application of Technology
The role of technology in the implementation of the convention is now considered to be part of the thematic areas. So far, little work has been done under the convention on technological issues, although further discussion, especially on biotechnology, is expected at the next meeting of the COP. During consideration of this issue, it will be important to remember that many of the technological options available for implementing the convention are in the private sector. In this regard, the convention, possibly through the clearinghouse mechanism or other measures that the COP may wish to exact, could play a key role in encouraging the private sector to participate in the process of implementing the convention.
The Role of the United States
The United States is a leader in the scientific and technological fields that are related to biological diversity. This knowledge is generated by various stakeholders in both the private and public sectors. In the public sector, the federal government supports the generation of scientific knowledge through its various national research institutions.
Conservation and the sustainable use of biological diversity are an integral part of policy and law in the United States. Numerous task forces have been set up to formulate strategies for integrating biological diversity into sectoral activities and for developing methods of ecosystem management. Conservation is carried out jointly through national partnerships between federal, state, and nonprofit groups.
The United States has a diversified system of protected areas and biosphere reserves, including national wilderness-preservation and wildlife-refuge systems. The national-park system includes 374 areas, covering more than 83 million acres. Various programs aim at conservation and sustainable use, such as those working toward the recovery of threatened or endangered species and habitats and the restoration and enhancement of coastal zones.
Internationally, the United States has set up a variety of global programs on conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of genetic resources. In accordance with its overall environmental policy, the United States is participating actively in the regimebuilding process of the Convention on Biological Diversity. It plays an important role in the convention process and has played a key role in seeking to maintain the scientific and technical role of the SBSTTA. The full scientific, technical, and technological contributions of the evolving convention will be enhanced further when the United States becomes a full party.
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Ecology and the Knowledge Revolution
The Golden Age of Industrial Society
Since World War II, the world economy has expanded at a record pace, and world trade has increased at least three times faster than world production. During this period, industrialization has become an irresistible trend, made global by the dynamics of international markets and, more recently, information technology. This has been the golden age of industrial society.
The industrial society now faces the risks created by its own success. Its growth has been based on a voracious use of natural resources (Chichilnisky 1995–6), the rapid burning of fossil fuels to produce energy, and massive clearing of wooded lands and other ecosystems where most of the world's biodiversity is found. Economic activity is the fundamental driving force of the two most pressing global environmental problems: climate change and biodiversity destruction.
Only 20% of the world's population lives in industrial societies, but through global trade the success of industrialization has magnified the use of fossil fuels and other natural resources worldwide. Industrial nations consume most natural resources and originate 60% of global emissions of carbon dioxide, which can precipitate global climate change; they consume on the average 10 times as much copper, three times more roundwood, 15 times more aluminum, and 10 times more fossil fuel per capita than the developing countries. The international market mediates the relationship between industrial nations and developing countriesgenerally called the North and South, respectively (WRI/UNEP/UNDP 1995). The developing South specializes in resources, which account for 70% of
the exports of Latin America and almost all those of Africa; the industrial North specializes in products that are intensive in capital and knowledge. The South houses most of the world's biodiversity, and the current pattern of trade is contributing to its destruction.
The trend is global. Since the end of colonialism, the Bretton Woods institutions (for example, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) have encouraged a pattern of resource-intensive development for the world's less advanced countries. Developing countries today play the role of resource producers, overextracting resources that are traded below their real costs and thus overconsumed in the industrial nations (WRI/UNEP/UNDP 1995). This pattern of trade and low resource prices has been explained by the historical difference in property rights between the North and the South in the context of a rapid expansion of global markets (Chichilnisky 1994a): in a world where agricultural societies trade with industrial societies, global markets magnify the extraction of natural resources and depress their prices, and as a result world exports and consumption of resources exceed what is optimal. This is at the core of the world's environmental problems; through forests' and fisheries' destruction, it leads to rapid biodiversity loss.
Today's global environmental problems are connected with the role of global markets in magnifying unsustainable patterns of consumption and resource use in industrial nations. These patterns are responsible for most of the world's ecosystem destruction. In the long run, however, the fate of the world's resources could depend on the developing world. This paper therefore concentrates on today's patterns of development in industrial nations and on future patterns of development in the rest of the world. It advances a vision of a new society in which humans could live in harmony with each other and with nature, and it describes the transition to this new society as a “knowledge revolution.” That phrase refers to a swift period of change that is already under way in industrial nations, a change that requires new institutions and policies to reach a sustainable outcome. I analyze a new type of markets that will play a crucial role in tomorrow's societiesmarkets in knowledge and in environmental assetsand I analyze the property-rights regimes that are needed in these markets to achieve efficient, equitable, and sustainable development.
The New Global Markets.
Markets are a dominant institution in the global economy. As the century turns, however, markets themselves are evolving. Two major trends are knowledge markets and global environmental markets. Knowledge markets hold the key to the dynamics of the world economy: telecommunication and electronics, biotechnology and financial productsall involve trading products that use knowledge rather than resources as their most important input. The first global environmental market is about to emerge: following our earlier proposal to the UN Climate Convention (Chichilnisky 1993a, 1995b, 1996), the 166 nations that were parties to the Framework Convention for Climate Change (FCCC) agreed
in Kyoto in December 1997 to create a framework to trade carbon-emission credits among industrial nations.
Knowledge markets and environmental markets are different from traditional markets in that they trade what I call privately produced public goods rather than private goods. Private goodssuch as apples and machinesare chosen by each trader independently from each other and are “rival” in consumption. Not so with knowledge (Shulman 1999) and environmental goods: the carbon concentration in the planet's atmosphere is the same for all, and knowledge can be shared without losing it. Trading knowledge and environmental “rights to use” could lead to the most important markets of the future. The trading rights to use knowledge and environmental resources are key trends in the world economy; these trends lead the transformation that I call the knowledge revolution™ (Chichilnisky 1997a,b,c, 1998; Shulman 1999).
Focusing on those new markets, I analyze here the introduction of new institutions and the policies that can lead the transformation of industrial society into a sustainable knowledge-based society. I propose the creation of a new type of economic organization, which involves markets that trade a mixture of private and public goods to reach efficiency. The new markets require new regimes of property rights that are proposed here (Chichilnisky 1997a,b,c, 1998). They carry the seed of a human-oriented society that by its own functioning encourages the creation and diffusion of knowledge and a sustainable and equitable better use of the world's natural resources.
Ecology and the Knowledge Revolution
A major challenge is to find practical paths for sustainable development. This requires reorienting consumption patterns and the use of natural resources in ways that improve the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems. It will require building economic systems in which the basic needs of people are satisfied across the world, while protecting resources and ecosystems so as not to deprive the people of the future from satisfying their own needs. That is the definition of sustainability adopted by the Brundtland report, and it is anchored in the concept of development based on the satisfaction of “basic needs,” a concept that was introduced and developed empirically in Chichilnisky 1997a, b. Sustainable development has also been explored in Caring for the Earth, a joint publication of The World Conservation Union, UN Environment Programme and the World Wildlife Fund. It requires building a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. We are far from that goal; indeed, in many ways, the world economy is moving in the opposite direction.
Just as the environmental problems generated by industrial society are becoming a threat to human welfare, industrial society is in the process of transforming itself. The rapid pace of the change has led me to call it a revolution. The change is centered in the use of knowledge, so I call it the knowledge revolution. What characterizes this revolution?
The question is best answered in a historical context, by contrasting the current situation with the agricultural and the industrial revolutions, two landmarks
in social evolution. Neither of the two previous revolutions is complete. Across the world, we find today preagricultural societies populated by nomadic hunters and gatherers, and most of the developing world is still working its way through the industrial revolution. Nevertheless, in many societies, knowledge is becoming a leading indicator of change. Knowledge means the ability to choose wisely what to produce and how to produce it. That ability is becoming the most important input of production and the most important determinant of wealth and economic progress. It resides mostly in human brains rather than in physical entities, such as machines or land. It is worth pointing out that the important input is knowledge rather than information. That difference distinguishes between the computer industry, which is based on information technology, from other sectorssuch as telecommunication, biotechnology, and financial sectorsthat involve knowledge other than computers. Knowledge is key to sustainability. Indeed, the value of biodiversity resides mostly in its knowledge content, according to such ecologists as EO Wilson and Tom Lovejoy. In a nutshell, knowledge is the content, and information is the medium. The content (knowledge) is driving change, and this change is facilitated by the medium (information). Information technology is the fuel for knowledge sectors because it performs the important role of allowing the human brain to expand its limits in the production, organization, and communication of knowledge. The most important input of production today is not information technology itself; it is knowledge (Chichilnisky 1997a,b,c, 1998; Shulman 1999).
Characterizing the Knowledge Revolution
We may characterize the knowledge revolution as a period of rapid transition at the end of which knowledge itself becomes the most important input of production, the most important factor of economic progress and wealth. For example, the knowledge content of biodiversity becomes a key input for improving public health and human welfare, and, as pointed out above, it is identified as a crucial source of the economic value of biodiversity. In contrast the most important actual inputs of production in prior revolutions were land (in the agricultural revolution) and machines (in the industrial revolution), inputs that became better used because of new knowledge. (“Capital,” in the sense of economic value, shows the same trend: it was associated mostly with land holdings in the agricultural society, with machinery in the industrial society, and with ideas in the knowledge society.) Knowledge differs fundamentally from land and machines in that it is not rival in consumption, so the knowledge revolution is based on a radically different type of input of production. Property rights to inputs of production matter a great deal: for example, property rights to industrial capital determine the difference between socialism and capitalism and have led to global strife in most of this century. Property rights to knowledge are now becoming equally important (Shulman 1999).
The knowledge revolution is already taking place. One indication of that is that the value of corporations in the stock exchanges of the world is increasingly measured according to their knowledge assetssuch as discoveries, patents, brand
names, and innovative productsrather than their capital base or physical assets. Knowledge-related assets (such as patents) are increasingly regarded as the most important source of economic progress in a corporation and of its value. At the level of the economy as a whole, knowledge of mathematics and science has become a good predictor of national economic progress across the world. In this period of change, the United States leads the pack (Chichilinsky 1997a). Today, more Americans make semiconductors than construction machinery. The telecommunication industry in the United States and Canada employs more people than the automobile and automobile-parts industries combined. The US health and medical “industry” has become larger than its defense industry and larger than its oil refining, aircraft, automobiles, automobile-parts, logging, steel, and shipping industries put together. More Americans work in biotechnology than in the machine-tools industry. Most US jobs in the last 20 years were generated in smaller, knowledge-intensive firms driven by risk capital. One-third of US growth is accounted for by the knowledge sectors; thus, knowledge is an increasingly important determinant of economic progress. The knowledge sectors of the US economy already grow about twice as fast as the rest of the economy and therefore account for most of the dynamics of economic growth (Chichilinsky 1997a). That is despite the fact that current systems of accounting undervalue the contributions of electronics, which are extraordinarily productive and therefore offer rapidly lowering costs for their products. In a nutshell, knowledge products in the United States are rapidly becoming the most important input of production, source of value, and economic progress. Development of knowledge sectors is slower in Europe than in the United States because Europe's financial markets and property-rights systems are not as flexible, well developed, and regulated and this inhibits the creation, development, and commercialization of knowledge through new risk venture corporations.
Knowledge sectors have lower consumption of resources and less ecological impact than the rest, so they could decrease environmental damage once they become dominant in the economy (Chichilinsky 1997a). That is partly because of our new knowledge about the environmental consequences (costs) of our economic behavior. The question is whether the pace and scope of this process of change will foster a sustainable society on a time scale that matters. It is important to encourage and accelerate the transition in the right direction. The economic transformation depends on, among other things, the evolution of the new markets for knowledge and for environmental assets. These require special analysis because, as already mentioned, knowledge and environmental assets are privately produced public goods and lead to new types of markets with new challenges and new opportunities for action.
A Service Economy
It is important to differentiate the knowledge revolution from the so-called service economy, which used to be thought of as the latest stage of the industrial society. A service economy is characterized by the production of services more than goods, and it is similar to a knowledge economy in that knowledge sectors
often involve services (such as finance). The inevitable concern about the service economy is that it could lead mostly to service-oriented labor, such as the labor used in the food services or in bank processing, which requires little skill and achieves lower wages. Services now make up the largest part of advanced industrial economies, but the analogy ends there. A difference between the service economy and the knowledge society is that in the latter the typical worker is highly skilled and generally well paid. Furthermore, workers' knowledge resides mostly in their own brains and life experiences rather than in the machines that complement labor. Therefore, the knowledge economy could result, with proper institutions, in a society that is more human-oriented than the industrial or the service society. Such a society would involve more human connection and therefore would have different values, being more sensitive to others' needs and the effects of our actions on them.
Knowledge as a Privately Produced Public Good
As knowledge itself becomes the most important input to production, economic behavior changes because knowledge is a special type of good. It is called a public good by economists, not because it is produced by governments, but because, as already pointed out, it is not “rival” in consumption. This means that we can share knowledge without losing it; this is a physical property of knowledge, not an economic property, and it is independent of the organization of society. However, the economic rules governing the use of knowledgefor example, whether patents can be used to restrict its usecan have a major impact on human welfare and organization.
Knowledge is also different from conventional public goods of the type that economists have studied for many years, such as law and order or defense, which are supplied by governments in a centralized fashion. What is unique about knowledge among public goods is that it is typically supplied by private individuals who are its creators. At the level of production, therefore, knowledge is like any other private good: expensive to produce, and produced from private rival resources (human time) that often cannot be used simultaneously for other purposes. Producing knowledge requires economic incentives similar to those for producing any other private good.
A Vision of the Knowledge Society
Following the knowledge revolution, a new society could well develop that is centered in human creativity and diversity and that uses information technology rather than fossil fuels to power economic growth. The vision is a human-centered society that is innovative with respect to knowledge and at the same time conservative in its use of natural resources. The consumption of resources might not be as voracious as that in the industrial society and could be better distributed across societies and across the globe. The knowledge society might achieve economic progress that is harmonious with nature.
That vision is only a possibility at present. Without developing the right
institutions and incentives, it might never be realized, and a historical opportunity would be lost; we need institutions to bridge the gap between a grim present and a bright and positive future. The rest of this paper addresses this issue.
The Paradox of Knowledge
To produce new knowledge, creators need economic incentives. This could involve restricting the use of knowledge by others. Patents on new discoveries work in this fashion: by restricting others' use of knowledge. That creates a problem: any restriction in the sharing of knowledge is inefficient because knowledge can be shared at no cost and its sharing can make others better off. However, without some restrictions there might be no incentive to create new knowledge. I call this the paradox of knowledge; resolving this is at the heart of the success of the knowledge society, of its ability to bring human development for many and not only a wealthy few.
A New Property-Rights Regime
New regimes for property rights are needed to deal simultaneously with the need to share the use of knowledge for efficiency, and the need to preserve private incentives for production (Shulman 1999). I propose complementing patents with a system of compulsory and negotiable licenses that are traded competitively in the market along with all other goods in the economy, and which are offered in prederential terms to lower income groups. In this new scheme, the right to use knowledge is unrestricted, and by law everyone should have access to it. However, users must pay the creator each time they use the knowledge. Trading of the licenses competitively in markets ensures that the creators of knowledge are compensated for their labor in a way that reflects the demand for their products and therefore their usefulness for society. Furthermore, the prices paid for the use of licenses are uniform and determined by competitive markets. This new regime differs fundamentally from the current system of patents in that, in principle, patents can restrict the use of knowledgelicenses related to patents can be negotiated, but they do not have to be. Today owners of patents are legally entitled not to negotiate licenses, and thus in effect to create a monopoly during the patents' life (Shulman 1999). Furthermore, even if they are traded, there is no requirement that the market for patents be competitive. By contrast, no restriction in the use of knowledge is allowed in the system I propose (Chichilnisky 1997a,b,c, 1998). However, a key issue is the distribution, use, and applicability of the property rights for licenses.
It is clear that a system of licenses on knowledge products (such as operating systems for software, biological information, and how-to-do-it systems) could preserve or even worsen today's uneven distribution of wealth in the economy, because the knowledge economy has a built-in incentive for the creation of monopolies. Indeed, any knowledge-based corporation is a “natural monopoly,” that is, the cost of duplicating knowledge products (such as software) is very small, so the larger the firm, the lower its costs. That is an extreme case of “increasing returns
to scale,” wherein larger firms have an advantage over their smaller competitors and can deter entry by newer and smaller competitors. Such natural monopolies are characteristic of the knowledge society. How to avoid their effects in concentrating welfare in the hands of a very few?
The system of property rights proposed here takes into account those possibilities. It establishes how the distribution of licenses in competitive markets is crucial in achieving efficient solutions. It shows that markets in knowledge operate differently from the standard markets because knowledge is a privately produced public good. The solution proposed here is a distribution of property rights through licenses that is negatively correlated with the property rights of private goods.
How will such a system of property rights become accepted? There is a parallel with the introduction of laws to ensure fair trade, to which natural monopolies have offered much resistance, but which were eventually adopted by society as a whole (Shulman 1999). There are substantial economic incentives for corporations to accept fair trading and the system of property rights that I propose, although it is clear that more economic thinking and business education are needed before acceptance becomes widespread. Producers that benefit from increasing returns to scale could benefit from a system of licenses in which the lower-income segments of the population are given proportionately more rights to use knowledge than the rest. This would expand the market for their products and thus favor them. Consider as an example the case of subsidized worker-training schemes. Because knowledge is so important for the productivity of society as a whole and produces positive “externalities” on all producers, there is an incentive to develop a skilled pool of workers. Corporations know that skilled workers are essential to the success of knowledge industries.
To reach an efficient market solution, namely one that cannot be improved so as to make everyone better off, lower-income traders (individuals or nations) should be assigned a larger endowment of property rights in the use of knowledge (Chichilnisky 1997a,b,c, 1998). In practice, a larger amount of licenses to use knowledge are assigned to such lower-income countries or groups.
The regime that I propose is new but realistic. Similar systems are already in place in most industrial societies within educational systems. For example, school subsidies offer lower-income groups preferential prices in educational services. The US federal government auctions off the use of airwaves in such a way that members of minority groups and women are given substantial discounts (in some cases, of 40%) when they participate in those auctions. In the United States, Microsoft has introduced licensing regimens for some of its products that benefit disproportionately the lower-income groups. More examples of this nature can be found in Shulman (1999), who also advocates compulsory licenses without however offering an economic analysis of distributional issues or efficiency.
Licenses: We Make it, We Take it Back
The system of property rights proposed here, although unique in its economic formulation, is reminiscent of a development that is already taking place in the
corporate world, a development that is also connected with environmental issues that have a public-good aspect: the disposal of materials involved in heavy industrial products, such as vehicles and electronic equipment. Leasing vehicles and electronic equipment, a thriving business, hardly existed 20 years ago. One of the largest packaging companies in the world, Sonoco Products Co., started taking its used products off customers' hands after CEO Charles Coker made a pledge in 1990: “We make it, we take it back.” The policy has already been adopted by the car industry in Germany, where, because of environmental concerns, car manufacturers are responsible for disposing of vehicles that customers return at the end of their useful life. Another example is in the floor-covering industry: Ray Anderson, CEO of Atlanta-based Interface, the largest maker of commercial carpeting, has set up as a goal to create zero waste while making a healthy profit, and the company takes back its products when they have been used to recycle them. What all of these examples have in common is that they perceive the businesses' mission to be the sale of services, not products. For example, selling viewing services rather than television sets, selling transportation services rather than vehicles, and selling the comfort and visual services that carpets provide rather than the carpets themselves. Licensing gives the producers an incentive to minimize waste and environmental damagefor example, the waste produced by wrapping or by defunct car bodiesbecause they will be responsible for them. The businesspeople see licensing services as the way to the future, particularly when consumers must pay for the disposal of industrial waste.
Implicit in the new system of property rights is the idea of licensing the use of services rather than owning the products that deliver the services. The analogy with licensing is therefore clear.
Knowledge, as we saw above, has much in common with environmental assets: it is a privately produced public good. Knowledge products have been licensed for many years, although case by case and without securing the competitiveness of the market for licenses and the distribution of property rights that would ensure efficient outcomes. In this sense, the new developments in industry reported here move in the same direction as the system of property rights involving licenses. The new system of property rights that is proposed here can be thought of as an improvement in, an institutionalization of, and an economic formalization of licensing and leasing systems that have recently emerged in advanced industrial economies.
A Property-Rights Regime for Biodiversity
The Convention on Biodiversity faces a controversial issue with respect to property rights to the knowledge contained in biodiversity samples obtained from developing nations. The pharmaceutical industry faces difficult ethical and business issues on how to involve and compensate developing countries and how to price newly discovered drugs on which much R&D money has been spent but that should be available as widely as possible (such as newly found AIDS medication). The regime suggested above can deal with those issues because it ensures the
widest possible use of knowledge while providing compensation for the discoverer and developer. In essence, patents would be replaced by long-lived compulsory licenses on the use of the implicit knowledge that would be traded in competitive markets. This regime would expand maximally the use of the products without depriving the creator of due rewards. Initial fixed costs could be recovered from higher-income groups through the appropriate use of initial allocations that favor low-income groups.
Human Impacts of Property Rights to Knowledge.
The rules that govern the use of knowledge in society are important because they can lead to threats to as well as opportunities for human development. These rules have an effect both directly and through changes in the patterns of consumption of goods and services. They can determine the impact of human societies on the environment and on inequalities across the world economy. The way we use and distribute knowledge casts a very long shadow on human societies.
A historical comparison helps to explain the process. In agricultural societies, the way humans organized the ownership of land, which was the most important input to production, led to such social systems as feudalism. Ownership of land had a major impact on human welfare and on economic progress. Similarly, in industrial societies, the way humans organize the use of capital, the most important input of production, led to different social systems, such as socialism and capitalism. Indeed, those two systems are defined by their rules on ownership of capital: In socialism, ownership is in the hands of the governments or other public institutions; and in capitalism, capital is in private hands. Property rights to capital have mattered a great deal and have even led to global strife in most of this century.
Because capital is the most important input of production in industrial society, it is clear that property rights to capital had an enormous impact on the organization of society, on economic progress, and on people's welfare. Similarly, in the knowledge society, the way humans organize the use of knowledge, its most important input to production, will determine human welfare and economic progress across the world. Human institutions that regulate the use of knowledge, such as through property rights and markets for knowledge, will become increasingly important. As we saw, knowledge is a different type of commodity from land or capital: it is a privately produced public good. Markets with public goodsand other economic institutions, such as property rights to public goodsare still open to definition and require much economic analysis. Markets themselves will operate differently in the knowledge economy because the nature of the goods traded will be different. There will be new challenges and new opportunities for economic thinking and organization.
The Economic Impact of Knowledge-Intensive vs. Resource-Intensive Growth
To focus our thoughts, it is useful to distinguish between two patterns of economic growth, two extreme cases between which is a spectrum of possibilities: economic development that is knowledge-intensive and economic development that is resource-intensive. The former means achieving more human welfare with less material input; the latter means achieving more production through more material use. These two categories were introduced in Chichilnisky (1995a, 1994b).
There are excellent historical examples of the two patterns of development and of the differences they induce in economic growth. East Asian nations approximate the knowledge-intensive paradigm, whereas Latin American and African countries fit well the pattern of resource-intensive growth. On the whole, knowledge-intensive development strategies succeeded, and resource-intensive development patterns did not. I studied the historical patterns, focusing on East Asian nations that are now called the Asian Tigers (including Japan, Korea, and Taiwan) and later those called the Small Tigers (such as Singapore, Philippines, Hong Kong, and Malaysia) Chichilnisky (1997a). Those nations focused on exports of technology-intensive products, such as consumer electronics and technologically advanced vehicles, and overturned the traditional economic theory of “comparative advantages.” In contrast, Latin America and Africa followed a traditional resource-intensive pattern of development and lost ground.
The most dynamic sectors in the world economy today are not resource-intensive; they are knowledge-intensive, such as software and hardware, biotechnology, communication, and financial markets (Chichilnisky 1994b, 1995a, 1997a,b,c, 1998). These sectors are relatively friendly to the environment. They use fewer resources and emit relatively little CO2. Knowledge sectors are the high-growth sectors in most industrialized countries.
Some of the most dynamic developing countries are making a swift transition from traditional societies to knowledge-intensive societies. Mexico produces computer chips, India is rapidly becoming an important exporter of software, and Barbados has unveiled a plan to become an information society within a generation (Fidler 1995). Those policies are an extension of the strategies adopted earlier by Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan, which have achieved extraordinary success over the last 20 years by relying not on resource exports, but on knowledge-intensive products, such as consumer electronics.
One lesson of history is clear: not to rely on resource exports as the foundation of economic development. Africa and Latin America must update their economic focus. Indeed, the whole world must shift away from resource-intensive economic processes and products. If they do, smaller quantities of minerals and other environmental resources will be extracted, and their prices will rise. That is as it should be because today's low resource prices are a symptom of overproduction and inevitably lead to overconsumption.
Not surprisingly, from an environmental perspective one arrives at exactly the same answer: higher resource prices are needed to curtail consumption. Producers will sell less, but at higher prices. That is not to say that everyone will gain in
the process. If the world's demand for petroleum drops, most petroleum producers will lose unless they have diversified into other products that involve less use of resources and higher value. Most international oil companies are investigating this strategy. Indeed, British Petroleum and Shell are already following such policies. Monsanto is doing the same within the chemical industry.
The main point is that nations do not develop on the basis of resource exports. At the end of the day, development can make all better off. The trend is inevitable, and the sooner one makes the transition to the knowledge revolution, the better. The data and a conceptual understanding of how markets operate lead to the same conclusion. Economic development cannot mean, as in the industrial society, doing more with more. It means achieving more progress with less use of resources.
Opportunities and Threats
The knowledge revolution could develop in different ways, depending on how our institutions and policies unfold. As already explained, knowledge has the capacity to amplify current discrepancies in wealth because knowledge sectors can lead to natural monopolies such as those due to the adoption of operating systems (Microsoft's Windows is a case in point) or other standards. Knowledge sectors could amplify the differences in wealth between the North and the South. If that occurs, the low prices of resources from developing countries will persist, because they result in part from the necessity to export at low prices in a difficult international market climate. It has been shown that with current institutions of property rights, anything that leads to more poverty will lead to increased resource exports from developing countries (Chichilnisky 1994a).
However, knowledge sectors will flourish in nations that have skilled labor. Several developing nations are or soon could be in that position; examples are the Caribbean area and Southeast Asia and many areas in Latin America (Harris 1994).
The main issues here are
• abandonment of the resource-intensive development patterns that those nations have followed for the last 50 years, with the support and encouragement of the Bretton Woods institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; and
• establishment of the institutions (property rights and financial markets) that could lead them to overcome the mirage of resources as a “comparative advantage,” help avoid the heavy stages of industrialization, and move directly (“leapfrog”) to the knowledge society.
Heavy accumulation of capital (financial or physical) is not needed for most knowledge sectors. Indeed, most new technologies were developed in small firms within the United States (the proverbial “garages” in Silicon Valley), and software production in developing nations is labor-intensive and requires relatively little
capital. Bangalore, a typical example, became in 10 years one of the world's most active exporters of software; it now exports US$2 billion worth per year. What is needed is good managerial ability and highly skilled labor of the type that does not require expensive machinery or heavy capital investment in plants.
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