Critical Issues for Biodiversity and Long-Term Ecological Network in the East Asia Pacific Region

William Y. B. Chang
Division of International Program
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Blvd.,
Arlington, VA 22230
&
Center for Great Lakes & Aquatic Sciences
&
School of Natural Resources and Environments
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Mich. 48109
U.S.A.
and
Byung-Hwan Ho
International Programs
Korea Science and Engineering Foundation
180-1, Kajeong-Dong
Yousung-Gu, Taejon-City, 305-350
Korea

Abstract

Critical issues for biodiversity and long-term ecological research in the East Asia and Pacific region are discussed briefly in this report, which shows that integrated ecosystem research and monitoring, social and economic analysis, information integration and assessment, and technology innovation are four action needs for sustainable ecosystems. The special evening session on October 14 looks forward to the inputs from all ILTER members to help us to address the needs in information integration and communication, and human resource development in the East Asia and Pacific region.

Introduction

Economic development during this century has transformed the Asian Pacific from predominantly agricultural based economies to largely industrial societies. The success of this transformation has made many nations in the western Pacific leaders in industries and technologies development. However, these developments have also brought pollution, environmental degradation, over-exploitation of natural resources, and diminishing natural habitats.

The Asian Pacific once had an abundant supply of clean air and water, and a great diversity of plants, animals, and ecosystems. However, environmental degradation and over-exploration during this century have diminished ecosystem function and have depleted many of the natural resources that have been important in our continuing development and prosperity. Degradation, depletion, and loss of those resources threaten both our quality of life and our future economic growth. Societies depend on ecosystems for clean air, clean water, food, clothing, shelter, medicines, and aesthetic enjoyment. As a result, effective management practices are sought to ensure the conservation of ecological environments and natural resources, and the continued availability of those ecosystem goods and services required for continued social and economic prosperity.

In order to attain these goals and work towards sustainable ecosystems, scientists and natural resource managers in the U.S. have developed the following action plan (CENR, In Press). This plan focuses primarily on problems in the U.S., but the action plan is also important to the East Asia and Pacific region, where many of the same issues critical to long-term ecological well being are present. The plan to address the needs for ecological research can be summarized as follows:

synthesize existing information and develop new knowledge about the structure, function, and resiliency of habitats and ecosystems;

improve understanding of the effects of multiple stresses on habitats and on the delivery of ecosystem goods and services; and, provide advanced models and information technologies to improve assessment and forecasts of habitat and ecosystem conditions under alternative policy and management options.

The CERN report also proposed the necessary research and action requirements, which include:

Integrated Ecosystem Research and Monitoring leading to improved understanding of the complex integrative web of biological, chemical, geological, and physical processes that characterize ecosystem structures and functions.

The CENR report identified five major stressors: land and resource use (physical and biological stressors), invasive species (biological stressors), pollution (chemical stressors), extreme natural events (physical stressors), and atmospheric and climate change (physical stressors). Understanding ecosystem responses to these major stressors is critical for long-term species conservation and ecosystem sustainability.

Social and Economic Analysis for improved cost-benefit analyses that include valuation of costs associated with multiple-challenge impacts on ecological systems and the benefits of non-marketable ecosystem services.

Information Integration and Assessment for improved national information networks that integrate social and economic, as well as environmental information, and improved models for assessing ecosystem complexity, forecasting response to the cumulative impact of multiple natural and human-induced challenges, and estimating ecological risks associated with different management practices at regional, network and multiple site scales.

Technological Innovations leading to improved techniques in remote sensing, biogeochemical tracers, taxonomic and genomic systematics, and bioremediation technologies that integrate complex multi-disciplinary ecological processes and interaction at molecular-to-global scales.

Developing advanced technologies is an important step in achieving environmental conservation and ecosystem sustainability. Examples of advanced technologies important to ecological and biodiversity research may include genome sequencing, DNA chips, new biotechnologies, new software for computational analysis, modeling, and simulation, integrated assessment, new biosensors and ecological monitoring devices, advanced remote sensing technologies, advanced information network technologies and integrated databases.

Our Contributions

Of these four major research and action requirements, I believe the East Asia and Pacific ILTER Network can make significant contribution to information integration and improving exchanges in technologies innovations.

Information INTEGRATION

Most biodiversity and ecosystem information exists in forms that are not easily used, from traditional, paper-based libraries to scattered databases and physical specimens preserved in natural history collections throughout the Asia. These data are uncoordinated and isolated and are not accessible. There is no comprehensive technological or organizational framework that allows this information to be readily accessed or used effectively. At the same time, significant increases in computation and communication capabilities in recent years have opened up previously unimagined possibilities in the field of information technologies. There is a need to have abundant, easily-accessible, analyzed and synthesized information that can be used for managing biodiversity and ecosystem resources. This need calls for an integrated information system.

More immediately for our region, extensive local data on biodiversity, some of which cover long periods of time at many sites, are already available from many laboratories and museums in the Asian Pacific Region. We need to make these data available for scientists, researchers and students, since successful information exchange is critical for conservation and protection of ecosystems and for the prediction of impacts on stressors on ecosystems.

Action items:

Establish effective networks in the East Asia and Pacific region to make these data available to scientists, resource managers, and students to promote regional cooperation and address regional environmental problems.

Determine the key databases which can be used for this linkage.

Determine how to establish this network (action team).

Recommend the persons who may participate in this linkage.

Decide action needs, e.g., data standardization, methods, training, etc.

exchange information in technology innovations

We suggest that an ILTER web be created to report useful recent developments in advanced technologies appropriate for ecological and biodiversity research and provide assessment of various technologies as to their usefulness to our communities.

HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT

In addition to science, human resource development is the most critical issue to sustain future ecological research. There are two major aspects in the human resource development, education and training, and public outreach.

Education

One of the major needs in education identified in the East Asia and Pacific Region of the LTER network is to improve opportunities for junior scientist to interact with their counterparts in the Pacific Rim countries (Chang and Iwakuma, In Press). Opportunities for young scientists to work with their international counterparts are limited in this region, yet to date there has been no special effort to address this issue. Opportunities for young scientists to interact with their international counterparts are critical, because such opportunities support broad-based training of young scientists, which makes them better prepared to take on the challenges of future environmental and ecological problems. Furthermore, the well trained young scientists of today will become the lead researchers, scientists, and educators of tomorrow. We need to have junior scientists with a broad ecological view, wide research experience and an extensive professional network beyond the confines of the research sites and universities where they conduct their research and receive their training.

Two junior scientist exchanges were carried out in 1997 and 1998. One unanimous message from the students who participated in the exchanges is that this type of visit proved very useful to all visitors by expanding their understanding of ecology and ecological systems, in particular those ecosystems not available to them at their host sites, by establishing their research networks and their contacts with young scientists at other international sites and by assisting their career development. The Japanese students also recommended that the LTER model be used in ecological studies in Japan, and that the program seek to promote better communication and information exchange among scientists, more extensive uses of the Internet in communication in Japan, and better data management systems for long-term data and data sharing.

Action items:

Opportunities targeted to this group need to be established. Opportunities such as workshops for junior scientists or research camps for junior investigators can be a good way to begin to address this need. Exchange visits for junior scientists in the Pacific Rim countries can also be useful programs to promote joint learning and to exchange and expand research experience.

How can we improve the junior scientists/students communication?

What types of education programs should be planned ?

Are students/junior scientists willing to organize activities for themselves?

Outreach

The conservation of biodiversity requires the support of the general public. Social and political decisions about the choice of development processes will have significant consequences for the environment, and in particular for biodiversity. It is therefore a high priority to ensure the education of policy makers, resource managers, industrial decision makers, students and property owners on how to manage, protect and restore ecosystems (Kawanabe and Leveque, 1998).

Action Items:

What programs/activities are most appropriate for meeting these goals?

Would you share your experience with schools or citizen groups?

Message to Attendees

PLEASE COME TO THE MEETING. WE WELCOME YOUR INPUT, SUGGESTIONS, SOLUTIONS, AND IDEAS. The above is an abstract indicating some of the examples of the issues that we may cover during the October 14 evening session. We would love to see you there !!

REFERENCES

Chang W. Y. B. and T. Iwakuma, In press. Programs and Opportunities for Junior Scientists: Needs in the Asian Pacific Region. Iwakuma T. [ed] The second ILTER proceeding.

CENR, Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, National Science and Technology Council of Office of Science, Technology, and Policy, Executive Office of the President. In press. Integrated Science for Sustainable Ecosystems: A fiscal year 2000 area of special emphasis.

Kawanabe H. and C. Leveque 1998. DIVERSITAS STAR - Element 9, Inland Water Biodiversity Plan of Action.