THE BIOSYSTEMATIC IMPERATIVE
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CTA. 1994. THE BIOSYSTEMATIC IMPERATIVE. Spore 54. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/49502
With the wider awakening of the world's environmental conscience, and the global commitment to the sustainable use of biodiversity, has come the need to know much more precisely and comprehensively than before the specific composition of biological...
With the wider awakening of the world's environmental conscience, and the global commitment to the sustainable use of biodiversity, has come the need to know much more precisely and comprehensively than before the specific composition of biological communities. This has caused attention to focus on the previously neglected invertebrates and micro-organisms which, because of their sheer numbers, play crucial roles in the maintenance of ecosystems and the functioning of the world's geo-chemical cycles. There are six times as many species of fungi as there are of flowering plants, an equal number of nematodes (between 1.5 and 2.7 million species), perhaps six million species of insects, and a diversity of bacteria exceeding all others combined. The task of making an inventory of the 90-95% of these organisms which remain unnamed is formidable. A piece-meal approach to this task is inevitable, beginning with all taxa surveys of specific ecosystems and/or localities, and the use of indicator species to monitor environmental changes under natural and humanly modified regimes. But for both inventories and big-indicator-based monitory exercises, the correct identification of organisms and a sound knowledge of their interrelationships is an essential pre-requisite. Without authoritative names i.e. unique identities for the organisms under investigation, research results are valueless as tools for the development of desirable management prescriptions for the world's biological diversity. The biggest single scientific impediment to progress in biological research - and hence to biodiversity programmes, of whatever dimension - is the lack of authoritative identification, the lack of names. The name of an organism is the key to ail that is known about it. The science which provides these names, biosystematics, is dedicated to discovering organisms, identifying and classifying them and elucidating their interrelationships within biological systems. It is the language of biology and the foundation of all that follows. Without biosystematics there is no basis for building a database for biological diversity. Biosystematic resources worldwide are generally inadequate in the face of increasing need for them and substantial new investment in this science is needed, even in the wealthiest nations. The situation in developing countries is critical. With few notable exceptions, these lack the indigenous expertise and reference materials needed to support national programmes for biodiversity and to enable them to meet their obligations as signatories to the Global Convention on Biodiversity. The only enduring solution is for developing countries to create and sustain realistic self-reliance and to do so in the most cost-effective way, through subregional technical cooperation networks designed to mobilize, pool and optimize the use of the resulting corporate assets for the benefit of all member countries. BioNET-INTERNATIONAL, a global network of subregional LOOPS (Locally Organized and Operated Partnerships) provides the mechanism, and additionally facilitates the further strengthening of sub-regional capabilities through its consortium of centres of excellence (BioCON) in developed countries, and its Technical Secretariat at CAB International in the UK. BioCON, as exemplified by the recently formed EuroLOOP embracing 22 countries of Europe, stands ready to provide technical support to the developing country LOOPs of BioNET e.g. CARINET in the Caribbean sub-region, ASEANET in South East Asia, EAFRINET in East Africa and PACINET in the South Pacific. Further LOOPS are planned for Southern and West Africa, Amazonia, Southern Latin America, India and China and elsewhere.