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PART 4—
MEANS TO MEASURE BIODIVERSITY



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Page 253 PART 4— MEANS TO MEASURE BIODIVERSITY

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Page 255 Conservation Biology and the Preservation of Biodiversity: An Assessment. Gary K. Meffe Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Newins Ziegler 303, Box 110430, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611-0430 The field of conservation biology has been formally recognized for 10, 15, or 20 or more years, depending on how one identifies its beginning (Ehrenfeld 1970; Soulé and Wilcox 1980; Soulé 1986). Regardless of which date we accept, the field has existed for a short time, yet it has had profound and far-reaching effects on the science and management of biodiversity, effects that are well out of proportion to its youthful existence. These influences, some of which I will discuss here, imply that the development of the field of conservation biology was nearly inevitable and perhaps overdue. It brought together and motivated large numbers of scientists of varied description and inclination to address, in a highly pluralistic manner, the problem of the greatest loss of biological diversity in 65 million years. It continues to do so, with some degree of success, although history must be the final judge of its efficacy. I will discuss the field of conservation biology and its contributions to the preservation of biodiversity, identify its areas of weakness, and suggest directions in which the field should go. Much of this material is opinion—my personal assessment of the field—and little more. It should not be misconstrued as a comprehensive attempt to critically assess the field; that task remains for future analysts. What is Conservation Biology? I begin with a general (and admittedly superficial) description of the field; moredetailed treatments are available in many other sources. I offer the definition of conservation biology I have used before (Meffe and Can-oil 1997):

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Page 256 An integrative approach to the protection and management of biodiversity that uses appropriate principles and experiences from basic biological fields such as genetics and ecology; from natural resource management fields, such as fisheries and wildlife; and from social sciences, such as anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and economics. An important aspect of this definition is that conservation biology borrows and synthesizes from many disciplines. It is an amalgamation of the perspectives, data, techniques, and pursuits of many natural and social sciences, all focused on the problem of the loss and protection of biodiversity Conservation biology differs from more traditional conservation endeavors, such as fisheries, wildlife biology, forestry, or soil conservation, in at least three ways. First, its origin was strongly academic and theoretical. The field of conservation biology was developed largely by academicians, especially population geneticists and ecologists, who applied their genetic and ecological models to the growing problem of loss of biodiversity. It subsequently was enriched by many other disciplines, in both the natural and social sciences. Second, the field is rooted in a philosophy of stewardship rather than one of utilitarianism or consumption. The latter has been the basis of traditional resource conservation, that is, conserving resources solely for their economic use and human consumption. This change is reflected in the adoption of very different “guiding lights” in traditional resource management and modern conservation biology: Gifford Pinchot's resource conservation ethic versus Aldo Leopold's evolutionary-ecological land ethic (Callicott 1990). Third, conservation biology includes significant contributions from nonbiologists in the various social sciences, political sciences, and economics, who join with those in the natural sciences to address our complex problems and develop perspectives and methods. Thus, conservation biology is a broad synthesis of many academic fields, and its purpose is to address the loss and stewardship of biodiversity. Another important feature of conservation biology is its basis in and recognition of three broad underlying principles (Meffe and Carroll 1997): the inevitability of evolutionary change, the recognition that ecology is dynamic, and the need to take into account the human presence. Conservation biologists recognize that because natural systems are the result of long-term evolutionary change, they will continue to evolve. To protect the status quo, as in a museum, would be a mistake, because systems must continue to evolve. Another mistake is to not understand the evolutionary processes that led to the characteristics of a species when we are attempting to protect or recover it. Likewise, natural systems are dynamic on shorter, ecological time scales, and conservation biologists recognize that natural disturbances are critical to the integrity of ecological systems. The “balance-of-nature” paradigm has been usurped by a “flux-of-nature” viewpoint (Pickett and others 1992). Finally, conservation biologists recognize that it would be hopelessly naive to ignore humans in the conservation equation or to focus our attention solely on highly natural or pristine systems and lock them away from humanity. In fact, the growing human population is the primary motivation for and the reason we

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Page 257 need the field of conservation biology, and it must be considered at all times. The goal of conservation biology, then, is to understand and meld all three of these foci to help establish an ecologically sustainable world. What has Conservation Biology Contributed to the Protection of Biodiversity? I begin this section with a caveat: Although I will claim a great many advances by the field of conservation biology, I do not mean to imply that they all are the result of this field exclusively, that the field has any unique or singular claim to them, or that they would not or could not have developed otherwise. However, I do believe that conservation biology has played an important role in each of these advances. The major contributions of conservation biology to the protection of biodiversity that I will discuss are of three kinds: new ideas and syntheses, galvanization and reform of natural-resource management, and inspiration for new and related disciplines and current natural-resource practitioners. New Ideas and Syntheses First and foremost, conservation biology has provided a formal, global recognition of biodiversity—what it is and what we are losing (Myers 1992; Wilson and Peter 1988). The world's attention to this crisis and our subsequent modes of dealing with it have been guided largely by this field. In defining biodiversity, we have argued with various degrees of success that biodiversity is much more than richness of species, that it ranges from genes to landscapes and includes the various processes that occur as a function of that diversity. The field has helped to define what we have, what we are losing, and how we deal with it. It is best organized around a triumvirate of composition (what is there), structure (how it is distributed in space and time), and function (what it does) rather than merely around counts of species (Noss 1990). We have learned that if we are to preserve biodiversity successfully, we must deal with natural complexities at multiple levels and configurations. Next, conservation biology has acted to coalesce many scientific issues under one roof as a metadiscipline. Such issues include genetics, biogeography (including the practical application of island-biogeography theory to rates of loss of biodiversity), population ecology and dynamics, community and ecosystem ecology, evolutionary biology, landscape ecology, and numerous social-science and human dimensions. We consistently draw on these and other disciplines to address the complex interdisciplinary issues that confront us. Conservation biology also recognizes the critical importance of habitat fragmentation and edge effects in losses of biodiversity. It promotes the concept that the quality and spatial configuration of habitat is at least as important to the protection of biodiversity as the total amount of habitat available. Work on metapopulations, spatially explicit models, and the highly practical tool of population viability analysis, also developed by conservation biologists, are related to the spatial considerations of habitat frag-

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Page 258 mentation. All these address the various problems of persistence that face real populations on real landscapes. Conservation biology has advanced considerably the serious recognition of the potentially disastrous effects of exotic species on native species and ecosystems. The influence of nonindigenous plants and animals has become a major focus in the protection of biodiversity as we have learned how such invaders not only can affect the richness of species, but also can change ecosystem functions. Finally, conservation biology has incorporated values and ethics into its science. It clearly is a value-laden science,-with a strong value base that freely recognizes that protection of biodiversity is good and necessary, not only for the benefit of humanity, but also for its own inherent good. Galvanization and Reform of Natural Resource-Management The second major contribution of conservation biology is that it has acted (whether intentionally or not) to galvanize and reform natural-resource management in two important ways. First, it caused some staid and conservative disciplines—such as traditional fisheries, wildlife, and forestry—to take notice of ideas, controversies, and approaches that had been simmering under the surface for some time. In fact, the clinging to tradition by these fields may have helped to spawn conservation biology, because individuals who were unhappy with the status quo searched for and developed a new discipline that offered an alternative to traditional, consumption-oriented approaches to natural-resource management. As a result, these other disciplines also seem to be moving forward as they embrace the concepts of conservation biology and make them work for natural-resource management. One need only scan the recent pages of such journals as Fisheries and The Wildlife Society Bulletin to see the influence of the last decade of conservation biology. Conservation biology also has acted in the opposite direction, of bringing ecology and evolution out of the “pure” realm of the ivory tower and applying them to the problems of the day. Many “pure” researchers, who formerly would not dirty their hands with applied problems, now are applying what they know to real landscapes and real issues, thus enriching those endeavors. This new interplay between pure and applied research, with the breakdown of barriers between them, is possibly one of the healthiest and most positive benefits of the development of conservation biology. Second, conservation biology has changed tangibly management practices as they actually occur on the landscape. In retrospect, the old practices were too scattered and, in many cases, had insufficient scientific justification to have lasted much longer, and their failure may have contributed to the development of conservation biology as a field. As the many pathologies (sensu Holling 1995, Holling and Meffe 1996) of natural-resource management became apparent, new approaches were needed and developed. This has been manifested in several ways: • challenging and changing natural resource management practices by federal and state agencies to incorporate and accommodate the various principles

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Page 259 promulgated by conservation biology, which now is influencing, through its science and philosophy, how we treat our resources; • moving away from simple command-and-control approaches to management, which repeatedly have been shown to fail ultimately, toward understanding how nature operates and working within those “rules” (Knight and Meffe 1997); • developing a greater appreciation for and understanding of uncertainty in environmental management and policy and incorporating that uncertainty into management practices. Recognition of the many natural and human sources of uncertainty has led to multiple calls for adaptive management (Gunderson and others 1995; Holling 1978; Walters 1986), which management agencies are starting to heed and embrace; and • incorporating natural patterns of variation, such as disturbance regimes, into management. This includes such activities as reinstituting fire in appropriate ecosystems, leaving storm debris on forest floors, and mimicking a natural flood in the Grand Canyon, all designed to incorporate natural processes into management. In addition to these changes, we are seeing environmental activists working with scientists (or with science) in their calls for policy reform. Numerous activist organizations now routinely incorporate conservation biology into their activities, a step that represents a convergence of science and activism toward the common goal of science-based policy. In sum, natural-resource managers the world over now are relying increasingly on the findings and principles of conservation biology for direction. In the United States, federal and state agencies alike are retooling, using conservation biology as a guide. Inspiration for New Ideas, Disciplines, and Organizations New ideas, disciplines, and organizations have been inspired by conservation biology, and a new generation of practitioners is undergoing intellectual development and professional training in this new environment. For example, the idea that cross-boundary issues are critical is now a common point of discussion among natural-resource management agencies and private landowners, whereas 10 years ago, political boundaries on a map seemed real and impermeable. Stepping back to view the larger landscape and cooperate with other land tenants, rather than hiding behind the seemingly comfortable and protective boundaries set by legal documents, is becoming a way of life rather than an unusual behavior. In general, such notions of cooperation for a common good rather than of confrontation or competition, are becoming prevalent. New disciplines have been denned or developed further as a result of progress within conservation biology. For example, restoration ecology, landscape ecology, environmental ethics, and ecological economics all have begun to flourish as important components of conservation biology. Surely they existed beforehand, and they may have developed independently, but conservation biology seems to have been and continues to be the overarching catalyst that supported and promoted

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Page 260 their advancement. The metadiscipline of conservation biology is the glue that binds these and other disciplines into a coherent and focused package. An obvious but extraordinarily important catalyst for the field was development of a major international society, the Society for Conservation Biology, and its journal, Conservation Biology, as the focal points for intellectual activities in the field. The effects and influences of this society and journal are virtually incalculable within the academic and applied communities of conservation scientists. They help to identify and define the field and offer an intellectual home to its practitioners. Closely related to all these factors, and ultimately feeding the further development of conservation biology, are the many courses and degree programs in conservation biology that are developing in colleges and universities around North America and the rest of the world, as well as several college textbooks that are designed specifically for use in these courses. For the first time in history, the field has reached the point at which we are formally educating a new generation of students as conservation biologists, in contrast with the founding generation, who came to the field from various specialized disciplines. These students have been inspired by the challenges and opportunities involved in the protection of biodiversity, which seems to have given greater meaning to basic programs in ecology. Finally, training courses have developed in various natural-resource management agencies to bring the practitioners up to speed on such topics as general tenets of conservation biology, ecosystem management, and various human dimensions. My experiences as a trainer in some of these courses tells me that as a result of this reorientation natural-resource management in the United States will never be the same. Gaps and Problems Although conservation biology has been considered a rousing success by most measures, it has its problems, it has experienced growing pains, and it still has some way to go to be considered a mature discipline. A useful analogy is human ontogeny. Conservation biology was born rapidly, with typical pains and shakiness; it grew quickly, feeling its way along, learning first how to walk, then to run; it became an awkward adolescent; and now it is emerging into confident maturity as a young adult. It has not reached its full potential yet, and it has a great deal to learn before it has its full effect on the world, but its future looks bright and exciting. However, hurdles must be overcome, and I present several of them here. First, I believe the field's main problem is that it means very little globally, compared with many other human endeavors; conservation biology certainly is not yet a household term that most people can identify. Society at large does not realize what conservation biologists have to offer or the relevance of conservation biology to their lives, other than in a vague connection to a general concern for the environment. Conservation biologists have not done a good job of positioning the field to be a globally effective agent of social change.

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Page 261 Part of the problem is that society has not defined its environmental problems broadly enough to address them adequately. Many individuals seem to associate environmental problems with the need to recycle, with possible global climatic change, with harm to individual animals, with the problem of toxins in the air, water, and soil, or with other issues related to human health. As important as these problems are, others—such as major losses of biodiversity and their ramifications, collapse of ecosystem services, and destruction and fragmentation of habitat (apart from tropical deforestation, which much of the public recognizes)—do not seem to resonate as major environmental issues or issues that hold much threat for or relevance to humanity. Many people do not seem to make connections between the development of strip malls or golf courses, growth of population, loss of soils, withdrawal of water, and related activities and their influences on biodiversity, sustainability, human health, or social structure. In essence, I do not believe that society at large appreciates what really supports human populations or why desertification, logging of old-growth forests, and mass extinction of species are critically important to all peoples. Second, the field of conservation biology developed with a largely terrestrial bias, which it retains. Consequently, it has lagged in addressing problems in freshwater aquatic systems and, especially, marine systems (Irish and Norse 1996). Recent attention to the marine realm, including major marine symposia at the meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology in 1997, seems to be addressing that problem. Third, in my opinion, conservation biology is still too academic: it clings to its roots in academe and seems fearful of venturing too far into unknown territories. I believe that conservation biologists need to be more pragmatic and more practical, and the field needs more relevance to immediate problems of the day if we are to have a greater influence on the protection and recovery of biodiversity. To do this, we must dare to leave the comfort of the academic womb and take greater risks in the real world of conservation action. Fourth, the nature of the university system itself, at least in the United States, has done little to foster risk-taking and creativity and much to promote conservatism and the status quo. With its high disciplinary walls (Meffe 1998), adherence to tradition, and rewards for conformity, academe not only frustrates progress in a new discipline, such as conservation biology, but does little to address the major environmental and social problems of the day (Orr 1994). Rather than playing a leadership role in cutting-edge ideas, universities often seem to lag behind, restricting such activities and rewarding those which bring in large sums of money for low-risk work. Much of the activity in conservation biology is taking place outside universities, in resource-management agencies, advocacy groups, and even resource-extraction industries. Where does the Field Need to Go? I think the field should move in several directions and be strengthened in some areas so that conservation biology can develop further as a discipline and, more importantly, be able to influence society with more scientifically based decisionmaking.

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Page 262 • Conservation biology needs greater synthesis with other disciplines or subdisciplines—such as restoration ecology, design (broadly denned to include all human-made products and endeavors), and ecological economics—and with various human dimensions such as sociology, psychology, and anthropology. Conservation biology has something to contribute to all these, and vice versa. Greater communication across fields, some where conversations possibly have never occurred, can help to promote problem-solving in the broadest sense. • Conservation biologists need to do a better job of teaching about the connection between the overall ecological condition and individual human-health or social conditions. Many times, the arguments we muster for the protection of biodiversity, although compelling to scientists, do not resonate with average citizens who are just trying to make a living. In addition to the various moral arguments we typically use to justify our concerns, we need to do a better job in making it clear that functional natural ecosystems are necessary for workable human social systems and the health and vigor of all humankind. Conservation biology is concerned not just with nature, but very much with humanity as well. • We also need to take the lead in modifying educational curricula—from kindergarten through graduate level—to reflect better the central importance of an ecological perspective in society. The primary task will be to break down the artificial disciplinary boundaries that have haunted education for centuries, to overcome departmental territorialities, and to cease the extreme specialization that so often results in narrow technical training rather than a broad education that can lead one to understand the interrelationships in complex problems and begin to address them. We need to stop teaching as though mathemathics, sociology, biology, engineering, history, and literature are unrelated We need to do a better job of teaching the full diversity of the human experience and of centering it on functioning ecosystems that make the planet livable for all species, including humans. • Conservation biology has a golden opportunity to join with many and varied religious interests that focus on environmental awareness and protection of life on Earth. For example, so-called “green evangelicals” fervently recognize and understand the importance of protecting biodiversity, although the term they use is different (“God's creations”). Seeing all life as the result of a single event of creation and interpreting Biblical writings on dominion as a responsibility for stewardship rather than a license for domination and control of nature, this perspective can be valuable beyond measure, reaching large numbers of people who otherwise might not identify with “biodiversity” or care much about it from a scientific perspective. Harnessing the energy of religious perspectives concerned with guardianship of creation can be a powerful boost to protection of biodiversity. • Most important, I think, we need to do a better job of incorporating what we know into effective public policy. We need to make our science work; we need to put it to daily use. It is time for conservation biology to move to a new plateau in society, to make our presence known, our science relevant, and our views sought and respected. Ideally, the public should listen to what conservation biologists have to say with as much anticipation, concern, and enthusiasm as they have for daily stock-market reports, economic forecasts, or news about medical advances.

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Page 263 Conclusions I believe the science of conservation biology is in an extremely active, turbulent, and exciting period of development right now. The last 15 years have seen dramatic changes in conservation priorities, techniques, philosophies, and approaches. Now is when the science is being molded, when the approaches to the enormous challenges to humanity are being mapped out, and when the future of biodiversity and humanity largely are being determined. This is a thrilling, frightening, and wonderful time to be practicing conservation science, one that I hope we can look back on with pride and satisfaction. Conservation biology has taken huge strides in the effort to protect biodiversity, but these still are only the initial, cautious steps of a long and never-ending journey; we have much yet to learn and accomplish. References Callicott JB. 1990. Whither conservation ethics? Cons Biol 4:15–20. Ehrenfeld DW. 1970. Biological conservation. New York NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Gunderson LH, Holling CS, Light SS (eds). 1995. Barriers and bridges to the renewal of ecosystems and institutions. New York NY:Columbia Univ Pr. Holling CS. 1978. Adaptive environmental assessment and management. New York NY: J Wiley. Holling CS. 1995. What barriers? What bridges? In: Gunderson LH, Holling CS, Light SS (eds). Barriers and bridges to the renewal of ecosystems and institutions. New York NY: Columbia Univ Pr. p 3–34 Holling CS, Meffe GK. 1996. Command and control and the pathology of natural resource management. Cons Biol 10:328–37. Irish KE, Norse EA. 1996. Scant emphasis on marine biodiversity. Cons Biol 10:680. Knight RL, Meffe GK. 1997. Ecosystem management: agency liberation from command and control. Wildl Soc Bull 25:676–8. Meffe GK. 1998. Softening the boundaries (editorial). Cons Biol 12:259–60. Meffe GK, Carroll CR. 1997. Principles of conservation biology, second edition. Sunderland MA: Sinauer. Myers N. 1992. The primary source. New York NY: WW Norton. Noss RF. 1990. Indicators for monitoring biodiversity: a hierarchical approach. Cons Biol 4:355–64. Orr DW. 1994. Earth in mind: on education, environment, and the human prospect. Washington DC: Island Pr. Pickett STA, Parker VT, Fiedler PL. 1992. The new paradigm in ecology: implications for conservation biology above the species level. In: Fiedler PL, Jain SK (eds). Conservation biology: the theory and practice of nature, conservation, preservation, and management. New York NY: Chapman & Hall. p 65–88. Soulé ME, Wilcox BA. 1980. Conservation biology: an evolutionary-ecological approach. Sunderland MA: Sinauer. Soulé ME (ed). 1986. Conservation biology: the science of scarcity and diversity. Sunderland MA: Sinauer. Walters CJ. 1986. Adaptive management of renewable resources. New York NY: McGraw-Hill. Wilson EO, Peter FM (eds). 1988. Biodiversity. Washington DC: National Acad Pr.

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Page 290 Kiester AR, Scott JM, Csuti B, Noss RF, Butterfield B, Sahr K, and White D. 1996. Conservation priorization using GAP data. Cons Biol 10(5):1332–42. Kirlin JJ, Asmus P, Thompson R. 1994. Species conservation through ecosystem management. California Policy Choices 9:143–171. Klassen W. 1986. Agricultural research: the importance of a national biological survey to food production. In: Kim KC Knutson L (eds). Foundations for a national biological survey. Lawrence KS: Assoc of Systematics Collections. p 65–76. Lane MA. 1996. Roles of natural history collections. Ann Missouri Botan Gard 83:536–45. Miller SE. 1993. All Taxa Biological Inventory workshop. Assoc Syst Coll News 21(4): 41, 46–7. Miller SE, Eldredge LG. 1996. Number of Hawaiian species: supplement 1. Bishop Mus Occais Pap 45:8–17. Mlot C. 1995. In Hawaii, taking inventory of a biological hot spot. Science 269:322–3. NRC [National Research Council]. 1993. A biological survey for the nation. Washington DC: NatlAcad Pr. 205 p. Nielsen ES, West JG. 1994. Biodiversity research and biological collections: transfer of information. In: Forey PL, Humphries CJ, Vane-Wright RI (eds). Systematics and conservation evaluation. Oxford UK: Clarendon Pr. p 101–21. Nishida GM. 1997. Hawaiian terrestrial arthropod checklist. Third edition. Bishop Mus Tech Rep 12. Nudds JR, Pettitt CW (eds). 1997. The value and valuation of natural science collections. Proceedings of the International Conference, Manchester, 1995. Manchester UK: Manchester Museum. p xii + 276. Polhemus D, Asquith A. 1996. Hawaiian damselflies: a field identification guide. Hawaii Biol Surv Handbook. Honolulu HI: Bishop Museum Pr. 122 p. Poole RW, Gentili P (eds). 1997. Nomina Insecta Nearctica: a check list of the insects of North America. Rockville MD: Entomological Information Services. CD-ROM. Also published as check list in four paper volumes. 1996–1997. Post SL. 1991. Native Illinois species and related bibliography. Illinois Nat Hist Surv Bull 34:463–75. Roberts L. 1992. Chemical prospecting: hope for vanishing ecosystems. Science 256:1142–3. Sakai AK, Wagner WL, Ferguson DM, Herbst DR. 1995. Origins of dioecy in the Hawaiian flora. Ecology 76:2517–29. Soberón J, Llorente J, Benítez H. 1996. An international view of national biological surveys. Ann Missouri Botan Gard 83:562–73. US Fish and Wildlife Service. 1999. US Fish and Wildlife Service Species List, March 23, 1999. Honolulu: unpubl. US National Committee for CODATA, Committee for Pilot Study on Database Interfaces. 1995. Finding the forest in the trees: the challenge of combining diverse environmental data: selected case studies. Washington DC: Natl Acad Pr. 129 p. Viola HJ, Margolis C. 1985. Magnificent voyagers: the US Exploring Expedition, 1838–1842. Washington DC: Smithsonian Inst Pr. 303p. White D, Minotti PG, Barczak MJ, Sifneos JC, Freemark KE, Santelmann MV, Steinitz CF, Kiester AR, Preston EM. 1997. Assessing risks to biodiversity from future landscape change. Cons Biol 11(2):249–360. Yoon CK. 1993. Counting creatures great and small. Science 260:620–2.

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Page 291 Building the Next-Generation Biological-Information Infrastructure. John L. Schnase Center for Botanical Informatics, LLC. St. Louis, MO (Current address: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771) Meredith A. Lane The Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103 Geoffrey C. Bowker Susan Leigh Star Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL (Current address: Department of Communication, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0503) Abraham Silberschatz Information Sciences Research Center, Lucent Technologies-Bell Laboratories, 600 Mountain Avenue, Murray Hill, NJ 07974 A grand challenge for the 21st century is to harness the accumulating knowledge of Earth's biodiversity and the ecosystems that support it. To accomplish that, we must mobilize biological information—assemble it, organize it, and deliver it with dramatically increased capacity. We must elevate the global biological-information infrastructure to a new level of capability—a “next generation”—that will allow people to share on a worldwide basis the knowledge created by biodiversity and ecosystems research. Recognizing the urgency of the task, the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, through its Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystems, recently coordinated a review of the US National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) (PCAST 1998). Over a 6-month period in 1997, people from a broad cross section of the public and private sectors contributed their insights, experiences, concerns, and hopes. What emerged was a renewed understanding of the importance of biological information to all aspects of human society. It became clear that much remains to be done to ensure that this information is complete and usable. Although the purpose of the review was to develop recommendations to build capacity in the United States, many of the panel's findings address global concerns of relevance to biodiversity research wherever it occurs. In this paper, we provide a summary of the panel's report, a view of what a next-generation

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Page 292 biological-information infrastructure might encompass, and suggestions about how it might be achieved. Background In the United States, NBII is the primary mechanism whereby biodiversity and ecosystem information is made available to all sectors of society. It is the biological component of the National Information Infrastructure and is the framework that connects US activities to the global biodiversity and ecosystem research enterprise. Its meaning is expansive and intended to convey the idea that an information infrastructure comprises not only computers, networks, and the like, but also the information, policies, standards, and people who use it. Initiation of the NBII was one of the primary recommendations made by the 1993 National Research Council report A Biological Survey for the Nation (NRC 1993). Because our fate and economic prosperity are so completely linked to the natural world, information about biodiversity and ecosystems—as well as the infrastructure that supports it—is vital to a wide range of scientific, educational, commercial, and government uses. Most of this information now exists in forms that are not easily accessed or used. From traditional paper-based libraries to scattered databases and physical specimens preserved in natural-history collections throughout the world, our record of biodiversity and ecosystem resources is uncoordinated, and large parts of it are isolated from general use. It is not being used effectively by scientists, resource mangers, policy-makers, or other potential client communities (National Performance Review 1997; NRC 1997). Research activities are being conducted around the world that could improve our ability to manage biological information. In the United States, the Human Genome Project is producing new medical therapies and developments in computer and information science. Geographic information systems (GISs) are expanding the ability of federal agencies to conduct data-gathering and data-synthesis activities more responsibly and creating opportunities for commercial partnerships that can lead to new software tools. The National Spatial Data Infrastructure (http://nsdi.usgs.gov) is improving the management of geographic, geological, and satellite datasets; the Digital Libraries (http://www.cise.nsf.gov/iis/dli/home.html) projects are beginning to produce useful results for some information domains; and the High-Performance Computing and Communications Initiative (http://www.hpcc.gov) has enhanced some computation-intensive engineering and science fields. But little attention has been paid to computer and information science and technology research in the biodiversity and ecosystem domain. We must produce mechanisms that can efficiently search through terabytes of Mission to Planet Earth satellite data and other biodiversity and ecosystem datasets, make correlations among data from disparate sources, compile those data in new ways, analyze and synthesize them, and present the results in an understandable and usable manner. Despite encouraging advances in computation and communication performance in recent years, we are able to perform these activities on only a very small scale. We can, however, make rapid progress if the computer and

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Page 293 information science and technology research community becomes focused on the needs of the biodiversity and ecosystem research community (Robbins 1996). Managing Complexity Knowledge about biodiversity and ecosystems is vast and complex. The complexity arises from two sources. The first is the underlying biological complexity of the organisms themselves. There are millions of species, each of which is highly variable across individual organisms, populations, and time. Species have complex chemistries, physiologies, developmental cycles, and behaviors resulting from more than 3 billion years of evolution. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ecosystems, each comprising complex interaction among large numbers of species and between those species and multiple abiotic factors. The second source of complexity in biodiversity and ecosystem information is sociologically generated. The sociological complexity includes problems of communication and coordination—among agencies, among divergent interests, and among groups of people from different regions and different backgrounds (academe, industry, and government) and with different views and requirements. The kinds of data that humans have collected about organisms and their relationships vary in precision, in accuracy, and in numerous other ways. Biodiversity data types include text and numerical measurements, images, sound, and video. The range of other databases with which biodiversity datasets must interact is also broad, including geographic, meteorological, geological, chemical, and physical databases. The mechanisms used to collect and store biological data are almost as varied as the natural world that they document. In addition, biological data can be politically and commercially sensitive and can entail conflicts of interest. Users' skill levels are highly variable, and training in this field is not well developed. Because of those complexities, humans still play a crucial role in the processing of biological data. Biological information is not as amenable to automatic correlation, analysis, synthesis, and presentation as many other types of information, such as that in radioastronomy, where there is more coherent global organization and the problems being studied are often conducive to automatic analysis. In biodiversity research, people act as sophisticated filters and query processors—locating resources on the Internet, downloading datasets, reformatting and organizing data for input to analysis tools, then reformatting again to visualize results. This process of creating higher-order understanding from dispersed datasets is a fundamental intellectual process, but it breaks down quickly as the volume and dimensionality of the data increase. Who could be expected to “understand” millions of cases, each having hundreds of attributes? Yet problems on this scale are common in biodiversity and ecosystem research (Schnase and others 1997). For a biological-information infrastructure to be effective, it must provide the means to manage complexity. It must allow scientists to extract new knowledge from the aggregate mass of information generated by the data-gathering and synthesis activities of other scientists. It must use the power of computers to facilitate the queries, correlations, and processing that are impossible for humans to

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Page 294 perform alone. And it must deliver this functionality within a physically and intellectually accessible framework. That means developing ways of delivering information to a wide array of users with differing skills, ages, and investment in the material. We are only beginning to develop a vocabulary to describe these large-scale, synthetic, information-processing activities. Some sociologists use the term distributed cognitive system to emphasize the role of humans in a synergistic information-processing network (Hutchins 1995). Data mining is often used by the data base community. Whatever the name, the activities form only a part of a process of knowledge discovery that includes the large-scale, interactive storage of information (known by the unintentionally uninspiring term data warehousing); the cataloging, cleaning, preprocessing, transformation, verification, and reduction of data; and the generation and use of models, evaluation and interpretation, personal communication, the evolution of sophisticated user interfaces, and finally consolidation and use of the newly extracted knowledge. Those processes will become increasingly important if we are to use what we know and expand our knowledge in useful directions. At present, the NBII provides little support for these activities. At best, it can be used to access information in databases held by federal agencies and other institutions around the country. Once the information is accessed, however, the task of organizing, integrating, and interpreting it remains, for the most part, a laborious, manual process. The development of computational tools for the biodiversity and ecosystem enterprise lags behind other sciences. Important classes of information are missing (information on fewer than 1% of the specimens in our natural-history collections has been entered in databases!), and databases are uneven in the types of information that they hold. It is difficult for individual scientists to publish their data electronically in useful ways. Standards for information exchange have not been widely adopted. We have no mechanism for archiving data over generations of use and generations of technologies. And the power of communication networks to build communities remains largely untapped. In summary, the NBII is neither a system nor an infrastructure: it is a cumbersome and brittle patchwork that presents as many obstacles to scientific work as it does opportunities. It clearly is time to transform it into a coherent and empowering capability. The Next Generation—NBII-2 We envision a “next generation” National Biological Information Infrastructure, NBII-2, that would address many of the concerns described above. The overarching goal of NBII-2 would be to become a fully accessible, distributed, interactive digital library. NBII-2 would provide an organizing framework from which scientists could extract useful information—new knowledge—from the aggregate mass of information generated by various data-gathering activities. That would be accomplished by using the power of computers and communication networks to augment the processing activities that now require a human mind. It would make analysis and synthesis of vast amounts of data from multiple datasets easier

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Page 295 and more accessible to a variety of users. It would also serve management and policy decision-making, education, recreation, and industry by presenting data to each user in a manner tailored to that user's needs and skill level. We envision NBII-2 as a distributed facility that would be considerably different from a “data center,” considerably more functional than a traditional library, considerably more encompassing than a typical research institute. Unlike a data center, NBII-2 would have the objective of automatic discovery, indexing, and linking of datasets rather than collection of all datasets on a given topic into one facility. Following the best practice of traditional libraries, this special library would update the form of storage and upgrade information content as technologies evolve. Unlike a typical research institute, it would provide services to research going on elsewhere, and its own staff would conduct biodiversity and ecosystem research and research in biological informatics. The facility would offer “library” storage and access to diverse constituencies. The core of NBII-2 would be a “research library system” that would comprise at least five regional nodes sited at appropriate institutions (national laboratories, universities, museums, and so on) and connected to each other and to the nearest telecommunication providers by the highest-bandwidth network available. In addition, NBII-2 would seamlessly integrate all computers—laptops, workstations, fileservers, and supercomputers—capable of storing and serving biodiversity and ecosystem data via the Internet. The providers of information would have complete control over their own data but have the opportunity to benefit from (and the right to refuse) the data-indexing, cleansing, and long-term storage services of the system as a whole. NBII-2 would be • the framework to support knowledge discovery for the nation's biodiversity and ecosystem enterprise and to involve many client and potential-client groups; • a common focus for independent research efforts and a global context for sharing information among those efforts; • an accrete-only, no-delete facility from which all information would be available on line—24 hours a day, 7 days a week—in a variety of formats; • a facility that would serve the needs of (and eventually be supported by partnership with) government, the private sector, education, and individuals; • an organized framework for collaboration among federal, regional, state, and local organizations in the public and private sectors that would provide improved programmatic efficiencies and economies of scale through better coordination of efforts; • a commodity-based infrastructure that uses readily available, off-the-shelf hardware and software and the products of digital-library research wherever possible; • an electronic facility where scientists and others could “publish” biodiversity and ecosystem information for cataloging, automatic indexing, access, analysis, and dissemination; • a place where intensive work on how people use large information systems would be conducted, including studies of human-computer interaction, the

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Page 296 sociology of scientific practice, computer-supported cooperative work, and user-interface design; • a place for developing the organizational and educational infrastructure that will support sharing, use, and coordination of massive datasets; • a facility that would provide content storage resources, registration of datasets, and “curation” of datasets (including migration, cleansing, and indexing); • an applied biodiversity and ecosystem informatics research facility that would develop new technologies and offer training in informatics; and • a facility that would provide high-end computation and communication to researchers and institutions throughout the country. The facility would not be a purely technical and technological construct but, would also encompass sociological, legal, and economic issues within its research purview. These would include intellectual-property rights management, public access to the scholarly record, and the characteristics of evolving systems in the networked information environment. The human dimensions of the interaction with computers, networks, and information will be particularly important subjects of research as systems are designed for the greatest flexibility and usefulness to people. The research nodes of NBII-2 must address many needs, including • new statistical pattern-recognition and modeling techniques that can work with high-dimensional, large-volume data; • workable data-cleaning methods that automatically correct input and other types of errors in databases; • strategies for sampling and selecting data; • algorithms for classification, clustering, dependency analysis, and change and deviation detection that scale to large databases; • visualization techniques that scale to large and multiple databases; • metadata encoding routines that will make data mining meaningful when multiple distributed sources are searched; • methods for improving connectivity of databases, integrating data-mining tools, and developing better synthetic technologies; • methods for improving large-scale project coordination and scientific collaborations; • continuing, formative evaluation, detailed user studies, and quick feedback between domain experts, users, developers, and researchers; • methods for facilitating data entry and the digitization of large amounts of irregularly structured information; and • ways of engaging society in the pursuit of global information-sharing. None of those problems is peculiar to biodiversity research. However, there is an urgent need to address them in the biodiversity domain because research has demonstrated that there can be no domain-independent solutions. We cannot “borrow” discoveries wholesale from other disciplines; we must work through these problems ourselves (Star and Ruhleder 1996). To comprehend and use our

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Page 297 biodiversity and ecosystem resources, we must learn how to exploit massive datasets, learn how to store and access them for analytical purposes, and develop methods to cope with growth and change in data. NBII-2 as envisioned here can be the enabling framework that unlocks the knowledge and economic power lying dormant in the masses of biodiversity and ecosystem data that we have on hand now and will accumulate in the future. Infrastructure Requirements The total volume of biodiversity and ecosystem information is almost impossible to measure. We do know that whatever the total, only a fraction has been captured in digital form. Our natural-history museums, for example, contain at least 750 million specimens, the vast majority of which have not been recorded in databases. The same holds for the published record, where most biodiversity and ecosystem information still resides in paper-based journals, books, field notes, and the like. Clearly, one of the most important infrastructure issues is to move the biodiversity and ecosystem enterprise into a digital world—to create the content for the NBII-2 digital library—by digitizing the existing corpus of scholarly work on a large scale. The NBII-2 digital library will place challenging demands on network hardware services and on software services related to authentication, integrity, and security. Needed are both a fuller implementation of current technologies, such as digital signatures and a public-key infrastructure for managing cryptographic key distribution, and consideration of tools and services in a broader context related to library use. For example, the library system might have to identify whether a user is a member of an organization that has some set of access rights to an information resource. As a national and international enterprise that serves a large range of users, the library must be designed to detect and adapt to various degrees of accessibility of resources connected to the Internet. A fully digital, interactive library system, such as NBII-2, will require substantial computational resources, although little is known now about the precise scope of the necessary resources. In many aspects that are critical to digital libraries, such as knowledge representation and resource description or summarization and navigation, even the basic algorithms and approaches are not yet well defined, so it is difficult to project computational requirements. Many information-retrieval techniques are intensive in their computational and input-output demands as they evaluate, structure, and compare large databases in a distributed environment. Distributed-database searching, resource discovery, automatic classification and summarization, visualization, and presentation are also computationally intensive activities that are likely to be common in the NBII-2 digital library. Finally, NBII-2 will require enormous storage capacity. Even though the library system we are proposing would not set out to accrue datasets to become the repository of all biodiversity data—many other federal agencies have their own storage facilities, and various data-providers will want to retain control over their own data—large amounts of storage on disk, tape, optical media, and other future storage forms will still be required. As research is conducted to produce new ways to

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Page 298 manipulate large datasets, these will have to be sought out, copied from their original sources, and stored for use in the research. And in serving its long-term curation function, NBII-2 will accumulate substantial amounts of data for which it will be responsible, including redundant datasets that will have to be maintained in case of loss. Research Agenda New approaches to managing information must be developed in the context of NBII-2. Massive datasets can lead to the collapse of traditional approaches in database management, statistics, pattern recognition, personal-information management, and visualization. For example, a statistical-analysis package assumes that all the data to be analyzed can be loaded into memory and then manipulated. What happens when the dataset does not fit into main memory? What happens if the database is on a remote server and will never permit a naive scan of the data? What happens if queries for stratified samples cannot be accepted, because data fields in the database being accessed are not indexed and the appropriate data therefore cannot be located? What if the database is structured with only sparse relations among tables or if the dataset can be accessed only through a hierarchical set of fields? Furthermore, challenges often are not restricted to issues of scalability of storage or access. For example, what if a user of a large data repository does not know how to specify the desired query? It is not clear that a structured query language (SQL) statement—or even a program—can be written to retrieve the information needed to answer a query like, “Show me the list of gene sequences for which voucher specimens exist in natural-history collections and for which we also know the physiology and ecological associates of those species.” Many of the interesting questions that users of biodiversity and ecosystem information would like to ask are of this type: they are “fuzzy,” the data needed to answer them must come from multiple sources that will be inherently different in structure and conceptually incompatible, and the answers might be approximate. Major advances are needed in methods for knowledge representation and interchange, database management and federation, navigation, modeling, and data-driven simulation; in approaches to describing large, complex networked information resources; and in techniques to support networked information discovery and retrieval in extremely large-scale distributed systems. In addition to near-term operational solutions, new approaches are needed to longer-term issues, such as the preservation of digital information across generations of storage, processing, and representation technology. Traditional information-science skills, such as thesaurus construction and indexing, must be elaborated on and scaled to accommodate large information sources. We need to preserve and support the knowledge of library-science and information-science researchers and help to scale up the skills of knowledge organization and information retrieval. Also much needed are software applications that provide more-natural interfaces between humans and databases than are now available. For example, a valuable data-cleansing activity might be to “show the data related to all specimens

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Page 299 in our natural-history collections whose likelihood of being mislabeled exceeds 0.75.” Assuming that some cases in the database can be identified as “labeled correctly” and others “known to be mislabeled,” a training sample for a data-mining algorithm could be constructed. The algorithm would build a predictive model and retrieve records matching that model rather than a structured query that a person might write. This is an example of a much needed and much more natural interface between humans and databases than is currently available. In this case, it eliminates the requirement that the user adapt to the machine's needs rather than the other way around. We must refine and augment the interactions between people and machines, expand the role of agentry in information systems, and discover more-powerful and more-natural ways of navigating the scientific record. In return, research in computer and information science and technology in the biodiversity and ecosystem domain is likely to yield discoveries of value to other fields (Spasser 1998). Nowhere do we find the problems of heterogeneous database federation more challenging than in the life sciences. A fully implemented digital library for biology would include everything from ideas to physical objects and enormous amounts of information in every medium type imaginable. Research on global climate change, habitat destruction, and the discovery of species is among the most distributed of our scientific activities and creates extraordinary opportunities to learn about computer-mediated project coordination and communication. At almost every turn, scale, complexity, and urgency conspire to create a particularly wicked set of problems. Working on these problems will undoubtedly advance our understanding and use of information technologies, perhaps more than in any other circumstance. Action Plan We have laid out the case for building a fully digital, interactive, research-library system for biodiversity and ecosystem information and the basic requirements of and goals for the library and its research and service. But how much will it cost, and how long will it take to build? We estimate that each of the regional nodes that will form the core of NBII-2 will require an annual operating budget of at least $8 million—probably more. Minimally, supporting five such nodes would require at least $40 million per year, an amount that is a small fraction of the funds spent nationwide each year to collect data (conservatively estimated at $500 million for federal government projects alone). As with the Internet itself, the federal government should provide the “jump start” for this new infrastructure by investing heavily in its formative stages. Part of the investment should be devoted to developing incentives for the participation of private-sector partners. Gradually, support and operation of the infrastructure should be shared by nongovernment participants, as has happened with the Internet. The planning and request-for-proposals process should be conducted within a year. Merit review and selection of sites should be complete within the following six months. The staffing of the sites and initial coordination of research and

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Page 300 outreach activities should take no more than a year after initial funding is provided. The “lifetime” of each facility should not be guaranteed for more than 5 years, but the system must be considered a long-term activity so that data access is guaranteed in perpetuity. Evaluation of the sites and of the system should be regular and rigorous, although the milestones whereby success can be measured will be the incremental improvements in ease of use of the system by students, policy-makers, scientists, and others. In addition, an increasing number of public-private partnerships that fund the research and other operations will indicate the usefulness of accessible, integrated information to commercial and government interests. Conclusion In the 21st century, work will depend increasingly on rapid, coordinated access to shared information. Through the shared digital library of NBII-2, scientists and policy-makers will be able to collaborate with colleagues who are geographically and temporally distant. They will use the library to catalog and organize information, perform analyses, test hypotheses, make decisions, and discover new ideas. Educators will use its systems to read, write, teach, and learn. In traditional fashion, intellectual work will be shared with others through the medium of the library—but these contributions and interactions will be elements of a global and universally accessible library that can be used by many different people and many different communities. By increasing the effectiveness of information, NBII-2 is likely to lead to scientific discoveries, advance existing fields of study, promote disciplinary fusions, and enable new research traditions. And most important, it could help us to protect and manage our natural capital so as to provide a stable and prosperous future. References Hutchins E. 1995. Cognition in the wild. Cambridge MA: MIT. 381 p. National Performance Review. 1997. Access America: reengineering through information technology. Report of the National Performance Review and the Government Information Technology Services Board. Washington DC: GPO. 97 p. NRC [National Research Council]. 1993. A biological survey for the nation. Washington DC: National Acad Pr. 205 p. NRC [National Research Council]. 1997. Bits of power: issues in global access to scientific data. Washington DC: National Acad Pr. 235 p. PCAST [President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology]. 1998. Teaming with life: investing in science to understand and use America's living capital. Report to the President of the United States from the PCAST Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystems. Washington DC: GPO. Robbins RJ. 1996. Bioinformatics: essential infrastructure for global biology. J Comp Biol 3(4):465–78. Schnase JL, Kama DL, Tomlinson KL, Sánchez JA, Cunnius EL, Morin NR. 1997. The flora of North America digital library: a case study in biodiversity database publishing. J Network Comp Applica 20:87–103. Spasser MA. 1998. Articulating collaborative activity: design-in-use of collaborative publishing services in the Flora of North America Project. Proceedings of ISCRAT '98 (Århus, Denmark, June 1998). Star SL, Ruhleder K. 1996. Steps toward an ecology of infrastructure: design and access for large information spaces. Info Syst Res 7(1):111–34.