Cop decision regarding open access for biodiversity data: background and lack of coordination with systematics?

Donat Agosti agosti at AMNH.ORG
Wed Apr 5 10:10:35 CDT 2006

Below some more information on the GTI. I wonder, why not even a single
quote of the systematics as megascience conference, held previous to COP
is mentioned
pdf). There is no real sign of input from institutions actually creating
content. Symptomatic?

Inter Press Service News Agency Wednesday, April 05, 2006   07:40 GMT   
A Name as Means of Protection
Haider Rizvi* 

CURITIBA, Brazil, Mar 30 (Tierramérica) - While no government is
disputing the idea that in order to protect biodiversity a universal
index of all known species is needed, many wonder if such a task is
possible without sufficient financial support from rich countries. 

Though the Global Taxonomy Initiative (GTI) has been discussed in the
past, the issue is back on the international agenda, taken up last week
at the 8th meeting of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on
Biological Diversity (COP8), running until Mar. 31 in this
environmentally friendly city in southern Brazil. 

Attending the meeting are environmental experts and officials from
around the world, who seem poised to adopt the species inventory system
for categorising by name thousands of plants and animals. 

The GTI is the outcome of a series of discussions held in recent years,
after the world community acknowledged that significant gaps existed in
human knowledge about species and that there was a lack of expertise on

Following a lengthy discussion on GTI during the first days of the COP8,
a working group of delegates decided to return to the negotiating table
on Mar. 27, said UN officials, who expect a final agreement on the
implementation when the next round of meetings is over. 

"Yes, (an agreement) is possible," Ryan Hill, a programme officer at the
Secretariat of the Convention on Biodiversity (with the UN Environment
Programme, UNEP), told Tierramérica. 

However, delegates who participated in the negotiations and the UN
officials who watched them closely both said the meeting suggested that
even if delegates agreed to adopt the Taxonomy Initiative, they would
not reach an accord for funding its implementation. 

"It's a big issue for us because many developing countries do not have
sufficient resources," a delegate from Venezuela told Tierramérica,
adding that at this stage no rich country has indicated any interest in
taking responsibility for financial assistance. 

Hill agreed, pointing out that at least 15 delegations from developing
countries in various regions have raised the question of funding. 

Delegates decided to move one step forward concerning the issue of
resources by involving Bionet International, a not-for-profit
organisation that is widely respected for its dedication to taxonomic
research on species. Bionet is to be entrusted to establish a fund to
assist in putting together catalogues of species. However, they doubt if
that would be enough to achieve desirable results. 

"This decision doesn't put any particular responsibility on any
country," Hill said, explaining that countries could contribute to the
fund whatever amount they liked, with no legal obligations. 

Environmental experts and researchers warn that many species will remain
at risk of extinction, which could lead to further ecological imbalance
if knowledge about them is not made widely accessible. 

"Taxonomic knowledge about many species is really missing," Jeroen
Huising, a tropical soil expert based in Kenya, told Tierramérica. "If
we don't know what's there, if you can't identify a species, then it's
very difficult to communicate." 

Huising, a project coordinator with the International Centre for
Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), considers the lack of knowledge about
species as a "global problem," because a lot of people "are not very
interested in taxonomy." 

Hill expressed a similar opinion, adding that he is concerned that the
funding level in developing countries "is very slow." 

Official documents on the biodiversity agreement reflect that many
wealthy nations are not spending as much money on streamlining
information on species as they possibly could. 

As a result, according to Hill, the number of taxonomists in the world
is on a constant decline. 

However, some European nations, especially Germany and Belgium, appear
to have taken this issue seriously, he said. 

Fatima Moreira, a researcher in biological sciences at the University of
Lavras in Brazil and COP8 participant, seemed to be one expert who
personally confronted the problem posed by the lack of knowledge about
many living species. 

She recently authored a book that explains how many species of
microorganisms living in the soils have disappeared due to over-use of
land for agriculture. 

"We don't know about 95 percent of the species living underground," she
said, "because we have no inventory on global biodiversity." 

"It's sad that the media don't pay attention to such issues," she said,
explaining that many soil microorganisms in the Amazon region are vital
for maintaining ecological balance. 

(*Haider Rizvi is a Tierramérica contributor. Originally published Mar.
25 by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica
network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with
the backing of the United Nations Development Programme and the United
Nations Environment Programme.) 


Dr. Donat Agosti

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