[Taxacom] The Barometer of Life

Donat Agosti agosti at amnh.org
Mon May 31 01:15:53 CDT 2010

I am not so much concerned about the decision making which operates at a
different level. The 60M USD do not go into the decision making but to
deliver arguments to decision makers. My point is, that the authors do not
deliver the right data.

In this context it is interesting to follow the discussion on the impact of
the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

This is, what President Obama has said in his press conference

"I think it is a legitimate concern to question whether BP's interests in
being fully forthcoming about the extent of the damage is aligned with the
public interest. I mean, their interest may be to minimize the damage and,
to the extent that they have better information than anybody else, to not be
fully forthcoming. So, my attitude is, we HAVE TO VERIFY WHATEVER IT IS THEY
SAY [my emphasis] about the damage. This is an area, by the way, where I do
think our efforts fell short.
Source http://www.democracynow.org/2010/5/28/bp_oil_spill_confirmed_as_worst

And here is a typical answer from the environmentalists
JUAN GONZALEZ: This is now the largest oil spill in American history, but
there was a prior even bigger oil spill off the coast of Mexico back in-I
think it was 1979. Could you talk about what was learned in terms of the
impact of that spill on the Gulf?

WENONAH HAUTER: Well, I THINK [my emphasis] that it takes many, many years
for the species to be-to come back and that there are still impacts on the
Gulf today.
This is not really a lot of detail of understanding what is happening
comparing to the details she cites about BP etc. And the Golf is something
close to the US, unlike the rest of the world where most of the biodiversity

It also shows, WHY it is important that we have real data as opposed to


-----Original Message-----
From: Haas, Fabian [mailto:fhaas at icipe.org] 
Sent: Monday, May 31, 2010 10:17 AM
To: Donat Agosti; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Cc: 'Bob Mesibov'
Subject: RE: [Taxacom] The Barometer of Life

Let me add other observations to decision making. That does not work in one
person in a sensible way. Just think of smoking. So obviously we make
'wrong' decision though we have all the knowledge to make the right one.
Well the wrong might be the right on some other level...

Further the guys doing the modeling and know everything about fish stocks,
is not the customer, who things he is doing something good for himself
eating fish... While depleting fish stocks... So good and bad a difficult
concepts to grasp.

So 'absolute' knowledge does not make decisions better, actually to much
knowledge might even prevent you taking decisions at all. Not quite the out
come intended.

We had a CBD meeting recently here in Nairobi, and indeed they know that
they cannot monitor everything, would not be useful, and feasible and again
monitoring does not automatically trigger the biodiversity conserving
decisions. Another matter is if the CBD is functional at all, or trying to
do things it cannot do, since all the drivers of biodiversity loss, are by
the structure of governments outside the Environment Ministries, such as
traffic and agriculture and population growth. MoEs have little influence on
other ministries and little legal leverage on customers...

Well it seems, one knows something, and the other does something else....

All the best nice start into the week!

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Donat Agosti
Sent: Monday, May 31, 2010 7:50 AM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Cc: 'Bob Mesibov'
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] The Barometer of Life

Decisions are a different matter. But at least in the fisheres there are
fleets out there to study the fish populations. We do not have these tools
and instruments in place, such as the Biodiversity Monitoring System in
Switzerland (BDM-CH) that within 5 years surveys something like 2,500 plots
and thus can compare the data.

In this system there is a link from the observational data to the
conclusions. And no data has been collected randomly as almost all the data
is that goes into such tools as the Red Lists. This means, that there is no
definition of what the data means, nor does it allow running monitoring
program as is happening in the fisheries.

Even the Convention on Biological Diversity was specific that not all
biodiversity ought be monitored but those bits that are relevant.

What happened in the last twenty years was not the development of strategies
to monitor diversity beyond tiger and elephant, but always tools summarizing
data that in my view are not suitable from a scientific point of view to
make the bold statement being made with it. For a while, these statements
have been fine, but their value diminished as it does not provide the
necessary bases for land use and management.

Biodiversity is just one element that finally leads to policy decisions, and
thus better data is no guarantee for decisions in "our sense". But for me as
a scientist I do have the pretension that I want to have a system that lives
up to basic scientific principles, that is reproducibility and at least
openness to critique, and to use the best technology available.


-----Original Message-----
From: Bob Mesibov [mailto:mesibov at southcom.com.au]
Sent: Monday, May 31, 2010 8:58 AM
To: Curtis Clark
Cc: Dean Pentcheff; Donat Agosti
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] The Barometer of Life

Hi, guys.

Happy to continue this off-list while 'Objective Synonyms' rages.

A great example I can give you of the disconnect between knowledge and
decision-making is wild fishery management. Decades of research, millions of
research vessel hours, good hard catch data, sophisticated modelling, global
discussions on total allowable catch. With what result? Fishery after
fishery collapsing from overfishing. We *know* we're stuffing the wild
fisheries, we're doing it anyway because fish are food and there are more
and more people wanting them and willing to pay for them.

*Do* read Glovbal Biodiversity Outlook 3. It's scary as hell.

Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
03 64371195; 61 3 64371195
Webpage: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html

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