Biodiversity Year

Coral Health and Monitoring Program coral at
Thu Feb 5 08:23:53 EST 1998

Forwarded message of relevance to coral research:

Date:    Tue, 3 Feb 1998 22:51:42 EST
From:    C <THCLAX00 at UKCC.UKY.EDU>
Subject: Scientists call for biodiversity year

URL: http://

          CONTACT: Janet Basu, Stanford News Service
                                  650) 723-7582;
                    e-mail basu at
                    Colleen S. Adam, DIVERSITAS, Paris:
                    e-mail diversitas at

SCIENCE & ENVIRONMENT REPORTERS: Preview of symposium slated for
9 a.m. Friday, Feb 13, at AAAS annual meeting in Philadelphia

Human activities now dominate the natural systems of the planet,
according to Stanford ecologist Harold Mooney. "In a very real
sense, we cannot escape responsibility for managing our impact on
those systems. It's time for scientists to take stock of what we
know, and what we need to learn, so society can act on that

That is why Mooney and four other internationally prominent
scientists are calling on their colleagues worldwide to join forces
in a one- to two-year assessment of the state of biodiversity on
Earth. On Friday, Feb. 13, at the annual meeting of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science in Philadelphia, the
five  including two past presidents of AAAS  will introduce plans
for the International Biodiversity Observation Year, to begin in

"We're asking the world's best scientists to take a year or two to
put their minds to this problem: How can biodiversity science be
elevated to the forefront of the scientific agenda?" said Mooney,
who is professor of biological sciences at Stanford and
secretary-general of the International Council of Scientific

Mooney is co-organizer of the AAAS symposium with population
ecologist Jos Sarukhn, professor and former rector of UNAM, the
National Autonomous University of Mexico. Sarukhn, currently a
visiting professor at the Center for Conservation Biology and the
Center for Latin American Studies at Stanford, is the chair of a
committee of scientists who have volunteered to organize the
International Biodiversity Observation Year  dubbed IBOY.

He and Mooney will be joined in the symposium by three other
prominent scientists. Microbiologist Rita Colwell is past president
of AAAS and current president of the Biotechnology Institute at the
University of Maryland; President Clinton recently announced his
intention to nominate her as deputy director of the National
Science Foundation. AAAS past president Jane Lubchenco, a marine
ecologist at Oregon State University, is a member of the National
Science Board. Evolutionary biologist Michael J. Donoghue is
director of the Harvard University Herbaria.

The five are calling on their fellow scientists to join them at
AAAS to discuss the program in its planning stages. They will
discuss the urgent need to fill in the gaps of information about
biodiversity at every level, from the genetic variability of
individual species to the workings of ecosystems  and to add that
to data about how human societies interact with and depend on
natural systems. They'll suggest some short-term, intensive
international projects that could achieve concrete results during

Among the projects already proposed for IBOY is a global census of
deep-sea organisms, drawn from scientific collections around the
world, to make photos and data about sea creatures available to all
via the World Wide Web. Another project will launch a world-wide
system to watch out for the health of coral reefs: scientists
experienced in evaluating coral ecosystems will train scientists
in tropical nations to monitor their own local reefs.

The project is to be coordinated by DIVERSITAS , a scientific
program under the auspices of UNESCO, the International Council of
Scientific Unions and other scientific societies. Its mission is
to promote research on fundamental aspects of biodiversity, and to
relate the results to policies on conservation and sustainable

"Most nations in world except the U.S. have ratified the 1992
Convention on Biodiversity," Sarukhn said. "The benefit of IBOY to
these nations, and to the international organizations working with
them on sustainability issues, will be scientific information to
help fulfill the provisions of that convention."

Sarukhn said that IBOY is inspired by the International Geophysical
Year in 1957, when scientists worked together across national and
academic boundaries to advance knowledge about the earth, oceans
and atmosphere. "Like the IGY, this process will focus on projects
amenable to international cooperation in data collection, with room
for scientists from developing nations to participate, however
modestly. We expect to integrate what is already known and to add
new data to advance the state of knowledge about biodiversity and
earth's living systems."


Reporters' Note: Background information will be available early
in February at .

DIVERSITAS is an international program headquartered in Paris. It
was created in 1991 to stimulate Biodiversity Sciences, under the
auspices of The International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU),
the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO), the Scientific Committee on Problems of the
Environment (SCOPE), the International Union of Biological Sciences
(IUBS), the International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS)
and the International Geosphere Biosphere Program (IGBP).

DIVERSITAS will maintain a web page to chronicle the progress of
the International Biodiversity Observation Year, at .

For more details about the AAAS annual meeting in Philadelphia, see

This article is available electronically at It also is available electronically
on the national Eurekalert! web site .

By Janet Basu

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