Biodiversity Observing Network

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Thomas Hardy

Daphne Fautin, Curator of Invertebrate Zoology, recently helped generate a paper that plans a Biodiversity Observing Network or BON — a system that may be a key factor in encouraging sustained marine ecosystem health. The effort would create a standardized, coordinated system for measuring marine biodiversity.

"I think a major message is that we don't know what we don't know," she said. "Not only do we not know what we might be losing, we do not know the roles even known organisms play in the ecosystem.  Thus the BON.  An Ocean Observing System is being developed to monitor the state of the oceans — to detect rises in temperature and drops in pH, for example.  But why should those parameters interest us?  One reason only — because they affect the ability of the ocean to sustain life, and we depend, indirectly and directly, on life in the ocean."

Serving on a steering committee, Fautin helped identify key methods for observing biodiversity. The paper listed many recommendations, including:

1. Coordinate biodiversity sampling across taxa, habitats, hierarchical levels, and methods from microbes to mammals;
2. Maximize compatibility of BON with legacy data;
3. Establish one or more Biodiversity Observation Center(s) to coordinate sample processing, including taxonomic identifications, data management, and training and invest in the computational expertise to handle large datasets in an open access environment;
4. Synthesize and make accessible marine taxonomic resources;
5. Invest in developing new approaches for automated sample processing;
6. Modernize and enhance the nation’s physical infrastructure for marine exploration; and
7. Initiate an integrated marine BON demonstration project soon.

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