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Plenary Address

Sarukhán, Dr. José [1].

Returning biodiversity knowledge and information to society: the case of Mexico.

Human threats to biodiversity are not only ethically troubling, but are also putting at risk the enormous store of capital assets (the natural capital of nations) that provide the ecosystem services necessary to sustain human life and well being. Changes in biodiversity are the most stunning of all environmental changes at the global scale. Most of us working in the area of the biodiversity sciences often complain that, in contrast with our colleagues doing work in climate change, we have not been able to convey to society the importance of conserving and managing biodiversity in a sustainable manner, so the ecosystems that contain such biodiversity and the services they provide to society are maintained and even augmented for future generations. Several reasons account for this. It is becoming clearer, and especially based on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, that it is imperative that we must now expand the scientific, public and political understanding of biodiversity and the many vital services that ecosystems provide to us. My talk argues not only the ways in which such expansion of our understanding of biodiversity can take place, but emphasizes the absolute need to do so in order to have the necessary social backing to continue doing research in the many areas concerned with biodiversity sciences. I will describe an example of the way in fundamental taxonomic information can be developed into information that gives a more comprehensive view of biodiversity and its importance to society, and also provides basic information that can be used by decision makers, be them government officials, scientists, NGO personnel or the general public. This is based on 13 years of continued work at CONABIO, a government agency in Mexico, generating an important biodiversity data-base, related to spatial, social, economic and ecological parameters that has served to guide public policy not only in the area of the environment, but also in health and agricultural issues. The rise in social perception (from Congress to the general public) has served to maintain a level of support, especially operation funds, that otherwise would not have been possible under the economic circumstances of the country. The model is additionally proposed as a way to solve what was called the “taxonomic impediment” at a Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity. This refers to the serious handicap of the most biodiversity-rich, but most of them developing, countries to count with a scientific infrastructure that allow them to know, quantify and manage sustainably their ecosystems and the biodiversity contained in them. Besides the former arguments (valuation of ecosystem services by society, information made useful to decision makers), in countries where most, if not all, of this knowledge is generated by public funds there is a moral obligation to make such information available to all members of society in a manner that can be used by them for different purposes.

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1 - Ciudad Universitaria - UNAM, Instituto de Ecología, Apartado Postal 70-275, 3er. Circuito Exterior, Anexo Jardín Botánico, México, D.F., 04510, México

decision makers
ecosystem services

Presentation Type: Special Presentation
Session: Plenary-1
Location: Salon H - Austin Grand Ballroom/Hilton
Date: Sunday, August 14th, 2005
Time: 7:30 PM
Abstract ID:528

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