Blog de la Red de Biodiversidad y Sistemática en el INECOL

En este espacio público, los investigadores, técnicos y estudiantes del INECOL queremos difundir nuestras actividades y promover la divulgación del conocimiento sobre la biodiversidad y sistemática.
Xalapa, Ver. México. Junio 2008.

24 noviembre, 2010

La Taxonomia en Canada va en decadencia


Posted on behalf of Hannah Hoag

Canada is at risk of losing its taxonomic expertise, according to a report released today.
The report details stagnant research funding, greying experts, a lag in digitization and a lack of support for national collections. This is threatening Canada's understanding of its biodiversity, and the ecosystem services it provides, the report concludes.

“Canadian contributions to describing new species has dropped from being 6th in the world to 14th in the last decade,” says Thomas Lovejoy, Biodiversity Chair at the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, who chaired the panel of 14 Canadian and international experts who authored the report. “The taxonomic expertise in Canada is slipping at the moment when it needs to surge forward.”

Results from a survey organized by the panel revealed that large numbers of Canada’s taxonomic experts are due to retire by 2025. Limited job openings and flatlining research funds — despite climbing costs — also contribute to the erosion.
The effects are already being felt. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada recently filled positions on its subcommittees with outside experts because not enough Canadians had expertise in several taxonomic groups, including terrestrial and freshwater molluscs, lichens and mosses, the report says.

Canada has more than 50 million wildlife specimens in collections worth over CDN$250 million, but there is no strategy for their maintenance, says David Green, director of the Redpath Museum at McGill University in Montreal. There are few storage facilities with advanced climate and pest control systems, and many are bulging beyond capacity.

In addition, Canada has done a poor job at contributing to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, an open access database of global biodiversity—only 20% of the information on Canada’s biodiversity is being logged within Canada.

The consequences of losing taxonomy expertise could be enormous: millions more dollars might need to be spent on eradicating invasive species, for example. And Canada might struggle to meet the goals set out in international agreements, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Coming up with a funding solution was beyond the panel’s mandate. But it did highlight existing funding models — the Networks of Centres of Excellence and Canada Research Chairs programs — that have boosted Canada’s international standing in other areas, such as Arctic research.

The panel was brought together by the Council of Canadian Academies, a non-profit corporation that assesses public policy issues.

Picture credits:
Johansen’s Sulphur butterfly. Courtesy of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Canadian National Collection of Insects and Arthropods.

Aging experts. Courtesy of the Council of Canadian Academies.

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