Journal Archives > BGCNews > The Darwin Declaration - Workshop on 'Removing the Taxonomic Impediment'
The Darwin Declaration - Workshop on 'Removing the Taxonomic Impediment'
Volume 3 Number 1 - December 1998
The governments of the world have agreed that there is a need to mobilise resources to improve infrastructure, for training, for research and for access to taxonomic information. This action is required so that the global taxonomic effort can be improved to underpin the conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits from biodiversity. This has been expressly recognised by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) through their endorsement of a Global Taxonomy Initiative (GTI) to promote capacity building in taxonomy, proposed by their scientific subsidiary body in September 1996.
Since that time a number of discussions concerning the implementation of the GTI have been held at meetings of the Convention and other international scientific meetings. The Smithsonian Institution, through its National Museum of Natural History, approached the Global Environment Facility after the COP III meeting to propose an international workshop. The aim of the workshop would be to address the taxonomic impediment by trying to develop an action plan for implementing the proposed GTI. In a subsequent meeting in Montreal, Canada in September 1997, the CBD Secretariat endorsed the workshop proposal and requested that the Australian Biological Resources Study join with the Smithsonian Institution as coconvenors. The Australian Government subsequently offered Darwin as the location for the meeting. Support for the meeting was provided by the MacArthur Foundation, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the U.S. Department of the Interior, Environment Australia, the Government of the Northern Territory, Australia and the Smithsonian Institution.
Several of the major taxonomic institutions, who share a common outlook to the problem, were unable to attend the meeting, including the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum and the Komarov in St Petersburg. It was also regrettable that funding and time did not allow representatives from Brazil or from the Arab Region to be present. The organisers have undertaken to inform these institutions and others of the Workshop results so that they, along with those present, can continue their united efforts to provide the knowledge base required to address the critical problems of providing taxonomic support for effective biodiversity management.
The Darwin Workshop was specifically organised. to provide the CBD and the GEF, as the financial mechanism for the Convention, with advice on how to implement the GTI to remove the taxonomic impediment. However, the Workshop organisers acknowledged that there were other funders and interested constituencies who could also benefit from the advice offered. The organisers also recognised that many excellent efforts towards the same ohjectives were already underway around the world, including but not limited to DIVERSITAS, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Megascience Forum's Biodiversity Informatics Subgroup, and BioNET-INTERNATIONAL. The Endnote has more detail on these and other initiatives.
While the present GEF Operational Strategy does not address taxonomy explicitly it does indirectly address issues through the ecosystem approach, which implicitly requires a sound basis in taxonomy. The Operational Strategy also addresses the need for research, and for appropriate technology for biological inventory and rapid assessment. Information systems are also identified as an important resource. Therefore, it should be interpreted that the GEF Operational Strategy already emhraces taxonomy within its scope. Further, the COP of the CBD has instructed the GEF to include taxonomic activities in its operations. What is needed is a set of actions to enable the GEF to focus on this request.
The Darwin Workshop was designed to allow participants to build upon previous work to identify the key taxonomic issues requiring attention for biodiversity conservation, and to chart an action plan to consolidate existing initiatives into a truly global response to the problems. Four areas of endeavour were recognised as being essential in this process:
The Role of Biological Collections
The mission of institutions such as museums and herbaria housing biological collections is to collect, document and store safely in readily accessible form specimens of the local, national, regional or global diversity of living organisms. The specimens are a record genetic and morphological variation, past and recent geographical distribution and other biological information. Often they are the only remaining material of extinct species or the only record of species seen only once in the wild.
Despite the importance of these collections, both in developed and developing; countries, we today are witnessing the deterioration of collection standards. The museums and herbaria which have been established l to provide safe storage of specimens and the infrastructure for research and information retrieval now have inadequate resources even to maintain their collections in an active accessible form, let alone expand and develop their potential to contribute to the aims of the CBD and to national, regional and local objectives. There is therefore an urgent need for substantial funding to he made available to museums, herbaria, and relevant living collections to secure their future.
With appropriate funding, the priorities for managing these collections globally are: