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CREATING AND USING KNOWLEDGE FOR SPECIES AND ECOSYSTEM CONSERVATION: SCIENCE, ORGANIZATIONS, AND POLICY TIM W. CLARK* Introduction The loss of global biodiversity is a major problem with profound repercussions for the present and future human generations. Living professional conservationists are the last generation that can prevent the extinction of large numbers of species and the disruption of large scale ecosystem processes. A conservative estimate of species loss is 20 + % of the planet's biodiversity within the next decade or two—4,000 to 6,000 species a year from rain forests alone [I]. Losses in the rain forests are about 10,000 times greater than natural "background" extinction rates. In the United States, an estimated 675 plant species may become extinct by the year 2000 [2]. About one-third of all fresh-water fish species are being seriously harmed by environmental degradation, and many species or subspecies are threatened [3]. Species protection under the Endangered Species Act is a long, complex process. Meese [4, p. 51] noted that any delay in listing and consequent protection of species is doubly regrettable because so many qualifying species are already backlogged. Nearly twice the number of U.S. species now listed are qualified for listing but waiting to be afforded the basic protections of the Endangered Species Act. In all, more than 3,900 species in the United States are considered official candidates . Two hundred to three hundred of these species, many of them plants, The author is indebted to Ron Brunner, University of Colorado, and Garry Brewer, Yale University for their many ideas; Ron Brunner, Denise Casey, and Rich Reading for their critical reviewing of the manuscript; and the Chicago Zoological Society, the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, and Yale University for their support in the writing of this paper. *Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, Box 2705, Jackson, Wyoming 83001 and School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06511.© 1993 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0031-5982/93/3603-0836$01.00 Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 36, 3 ¦ Spring 1993 497 may already be extinct. The large backlog and the number of possibly extinct "candidate" species indicate a serious breakdown in implementing the Endangered Species Act. Global warming is expected to increase species extinctions [5]. The agricultural , pharmaceutical, economic, scientific, ecological, educational, and aesthetic loss of these species and ecosystems is incalculable and devastating. There are several pivotal needs in halting the loss of biodiversity. According to Miller et al. [6, p. 4], among them are the need to: (1) determine "root causes," which requires analyzing policies and institutions to remove obstacles and promote change in structures and approaches that favor biodiversity conservation and use; and (2) support "science," i.e., use modern science to guide the protection, inventory, study, monitoring, and use of biodiversity. The first need requires that conservationists have knowledge of policy processes, the ability to carry out policy analysis, and the inclination and skill to contribute to planning and decision-making processes. Even a little of this kind of knowledge can go a long way toward helping conservation scientists improve policies and programs for better conservation of biodiversity. The second need requires more and better science and its increased use in decision and policy making. Simply meeting this need does not necessarily improve biodiversity conservation. The relationship of science, analysis, and policies in decision and policy making must be understood [7]. Fundamental to these two needs should be an ability for critical selfexamination by conservationists of the way they traditionally go about their work. To contribute to planning and decision making, to analyze policies and institutions, and to analyze their own behavior, conservationists need several kinds of information. A few quotations emphasize the value and role of information and knowledge in problem solving in science, organizations, and policy. Information connects our past to the present and helps us peer toward the future. The data we collect and analyze and the decisions we reach based on them are primary determinants of the kinds of lives we and future generations lead [8, p. 2]. Information is the primary resource, in the sense that without it we lack even the most elementary tools with which...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 497-525
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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