Biological field stations: Keeping a pulse on our planet
Gene E. Likens, President Emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, is a coauthor on the paper, "Understanding complex environmental problems relies on biological field stations. Our acid rain work, which informed the 1990 Clean Air Act, was based on more than 26 years of long-term data. Biological field stations are a critical part of the global research infrastructure. Yet many are vulnerable to closure and need to do a better job of communicating their importance to decision makers, funders, and citizens."
Biological field stations are under continuous risk of closure due to financial insecurity, lack of public support, and weak governance. Some 38% are tied administratively to colleges and universities, with the rest overseen by museums, government organizations, and not-for-profits. The author's urge the creation of a sustainable framework for biological field stations that recognizes their regional, national, and global importance. They also highlight a need to integrate with larger initiatives, such as the Global Lakes Environmental Observatory Network and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
|Global Map of Biological Field Stations |
[Credit: © Laura Tydecks]
Most biological field stations are located in pristine or remote areas, like the Tundra Ecosystem Research Station situated in Canada's Southern Arctic Ecozone. Far fewer are in urbanized areas, like the Ecological Rhine Station situated on a former ship in Cologne, Germany. There is a vital need to record more environmental data in human-dominated systems, such as cities, and in sensitive areas such as deserts, savannas, mountainous regions, and offshore locations.
Undergraduate and graduate training is another benefit provided by biological field stations. These 'living laboratories' play a key role in educating the next generation of environmental scientists, and offer collaborative, hands-on research opportunities.
Likens concludes, "Given the myriad of problems facing our forests, freshwaters, and oceans -- networked, sustainable biological field stations are essential. The information they collect is relevant to addressing most of today's pressing environmental problems -- from air and water pollution to the movement of invasive pests and pathogens. They deserve our strong support and protection."
Source: Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies [March 17, 2016]