NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance.
This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.
This study by the National Research Council's Virtual Commission on the Formation of the National Biological Survey was sponsored by Department of the Interior contract 14-48-0009-93-013,
Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 93-85920
International Standard Book No. 0-309-04984-0
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Copyright 1993 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, October 1993
Second Printing, January 1994
Cover: Partly inspired by the cover design of the 1988 book Biodiversity (E.O. Wilson, ed.) published by the National Academy Press, the illustration suggests, through a simple design, the complex interrelationships of human civilization and the rest of the biosphere.
COMMITTEE ON THE FORMATION OF THE NATIONAL BIOLOGICAL SURVEY
PETER H. RAVEN (Chairman),
Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis
MICHAEL J. BEAN,
Environmental Defense Fund, Washington, D.C.
FRANK W. DAVIS,
University of California, Santa Barbara
GORDON P. EATON,
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, New York
SHARON G. HAINES,
International Paper, Bainbridge, Georgia
EOP Foundation, Washington, D.C.
JEREMY B.C. JACKSON ,
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama
CHRISTOPHER B. LEINBERGER,
Robert Charles Lesser & Co., Santa Fe
JUDITH L. MEYER,
University of Georgia, Athens
WILLIAM A. MOLINI,
Nevada Department of Wildlife, Reno
NANCY R. MORIN,
Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis
LORIN I. NEVLING,
Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign
GORDON H. ORIANS,
University of Washington, Seattle
PAUL G. RISSER,
Miami University of Ohio, Oxford
ROBERT J. ROBBINS,
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
JAY M. SAVAGE,
University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida
ROLLIN D. SPARROWE,
Wildlife Management Institute, Washington, D.C.
VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL,
Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee
QUENTIN D. WHEELER,
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
ERIC A. FISCHER, Project Director
DEBORAH D. STINE, Senior Program Officer
PAULETTE A. ADAMS, Project Assistant
NORMAN GROSSBLATT, Editor
COMMISSION ON THE FORMATION OF THE NATIONAL BIOLOGICAL SURVEY
M. GORDON WOLMAN (Chairman),
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
RICHARD E. LENSKI,
Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
GENE E. LIKENS,
Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York
THOMAS D. POLLARD,
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore
STEVE RATTIEN, Executive Director
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, non-profit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.
The Department of the Interior has begun the process of forming a new agency, the National Biological Survey (NBS). As described by Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt:
The National Biological Survey will produce the map we need to avoid the economic and environmental "train wrecks" we see scattered across the country. NBS will provide the scientific knowledge America needs to balance the compatible goals of ecosystem protection and economic progress. Just as the U.S. Geological Survey gave us an understanding of America's geography in 1879, the National Biological Survey will unlock information about how we protect ecosystems and plan for the future.
An important distinction exists between the ordinary use of the word survey and its use in National Biological Survey. Confusion about the meaning of the word sometimes arises in discussions about the NBS, and it is worthwhile to clarify the difference between the two at the outset. The NBS will be a new administrative entity in the Department of the Interior (DOI). Formed from a reorganization of programs in DOI, it will have responsi-
bilities for inventorying, mapping, and monitoring biotic resources; performing basic and applied research on species, groups of species, populations, and ecosystems; and providing the scientific support and technical assistance needed for management and policy decisions in DOI. Thus, it includes far more than the inventorying and mapping functions that the use of the word survey might imply.
The idea of a national biological survey has a long history in the United States, beginning with the formation of the Division of Biological Survey in the Department of Agriculture at the end of the last century. After that division was transferred to DOI in 1939 and made part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the survey component gradually declined. But with concerns over loss of habitats and species and calls for more effective regional land management, professional organizations, nongovernment organizations, individual scientists, and members of Congress have increasingly called for a new biological survey.
In February 1993, the Secretary of the Interior requested advice from the National Research Council on the formation of the NBS. The National Research Council thereupon assembled a committee that included both scientists and persons with experience in government, industry, and public-interest organizations. The Committee on the Formation of the National Biological Survey conducted its study under the auspices of an ad hoc oversight body, the Commission on the Formation of the National Biological Survey, drawn from the membership of the Commission on Life Sciences and the Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources.
The committee worked from March to September 1993. Its timetable was designed to accommodate the schedule that DOI set for administratively establishing the NBS. The committee was charged with addressing issues related to the scope and direction of the NBS embodied in the following questions:
What should a biological survey for the nation entail?
What should the National Biological Survey in the Department of the Interior be, if it is to serve the needs of the department and others?
How should information relevant to the survey be managed?
How can existing and new survey-related activities and information be made most useful for policy, management, and scientific purposes within and outside the Department of the Interior?
How can federal and other entities best collaborate for these purposes?
It is important to note that the charge did not include a study of the question of whether or not the NBS should exist on a detailed evaluation of DOI's specific proposal, but rather the scope and direction of NBS in the context of the larger national picture. In developing answers to those questions, the committee considered a wide range of current and potential elements of a survey appropriate to the Department of the Interior and other locations. Many of the activities of a national biological survey—such as basic and applied research, monitoring, inventory, and information management—are going on, not only in DOI but in other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Department of Defense. Many of the activities occur in state agencies, state biological surveys, universities, museums (including the Smithsonian Institution), and private organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy's Heritage Programs, which maintain inventory databases in state offices throughout the country. There are also a number of international efforts, such as the World Conservation Monitoring Center in England, and national efforts, such as the Australian ABRS-ERIN (Australian Biological Resources Study-Environmental Resources Information Network) complex and the biodiversity institutes in Taiwan, Mexico (CONABIO, Comisión
Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad), and Costa Rica (INBio, Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad).
During its inquiries and deliberations, the committee discovered a wide range of national needs, a broad distribution of relevant efforts and resources already occurring in federal and nonfederal organizations in a relatively uncoordinated fashion, and a wide range of management needs within the Department of the Interior. These findings, combined with the short time available to examine these programs and needs in preparation for this report, led the committee to conclude that it would be more effective in fulfilling Secretary Babbitt's wish that its work help provide a vision for the National Biological Survey if it approached the first two questions above in the context of the broader needs, opportunities, and activities as they related to the stated goals of the NBS rather than concentrating on the details of its proposed structure or specific research agenda, except to the extent that such an examination seemed essential to deal with the broader issues.
This report proposes a research agenda for the National Biological Survey that is far broader than the existing research effort in the Department of the Interior but that is also focused and has priorities according to likely immediate and long-term user needs. A National Biotic Resources Information System is envisioned to make reliable biological information more accessible to diverse users. The report also describes how the many public and private entities involved in current research on biological resources can work together in a new entity, which the committee has called the National Partnership for Biological Survey, to provide comprehensive information that will be useful for decision-makers at all levels of government and outside government. The recommendations of this committee, if followed, should provide the United States with a framework for making decisions about the management, use, and protection of its biological resources.
While this report represents the work of the committee, it benefited greatly from the support of professional staff from the National Research Council: Eric Fischer, who helped the com-
mittee refine the report, and Deborah Stine who contributed to the preparation and administrative organization of the study. Their resumes are included with those of the panel in Appendix B because of their intellectual contributions, which advanced the committee's efforts throughout the study. The report was greatly improved by the diligent work of its editor, Norman Grossblatt. In addition, invaluable support was provided by Paulette Adams, Robin Harp, Karen Plaut, and Helene Mokhiber.
The panel also acknowledges with appreciation presentations made at meetings of the committee by the following persons:
Senator Daniel Akaka, U.S. Senate
Randy Alberte, Department of Defense
Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior
William Brown, Waste Management Inc.
John Busby, Australian Environmental Resources Information Network
Faith Campbell, National Resources Defense Council
Peter Dangermond, Dangermond Associates
Paul Dayton, Marine Life Research Group, University of California, San Diego
Pam Eaton, Wilderness Society
George Frampton, Department of the Interior
Jim Gosz, National Science Foundation
Kim Harris, The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii
John Heissenbuttal, American Forests & Paper Association
Elaine Hoagland, Association of Systematics Collections
Robert Hoffmann, National Museum of Natural History
Alan Holt, The Nature Conservancy
Stephen Hubbell, National Institute of Environment
Robert Irvin, National Wildlife Federation
Kenneth Kaneshiro, University of Hawaii
Ted LaRoe, Co-chair NBS Implementation Task force
Thomas Lovejoy, Science Advisor to the Secretary of the Interior
Ed Martinko, Environmental Protection Agency
Alison Merow, Center for Marine Conservation
Alma Peaty, American Mining Congress
Max Peterson, International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies
Clair Reiniger, Designwrights Collaborative Inc.
John Sawhill, The Nature Conservancy
Jorge Soberón, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
Bruce Stein, The Nature Conservancy
Bob Szaro, USDA/U.S. Forest Service
Frank Talbot, National Museum of Natural History
William Weeks, The Nature Conservancy
Donna Weiting, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Donald Wilson, Smithsonian