Internet-based Biodiversity Database Workshop April 24 - 27, 2000

Conservation Science Tutorial: Information for Conservation and Ecological Sustainability

John Busby

Director of Heritage, Science and Core Data, Environmental Resources Information Network

A strategic approach to collecting, managing, analyzing and using information will make a major contribution to our understanding and wise use of the natural environment and its resources. The good news is that, with exceptions, we have more or less enough data and almost the right kind of technology to make it possible. The explosion of the Internet and the increasing development of databases, information networks and inter-agency partnerships represent impressive progress. The not-so-good news is that many efforts are transient and fragmented, and we lack the ongoing institutional commitments and the necessary policies, protocols and standards to put the (largely) existing 'building blocks' together. The key transition from a 'science-oriented supply-side' to a 'user-oriented demand-driven' approach is also proving to be a major challenge. All too often, our information systems are failing to provide relevant, timely information in a form that others can use. It is becoming increasingly clear that we need to become much more effective in 'mainstreaming' environmental information into decision-making processes at community, corporate, state, national and international levels. While there are encouraging examples of progress and many impressive systems have been implemented, much remains to be done.