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Southeast Asian scientists bat for ecological network

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines – Scientists and government leaders from nine Southeast Asian countries have batted for the development of an ecological monitoring network to help enhance humankind’s capability for survival.

“Changes in ecosystems need to be tracked and understood to keep their ecosystems healthy and ensure their continued provision of services that are key to human survival,” they asserted in a consensus.

Their forum was the “Regional Roundtable Discussion and Workshop on the Development of an Ecological Monitoring Network” held at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) based here at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

The top-level scientific conference was organized by Philippine government-hosted SEARCA in partnership with the Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA) and the Food Security Center (FSC) of Hohenheim University in Germany.

The participants were 34 scientists, researchers, environment experts and government representatives from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Timor-Leste, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

They took stock of existing initiatives in ecological monitoring and relevant databases in Southeast Asia; identified gaps and areas for improvement in ecological monitoring, and explored possibilities of linking existing initiatives and databases across the region. 

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The participants also shared experiences in ecological monitoring or aspects of it – such as biodiversity, forest, climate and hydrology – in their respective countries.

Likewise, they identified the following top priorities, needs and foci for building a monitoring network within the region: environmental policy and science-based policy and law enforcement; governance; integrated management; ecosystem services, and natural and climate hazards.

The conference’s main resource person, Henry William Loescher, director of Strategic Development of Battelle-National Ecological Observation Workshop (NEON) in the United States, lectured on “The Societal and Scientific Importance of Ecological Monitoring and the Application to Decision Making, Management and Planning.”

Loescher underscored the need to develop a distributed observatory and ecological forecasting, which asks what the most likely future state of an ecological system would be.

He warned that big projects may undergo “near death experiences” but these could be overcome. 

“In the development of an ecological monitoring network, scientists must develop the vision, scope, narrative, and provide the expertise, and the network as well must address large scientific and societal imperatives.”

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