Global Biodiversity Mapping Project

What:

Ahimsa International recognizes a rapid acceleration of extinction rates of species across all natural kingdoms worldwide in the face of climate change, environmental destruction and massive habitat loss. In addition, climate change threatens agriculture and increases the risk of disease. We therefore propose an international global environmental research endeavour to discover, identify, study, catalog, and preserve seeds, tissues and relevant samples of Life on Earth. The purpose is to open the frontiers of our knowledge, and to identify and maintain beneficial biological resources which may provide relief, medicine and sustenance for humanity in an uncertain future.

The study will employ ship based, land based and atmospheric research efforts, organized as an international, scientific collaboration involving the world's foremost scientific institutes, universities, existing research programs, NGO's and both governmental and intergovernmental agencies. The Global Biodiversity Mapping Project will draw upon a broad interdisciplinary approach amongst biologists, botanists, taxonomists, marine biologists, zoologists, atmospheric scientists, and experts in all relevant fields.

Why:

    1. Discovery: To find and preserve life forms and the sanctity of their natural habitats before these habitats are lost to climate change or environmental destruction;

    2. Medicine, resources and survival: To find natural medical compounds and other useful natural chemicals that may come to the aid of humanity in the face of resource loss, food shortages, and the potential spread of new diseases. As such, the study will seek those organisms which may assist our resilience and survival in the century ahead by providing new foods, new medicines, new energy sources and new hope for humanity.

    3.Assessment of current status: To take stock of what is really there, what is surviving changing climates, what is most threatened in our global environment, and what trends indicate patterns of advancing destruction of species and the consequences upon the total habitat.

    4.Preservation of habitats: To be able to collect, preserve and re-grow habitats using the seeds, spores, sperm, tissues and ova within currently existing habitats, recognizing the symbiotic functions that must be preserved in order to be able to regenerate disappearing habitats and species in our future.

Climate Change and Health:

Climate change, overfishing and toxification has caused massive devastation to marine life worldwide. We are losing the very species that might support immune security worldwide in the face of dangerously unpredictable emerging climates. Few realize that "climate change will also act synergistically with other threats, such as the spread of diseases and invasive alien species (Benning et al. 2002). More mosquitoes and other dangerous insects are expanding their geographical areas where human resistance has not slowly developed over time, thus creating new outbreaks of disease. Additionally, as access to clean water becomes more scarce to more people, disease outbreaks are expected to intensify exponentially.

Plants are vital for human health. According to the Millennium Seed Bank: "About 70% of the world's population relies on traditional plant remedies for medicine. Only one in five plant species have been screened for use in medicine. Cures for diseases could lie in many of these unscreened species. We can't afford to let these plants, and the potential they hold, die out."

Food in our Future?

The Millennium Seed Bank focuses as well upon plants and food supply: "Over 30,000 species of plant are edible, but we use only a tiny fraction of these in commercial agriculture. In the future we may well need a much greater range of species, particularly if climate change alters growing seasons or the world's population continues to increase and we run out of prime agricultural land.

A 2013 Oxfam report entitled Growing Disruption, cited a March 2012, special report on extreme weather by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which warned of unprecedented extreme weather and climate events in the future. Many parts of the world have seen new extreme - and ominous - weather records set in recent years, with devastating consequences for food production. These events offer a glimpse of potential future impacts:

  • In 2012 the US Midwest experienced its worst drought in 50 years, which reduced the expected maize crop by 25 per cent. This contributed to global maize prices rising by around 40 per cent

  • In the record-breaking drought in Yunnan, China, which lasted from October 2009 to May 2010, 2.1m hectares of crops and 450,000 hectares of forest and fruit trees suffered serious impacts. The direct economic losses to agriculture exceeded RMB 20bn (around $2.9bn)

  • The drought in Russia in 2012 cut the grain harvest by nearly 25 per cent, 30 causing domestic prices of grain and bread to rocket. Losses caused by this drought have been estimated at between £294m and £937m.
  • Potential of Extinction Must be Averted

    Global environmental disruption and demise, extinction of species is leading to a loss of biodiversity on a level that we have never experienced in human history. Five major extinction events have been recorded over a several billion year period, but, unlike the previous events - which were due to natural upheavals and planetary change - the current loss of biodiversity is mainly due to human activities and is often referred to as the sixth global extinction (Barnosky et al. 2011; Eldredge 2001). The vast majority of biologists agree that the 6th mass extinction is taking place, with extinction rates 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal (Chivian & Bernstein, 2008). Many biologists consider that coming decades will see the loss of large numbers of species (Leadley et al. 2010), increasing the risk of abrupt change in landscapes and seascapes (Estes et al. 2011).

    Ahimsa therefore stresses the importance of embarking upon a vast global study of all life before we lose more of our global food supply, more plants and organisms to extinction and climate change. Hence the absolute necessity of a large scale international effort committed to global bio-mapping.

    Where:

    Ten regions globally, on land, up river, throughout the marine environment and atmospheric regions as well.

    Region 1 - Western United States/Canada and North-Eastern Pacific Ocean
    Region 2 - New Zealand/ Australia and the South-Western Pacific Ocean
    Region 3 - New Guinea/ Indonesia and the Western Pacific Ocean
    Region 4 ­- Thailand and the Western Pacific Ocean
    Region 5 ­- India and the North-Eastern Indian Ocean
    Region 6 ­- East Africa, Madagascar and the South-Indian Ocean
    Region 7 - African Congo and the South-Eastern Atlantic Ocean
    Region 8 ­- Amazon Rainforest and South America/ South-Western Atlantic Ocean
    Region 9- Polar Antarctic
    Region 10 - Polar Arctic

    How:

    The first step is to convene a scientific conference to which are invited the world's foremost experts in the disciplines relevant to studying, conserving and monetizing biodiversity in alignment with social and environmental protection. The proposed conference must rely upon the expertise of those who have previously architected and led comparable national or regional programs, such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), Copenhagen, Census of Marine Life, Millennium Seed Bank, BioMap Columbia, to name just a few of the many research organizations and programs involved with studying and cataloging our Natural Resources for posterity.

    The focus of the first Global Biodiversity Mapping Summit must be to design a collaborative global research effort which takes into account interdisciplinary advances in biodiversity sciences, collaborative advantages, storage advancements and database building which includes leading edge research technology and processes promoting the highest levels of accuracy, efficiency and storage capacity.

    Areas of preliminary focus shall include those areas most threatened as well as upon plants and other organisms which indicate the highest level of usefulness for humanity.

    Disciplines represented:

    Metagenomics / environmental genomics - genomic analysis directly from environmental samples (which have previously helped illustrate the knowledge deficit in microbial populations which was concealed by the limitations of culture-based approaches)
    Ecology
    -Systems

    Biology
    -Taxonomy

    The proposed bio-mapping activities shall include:

    • Species discovery & description:
      • More support for microbial biogeography - a mostly neglected discipline
      • More support for viral ecology - newly emergent
      • Co-description of mutualisms
    • Tracking manmade chemicals in environments and organisms
    • Species preservation and cultivation in artificial environments once discovered
    • Species storage via seed banking & deep freeze of genetic material, as well as captive breeding and culture programs
    • Coordination with international seed banks
    • Establishment of new seed banks, including deepwater storage systems in the event of land disasters, permafrost loss, and other potential risks in humanity's future

    • Expanded R&D environment
      • International Open Access Database for universal access and referencing
      • Agricultural & culinary trials of untapped edible plants, both those presently known - and seed banked - and those awaiting discovery
      • A shared ethic of non-harm, or science for and not against humanity as the basis of the project
      • Use of newly emergent screening procedures (such as BioMAP) for identifying antibiotic profiles of organisms & their biochemicals
      • A shared ethic towards equitable allocation of intellectual properties

    Project elements:

    • Ship-based research with on-board laboratories and genetic material storage facilities
    • Land based research network - field sites & conveyance
    • Atmospheric research, with manned and unmanned research balloons
    • River boats with land vehicles & helicopters for exploration
    • Interdisciplinary research systems. designed collaboration networks to build on the existing interstices in environmental chemistry & biogeography.

    Project Objectives:

    • Identify species at most risk of decline & extinction; identify causes
    • Track changes in population over time
    • Track migrations, seasonal, invasive and forced

    Examples of Current and Recent Efforts Worldwide

    Rainforests and oceans comprise the world's greatest living pharmacy; from fungi on seaweed as antibiotics to snails that offer morphine characteristics, Nature continues to provide us with unimaginably rich and diverse solutions and opportunities. Of these environments, the ocean is the least explored. Below are some examples of global efforts in biomapping and why such efforts are taking place

    1. Researching Marine Medicines

    In one recent study, Georgia Institute of Technology scientists have been cataloging and analyzing natural compounds from more than 800 species found in the waters surrounding the Fiji Islands.A group of chemical compounds used by a species of tropical seaweed to ward off fungus attacks may have promising antimalarial properties for humans.
    Julia Kubanek and Facundo Fernandez, both associate professors at the Georgia Institute of Technology, hold a molecular model of a potential antimalarial drug under study. (Credit: Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek)

    2. Rainforest medicines

    In Peru, an ancient Incan toothache remedy has been discovered which may advance worldwide dental practice.

    The remedy, made from an Amazonian plant species from varieties of Acmella Oleracea has proved hugely successful during the first two phases of clinical trials and may hasten the end of current reliance on local anesthetics in dental use. Cambridge anthropologist Dr Françoise Barbara Freedman, is leading efforts to bring this wholly natural painkiller to the global marketplace as an organic alternative to synthetic painkillers.Biomapping is relevant to our future not only because we need new medicines, but because our natural resources and habitats which produce such medicines are diminishing rapidly.

    3. Bio-monitoring of Atmospheric and River Pollution

    An alternate reason for biomapping is to use organisms as efficient and accurate markers of pollution. This is being done in rivers in India's Assam State, with the study of river organisms, which show by their presence and groupings the kinds of pollution that are prevalent. Biomapping is also being done in atmospheric science such as the study by the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), using plants and organisms to determine air pollution.

    4. Global Ocean Sampling Expedition

    The Global Ocean Sampling Expedition (GOS) is an ocean exploration genome project with the goal of assessing the genetic diversity in marine microbial communities and to understand their role in nature's fundamental processes. The expedition, led by Craig Venture, sampled water from Halifax, Nova Scotia to the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean while undertaking a two year circumnavigation.

    Who: Prospective Participating Organizations

    The collaborative, scientific effort will require insight and expertise from all current leading scientific institutions engaged in biodiversity mapping, as well as new players and funders from the public sector- the stakeholders being the whole of humanity.

    To list only a few such candidates, research partners will include, but not be limited to the following:

    Seed Banks

    • Svalbard Global Seed Vault
    • Millennium Seed Bank Project
    • Danish Seedbank Project
    • The Burgbad Sanctuary - A conservation-themed show garden planted with rare and endangered species, some loaned by the MSB
    • Israel Gene Bank

    Policy-led Organizations

    • (IUCN)
    • (UNEP-WCMC)

    Research Programs & Initiatives

    Project BioMap - an effort to map distribution of birds in Colombia, the world's most bird-diverse nation. The original focus on birds has since expanded the BioMap concept across the region and across other environmental sensitive taxa groups, such as amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and selected insect groups.

    International Policy Frameworks

    • Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
    • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
    • Agenda 21

    National-level Institutes

    • Argentina
    • Brazil
    • Canada
    • Colombia
    • USA - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
    • South Africa

    Universities & Institutes

    The efforts will be open to all universities and institutes to participate by commissioning representatives. The following is a listing of only the more prominent & relevant institutes.
    • Biodiversity Institute @ Oxford University
    • Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility @ NASA & NMSU - To consult on atmospheric testing & balloon management
    • Georgia Tech
    • Microbial Observatory for Virioplankton Ecology
    • National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis
    • Smithsonian

    NGOs

    • Conservation International
    • World Wildlife Fund
    • Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (IPÊ)

    Private firms

    • Sandor Proteomics
    • Roche Diagnostics

    Key Individuals

    • Daniel Pauly
    • Clinton Jenkins
    • Craig Venter
    • Mariana Vale - On deep-forest field naturalism
    • Stuart L Pimm - Consultant on biodiversity & extinction monitoring
    • NR Pace - On microbial studies
    • Nigel Cleere - the European Databaser for Project BioMap.
    • Niki Vermeulen - Author of "Supersizing Science"

    Collections & Conservatories

    University of Copenhagen collection

    Databases

    • Community Cyberinfrastructure for Advanced Marine Microbial Ecology Research and Analysis (CAMERA)
    • (OBGIS)
    • Darwin Database
    • Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)

    List of leading universities, organizations, institutes and foremost scientists to be invited to participate shall include:

    • Darwin Center
    • Conservation International - Andes Centre of Biodiversity Conservation, from Venezuela to Bolivia. Paul Salaman again, who is Biodiversity Science Coordinator.
    • King's College, Zoological Museum,
    • University of Copenhagen collection
    • Copenhagen Biosystematics Centre (COBICE).
    • Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), Copenhagen
    • AndinoNET initiative, Maracay, Venezuela
    • BioNET INTERNATIONAL - ( Richard Smith -BioNET UK)
    • Museo del Instituto de Zoología Agrícola Francisco Fernández Yépez-MIZA).Pepe Clavijo
    • IABIN
    • GEF PDF Sub-regional coordinators for Venezuela (Eric van Praag) and Colombia to Bolivia (Antonio W. Salas).

    Funding

    Fellowships
    -Marie Curie ActionsM
    Link: Convention on Biological Diversity

    References:

    Read More about our 'Ashoka Biodiversity Center'