In the Washington Watch column in the June 2009 issue of BioScience, Julie Palakovich Carr, reports on the need for monitoring the impacts of climate change on ecosystems.

An excerpt from the article follows, but the complete article (along with prior Washington Watch columns) may be viewed for free at

Coral bleaching, earlier leaf budding, pika range shifts—these are only a few of the documented effects of climate change on species and ecosystems. Congress is trying to pass legislation responding to climate change, yet some scientists are wondering whether policymakers understand the importance of including ecosystem monitoring in the policy response to climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and many biologists have voiced support for an ecosystem observation system to monitor climate-related changes in species’ distribution and abundance, ecosystem disturbance, phenology, nutrient cycling, and other ecological data. Such environmental observations, the IPCC says, are “vital to allow for adjustments in management strategies.” The Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), the inter-agency organization responsible for federal climate research, has identified a need to expand existing monitoring networks and to develop new capabilities for ecosystem observations. A 2009 review of the CCSP by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) reported that the establishment of a climate observation system to monitor physical, biological, and social systems was a top priority for the program. Progress has been slow despite the continuing need for data.

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