The Scope Program

The SCOPE program consisted of a series of activities between 1991 and 1994, culminating in an overall synthesis meeting at Asilomar, California, in 1994. The program was launched in October 1991 with a meeting on background issues held in Bayreuth, Germany. This meeting brought together ecologists and population biologists, both directed toward evaluating the consequences of human-driven disruption of natural systems. In particular, there was an examination of the degree of redundancy within systems, the ubiquity of keystone species, the tightness of species interactions (from mutualisms to food webs), the resilience of system to perturbations, and the interaction of landscape units. The few direct studies on species numbers and ecosystem function were evaluated. The interaction of policy and science in this area was also explored. The highlights of this meeting were described in Chapin et at. (1992) and the full results in Schulze and Mooney (1993).

The second phase of the program consisted of a series of meetings focusing on specific biotic regions of the world. These meetings took place during 1992-1993. The regions selected represent particularly critical areas in terms of threats to diversity losses, or arc particularly sensitive to global change effects, or are especially amenable to experimentation. The same issues were discussed for each system, as noted below, in order to get uniform treatment of the nature of the diversity of that system, how that particular system is being modified, and the potentially differential structural/functional relationships among systems. However, the reality of the information available meant that not all issues were necessarily discussed, or if they were the discussion was not even across systems. It will be seen that, as always, the material available determines the structure and hence the diversity of ways of approaching the same theme.

Each regional symposium was designed to address the following issues:

1. Natural diversity of systems

Species Populations Functional groups Systems Landscapes

2. Impact of change on diversity

Climate and atmosphere

Land use


3. Assessing diversity role on ecosystem function

Additions (invasion analog) Subtractions (harvesting, disease, etc.) Fragmentation Disturbance

4. Reconstructing and maintaining diverse systems

5. Refining our knowledge through

Explicit experiments Long-term observations

Thus, from the start, the focus on the program was on all elements of biodiversity, not just specics, although species were, without question, the focus of the work since this is where the greatest information is available, and further, where the most concern has been voiced. Global change effects were addressed in their full context, i.e. land-use change, atmospheric change and invasions, rather than conccntrating on a single driver, e.g. climate as is often the case.

Since little experimentation is available, as noted, surrogates were utilized for these in the syntheses. For example, biotic invasions can be considered a surrogate for experiments on the addition of biotic diversity to a system, just as selective harvesting in forestry or species-specific lethal diseases can be considered as experiments on biotic subtractions from ecosystems. However, in the case of surrogates there are usually no control measurements, nor arc ecosystem functional responses necessarily measured. The main objective was to lay the groundwork for a better database for the future based on experimentation.

The greatest challenge facing the science and practice of ecology today is developing the tools to reconstruct, or repair, ccosystcms that have been degraded through human activities. This research area is still poorly developed and needs considerable attention. The basis for this science lies in the kind of material discussed in this book - what species and in what combinations provide the greatest ecosystem services? What sort of species representation is needed to ensure stability in face of fluctuating climates?

The biotic regions that were selected, on the basis of the criteria noted above, were:

• Estuaries, lagoons and mangroves

• Mediterranean systems

• Boreal forest

• Coastal systems

• Tropical forest

• Lakes and rivers

• Temperate forest

Note that although most of the above can be considered a biome type, islands of course are representative of most of the biomes. However, they are special in view of their generally relative simplicity and because of the disproportionately high human impacts they have received.

To produce some of these assessments full-scale symposia were held that included a large number of experts. In these cases a system-specific book was produced on these systems, as happened with islands, Mediterranean systems, arctic and alpine areas, savannas and tropical forests, as noted below. The chapters in this volume represent condensations of the fuller treatment contained in these books. The other systems were assessed by small groups of experts, as indicated in the authorships of these chapters. Representatives of all these systems met in Asilomar, California, in 1994 for a fmal discussion of the material and for cross-system comparisons (Baskin, 1994).

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