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Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity Web Site

Network Makes Ecological Data Available for Research on Biocomplexity

The Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity (KNB) is intended to facilitate ecological and environmental research on biocomplexity. It is a mechanism for scientists to discover, access, interpret, analyze, and synthesize the wealth of ecological data collected by scientists across the country.

To these ends, a consortium was formed, comprising the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California Santa Barbara, the Long-Term Ecological Research Network (LTER), and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC).

Complexity is an inherent property of living systems that arises from interactions among the earth's physical, chemical, and biological components. Biocomplexity includes the structural and functional attributes of dynamic systems that apply to individuals, populations, and communities. As the consortium points out, "Importantly, biocomplexity is undergoing possibly irreversible changes in the face of rapid human population growth and economic development. Wise stewardship, based on all available scientific knowledge concerning these natural systems, is essential."

Catalyzed by these societal concerns, and helped by advances in technology, scientists have produced an explosion of ecological and environmental data. When integrated with data from other disciplines (for example, meteorology), these data have the potential to greatly enhance understanding biocomplexity. However, research is stymied because these data are largely inaccessible due to their coming from widely distributed sources, and being extremely variable and highly complex.

The network focuses on new approaches to information technology to address these issues of data variability and dispersed sources. It also addresses cultural barriers in science that currently hinder widespread availability of environmental information. For example, one major thrust of outreach efforts is to promote the sharing of data among scientists at the Long-term Ecological Research Network, the Organization of Biological Field Stations and the University of California Natural Reserve System.

The existence of the network will lead to broadened understanding of biocomplexity and ecological systems and allow the application of that understanding to societal issues. The network will allow environmental scientists to focus on complex, multi-scale problems that, to date, have proven intractable. Further, it will provide a basis for the growth of multi-disciplinary research groups focused on biocomplexity. In short, points out NCEAS's Matthew Jones, "The advances in information science will provide an accessible means for identifying, integrating, managing, and, ultimately, synthesizing the nation's sources of information on ecology and biodiversity."


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