Network Makes Ecological Data Available for Research on
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
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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