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Environment / Sustainability

Diana Wall, other top U.S. researchers submit report to President Obama on biodiversity threats

Aug. 1, 2011

One of Colorado State University's most distinguished scientists contributed to a special 121-page report submitted to President Barack Obama on July 22 that urges government intervention on threats to the nation's biodiversity and ecosystems.

Biologist Diana Wall contributed to a report on biodiversity sent to President ObamaDiana Wall, former president of the Ecological Society of American and an ecologist in the Department of Biology at Colorado State, served on the Biodiversity Preservation and Ecosystem Sustainability Working Group – a committee of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, or PCAST.

The council is an independent advisory group of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers who directly advise the president and the Executive Office of the President. They make recommendations where understanding of science, technology and innovation is key to strengthening the economy and forming policy that works for the American people.

Click here to read the Report to the President Sustaining Environmental Capital: Protecting Society and the Economy.

Only two researchers from Colorado on report

Wall and Robert Guralnick, curator of the Museum of Natural History at CU-Boulder, are the only two Colorado scientists on the 16-member working group.

“There is recognition by the nation’s scientists that the threats to the variety and type of species in our ecosystems are not only affecting our quality of life, but hurting our economy,” said Wall, director of Colorado State’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability. “The report recommends a series of efforts to thoroughly assess our environmental capital, including the economic value of the many services these ecosystems provide. It additionally recommends applying modern informatics technologies to the vast stores of biodiversity that are already collected by various federal agencies to increase the usefulness of those data for decision and policymaking.”

The report, “Sustaining Environmental Capital: Protecting Society and the Economy,” notes that a tremendous amount of economic activity is underpinned by the nation’s ecosystems and the biodiversity they contain, and that the federal government has an important role to play in the stewardship of this environmental capital.

Wall is an internationally known researcher who explores how soil biodiversity contributes to healthy, productive soils across the globe. She has completed 21 research seasons in the Antarctic Dry Valleys examining how soil food webs and ecosystem processes respond to global change; one of the valleys has been named after her to honor her scientific contributions.

Highlights of recommendations from the report:

• The U.S. government should institute and fund a comprehensive assessment of the condition of U.S. ecosystems, drawing on ongoing monitoring programs and new activities to assess trends related to environmental sustainability;
• The U.S. Department of State, in coordination with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, should take a leading role in the development of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services;
• Federal agencies that implement biodiversity and ecosystem conservation programs should prioritize expenditures based on cost efficiency;
• Federal agencies with responsibilities relating to ecosystems and their services (e.g., EPA, NOAA, USDA) should improve their capabilities to develop valuations for the ecosystem services affected by their decision-making and factor the results into analyses that inform their major planning and management decisions; and
• The Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability should identify the most important data gaps within existing biodiversity inven¬tories and federal and regional ecological monitoring systems, and clarify priorities and agency roles and funding for filling these.

More about PCAST

PCAST makes policy recommendations in the many areas where understanding of science, technology and innovation is key to strengthening the economy and forming policy that works for the American people. PCAST is administered by the Office of Science and Technology Policy. For more information on PCAST, go to whitehouse.gov/ostp.

About the Colorado State University School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES)

A first for the state, the School of Global Environmental Sustainability is an umbrella organization that encompasses all environmental education and research at Colorado State University. The school positions CSU to address the multiple challenges to global sustainability through broad-based research, curricular programs and outreach initiatives. The school’s emphases include food security, environmental institutions and governance, sustainable communities, land and water resources, biodiversity, conservation and management, climate change and energy. This approach capitalizes on the university's historic strength in environmental research and education and builds upon the education and research that already exists within all eight colleges on campus from the Warner College of Natural Resources to the College of Business. For more information on SoGES, go to http://soges.colostate.edu/.


Contact: Emily Wilmsen
E-mail: Emily.Wilmsen@colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-2336