The EASIANET LOOP Formulation Workshop identified nine priority needs that must be addressed before the subregion can start to be considered reasonably self-reliant in taxonomy. This initial assessment of priority needs is consistent with the lack of capacity recognised as comprising the 'Taxonomic Impediment' to implementation of the CBD. Further identification of the detailed, specific measures that will lead to the most cost-effective development of taxonomic self-sufficiency in the subregion requires a detailed needs assessment at both the national and subregional levels (as noted in COP Decisions IV/1D and V/9). This would identify specific user needs and elaborate the national priorities in taxonomic infrastructure, human resources and new technologies. At the subregional level, such an assessment will allow identification of options for achieving economies of scale by pooling, optimising and sharing resources, a goal that can be most effectively facilitated by the full operationalisation of a TCN such as EASIANET.
1. Integration of taxonomy with other sectors
The contribution of taxonomists is particularly vital for national implementation of the CBD (COP Decisions III/10; IV/1D; V/9), other related conventions (eg. IPPC), international initiatives such as the GISP, GBIF and MA, subregional and national development plans and trade in agricultural products, and is further recognised by the assessments compiled by the Capacity Development Initiative of UNDP-GEF. Taxonomists need to become better informed on these initiatives, and national development and biodiversity management programmes need to communicate their needs for taxonomic tools and services more effectively to taxonomic institutions.
2. Core funding
As recognised at the global level, the taxonomic tools needed to achieve sustainable development can only be delivered if there is sufficient funding to maintain adequate trained human resources and core reference resources such as biological collections. Taxonomy is thus in urgent need of greater sustained long term funding from various sources, including governments, international organisations and NGOs to support the production of the required taxonomic tools and expertise. For example, many institutions and research centres do not have sufficient core funding for full-time posts to attract young taxonomy graduates.
3. Human Resources
COP Decision III/10 endorses recommendation II/2 of SBSTTA regarding capacity building: "for new taxonomists to be recruited there is a need to provide employment opportunities. It is urgent that parties take this need into consideration and integrate it into the programme of capacity building". The need for training of adequate numbers of taxonomists, especially young taxonomists, in the subregion is urgent. Insufficient capacity exists to do even basic biodiversity inventory work, as called for by the CBD (COP Decision III/10). Addressing the skills shortage requires, for example, the strengthening of curricula for taxonomy in universities, retention of taxonomic posts and the establishment of an incentives mechanism to attract students to the profession of taxonomy. Overall, as is common on a global scale, the greatest deficiency in expertise is in lower organisms such as insects, fungi and soil microbes, the critical species which drive ecosystem processes such as soil nutrient turnover and pollination and which are the greatest causes of agricultural loss. Further, collections facilities need professional managers to manage and maintain the critical biological collections and other reference materials.
4. Collections Facilities
National Taxonomic Reference Centres to ensure efficient management of and access to subregional biological collections and data are recognised as important by the CBD (COP Decisions IV/1D and V/9.2C). The national and subregional needs assessments can facilitate identifying the level to which each country requires national facilities as opposed to shared subregional facilities. Existing collections require upgrading and expansion as most are held in facilities that are inappropriate for the long term storage of degradable biological materials and have had insufficient funding to allow procuring of adequate reference materials such as published journals or to conduct fieldwork to supplement the materials.
5. Mechanisms that promote scientific collaboration
Taxonomy is a highly interdisciplinary and international endeavour - like all science, it depends on access to people, materials, data and publications between institutions and across borders. For example, management of invasive alien species is by definition an international and multilateral problem. In particular, the subregion needs to support greater international cooperation in information exchange, training of taxonomists and in studies of biodiversity, ecosystems and environmental protection. The LOOP, not only between its member countries, but also through its linkage to the rest of BioNET-INTERNATIONAL's Global Network, is a highly appropriate mechanism to facilitate collaboration and international linkages.
6. Modern technology facilities
Subregional taxonomic self-sufficiency also requires in the longer-term the development of facilities for sophisticated taxonomic investigations at the tissue, cell and molecular levels. Currently, taxonomic studies in the subregion are limited to analysis of specimen anatomy and morphology.
7. Reference Materials
Most institutions in the subregion do not have adequate access to standard reference texts such as monographs and international journals.
8. Information management and electronic databases
Some electronic tools have been developed in a minority of institutes in the subregion but significantly greater investment is needed to establish databases that facilitate access to appropriate information and make it available to users across the subregion and more widely. Internet connectivity and improved accessibility to collections data accelerate the building of taxonomic capacity in the region. By participating in such initiatives as EcoPort and the GBIF, the sharing of data with the global taxonomic community will be facilitated, which will help to increase the capacity of the taxonomic institutions in the subregion.
9. Mechanisms to facilitate the exchange of specimens and information
In all countries of the subregion a proportion of specimens collected within national borders are now held by institutes elsewhere. The lack of these reference specimens, and the information associated with them, pose a significant obstacle to effective taxonomic work within the subregion. Formalisation of agreements between countries in the proposed network will help to overcome this lack of access to material and increased access to information will help leverage further material and information from countries outside the region (CBD Decision III/10).