The countries of East Asia have, through various Decisions of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the CBD, recognised that there is a 'Taxonomic Impediment' preventing the optimal use and conservation of biodiversity in the subregion and hindering implementation of the CBD. As noted in COP Decision IV/1D, the urgency for the availability of taxonomic information to countries of origin, and the need of developing countries to develop national collections and human and institutional capacities in taxonomy, the countries of East Asia and other Parties to the CBD recognise the urgent need to overcome this impediment.
The fourth COP discussed the issue of taxonomic capacity building in detail and proposed a series of measures, including formation of the Global taxonomy Initiative (GTI), to solve the problem. First, the importance of establishing precise capacity building needs was recognised in Decision IV/1D (Suggestions for Action 1) which identified the need for countries to conduct national taxonomic needs assessments, and to link these to national reporting under the CBD. Such needs assessments at both national and subregional scales will form critical early steps to define priority EASIANET activities. Both the needs assessments and the work by the participating institutions in EASIANET will facilitate the ability of member country governments to make their national reports to the CBD.
A recent major UNDP-GEF review of capacity needs in developing countries (the Capacity Development Initiative or CDI, www.gefweb.org/Site_Index/CDI/cdi.html) has identified, in each region including Asia, the need for more taxonomic capacity to conduct activities that are essential for sustainable development, such as ecosystem monitoring and assessment. The CDI found that taxonomy was commonly a high priority for capacity development. Countries typically lack the "critical mass" of expertise and reference materials in taxonomy that are needed for successful management of biodiversity.
In the developed countries decreasing number of taxonomic experts and inadequately maintained facility are causing difficulty to keep academic feed back in the development of environmental sustainability. Training of young scientists in taxonomy and cooperation with relevant scientific fields including biological informatics is necessary to support inter-regional sharing of taxonomic service and to maintain scientific capabilities.
A further widely recognised factor driving the need for subregional self-sufficiency in taxonomy is the growing difficulty that developing countries face in obtaining taxonomic services from the developed world expert institutions. Cost is a major obstacle: developed world institutions today are no longer fully subsidised by their governments and consequently charge for their taxonomic services at rates that are typically too great for developing countries. A further obstacle is the limited capacity in developed country expert institutions. Major world centres of taxonomy are overwhelmed by demands for identifications from their own national environmental programmes and international biodiversity activities in which their countries participate. Consequently, developing countries are not only badly lacking in their own taxonomic capacity to support their development programmes, but also in the opportunities to obtain such services elsewhere.