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Internet can warn of ecological changes
Date:3/19/2009

The Internet could be used as an early warning system for potential ecological disasters, according to researchers from Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University and the University of East Anglia.

Ecosystem services such as water purification and food production are of fundamental importance for all planetary life. However, these are threatened by sudden changes in ecosystems caused by various pressures like climate change and global markets. Collapsing fisheries and the irreversible degradation of freshwater ecosystems and coral reefs are examples that have already been observed. Averting such ecosystem changes is of vital importance.

Despite improved ecosystem monitoring, early warnings of ecological crisis are still limited by insufficient data and gaps in official monitoring systems. In an article for the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, centre researchers Victor Galaz, Beatrice Crona, rjan Bodin, Magnus Nystrm and Per Olsson, and Tim Daw from the School of International Development at UEA, explore the possibilities of using information posted on the Internet to detect ecosystems on the brink of change.

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"Information and communications technology is revolutionizing the generation of and access to information. Systematic 'data mining' of such information through the Internet can provide important early warnings about pending losses of ecosystem services," said lead author Dr Galaz.

In 1997-98, unusually warm seas caused unprecedented levels of mass 'coral bleaching'. Field observations of the global phenomenon were shared instantly through an email network, demonstrating how communication technologies can allow rapid assessment of emerging threats from informal sources. In their article Can Web Crawlers Revolutionize Ecological Monitoring?, published online this week, the authors explore the untapped potential of web craw
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Contact: Cat Bartman
c.bartman@uea.ac.uk
44-160-359-3007
University of East Anglia
Source:Eurekalert

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