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

lers - software programs that browse the World Wide Web in a methodical, automated manner to mine informal web-based sources such as email lists, blogs and news articles, as well as online reports and databases, for ecosystem monitoring.

"If we look at coral reefs, for example, the Internet may contain information that describes not only changes in the ecosystem, but also in drivers of change, such as global seafood markets," Dr Daw explained.

Why use web crawlers?

The article highlights the fact that analysis and response are not necessarily organized around a single government actor, but might take place as the result of collaborations between different state and non-state stakeholders.

"If the outputs are available more widely, analysis and responses could even be the result of autonomous actions, assumed by independent organizations and individuals," said Dr Galaz.

The authors focus on three potential approaches in using web crawlers to forewarn ecological shifts.

Firstly, web crawlers can collect information on the drivers of ecosystem change, rather than the resultant ecological response. For example, if rapidly emerging markets for high value species lead to overexploitation and collapse of a fishery, web crawlers can be designed to collect information on rapid changes in prices of key species, landings or investments in particular regions.

Secondly, but less certain, future early warning systems can make use of the recent insight that shows that ecosystems sometimes 'signal' a pending collapse. The variability of fish populations has for example been shown to increase in response to over-exploitation.

Thirdly, web crawlers may find information that describes ecological changes at small scales, which may warn of similar shifts in other locations. This includes early warnings of invasive species, as well reduced resilience of ecosystems at larger scales due to the small-scale loss of interc
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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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