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Long-Term Monitoring
Why, What, Where, When & How?

Proceedings of a workshop and conference “The Importance of the Long-term Monitoring of the Environment” held by Sherkin Island Marine Station from 14th–19th September 2003 on Sherkin Island, Co Cork, Ireland

Edited by John Solbé

One major factor fuelling public concern over environmental deterioration is the uncertainty surrounding the main issues: global warming, ozone depletion, pollution, destruction of natural habitats. Ideally, we would tackle these issues of changing environments by first understanding the natural environment sufficiently in order to identify the change. In truth we are facing the urgent need to understand changes to natural systems when we have little understanding of their former state. There are several main reasons for our being inadequately prepared:

  • Natural systems are complex – understanding them is therefore difficult, demanding enormous scientific efforts on a larger scale than has previously proved possible.

  • Natural systems are characterised by a high degree of variation – on time-scales of hours to thousands of years; understanding this requires observations spanning at least the time frame of interest to humans (up to several hundreds of years).

  • We lack the necessary long-term observations – to adequately understand the background for assessing the perceived threat from environmental change.

For these reasons, we are forced into making estimates of environmental change in the absence of adequate background information. In practice this involves using available, mostly short-term, observations to answer questions requiring longer-term series of data, with a heavy reliance on modelling to help make up for the shortfall. This inevitably produces large amounts of uncertainty in any predictions generated by the models, and it is this that adds to the uncertainty felt also by the public.
All this raises the question of what can we do to reduce the levels of uncertainty regarding environmental issues? The obvious need for more longer-term observations cannot be met instantaneously. However, if more such records would have helped us to understand present-day environmental changes and improved our ability to predict future changes, as seems to be the case, we should at least consider the possibilities for maintaining the few long-term series of observations we have in place and starting new series where needed. This was the subject of an international workshop leading to the publication of this book.

Dr Barrie Dale
(Excerpt of Introduction)

Price:  EUR 15.00 (softback)

plus postage - Ireland - €6.00

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ISBN: 1 870492 82 X

226pp 175mm x 246mm

Published by Sherkin Island Marine Station 2005

Download flier, including contents page (43kb, pdf)

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