he combined impacts of global environmentalchange and the complex behavior of ecological sys-tems, create opportunities for major “ecological sur-prises” at various spatial scales (Schneider and Root1995; Gunderson 2003; Gordon
. 2008). Ecosystemsprovide many vital ecosystem services (ES), such aswater purification and food production, but rapidchanges due to, for instance, climate change and shiftingglobal markets, present serious challenges to their futureability to deliver these life supporting services (MA2005). Examples of such changes include collapsing fish-eries at national and global scales (Berkes
. 2006),irreversible degradation of freshwater ecosystems andcoral reefs, and decreasing soil productivity (Scheffer
. 2001; MA 2005).The situation is exacerbated bynational and international responses to such changesthat are either insufficient or non-existent. Restorationmay be difficult, because feedbacks in the system can actto stabilize these new, undesirable ecosystem states(Scheffer
. 2001; Gordon
. 2008). It is thereforeof primary importance to try and avoid crossing thethresholds that lead to these outcomes.Despite advances in monitoring technology (Clark
. 2001), it is evident that existing information onchanges in ES tends to be poor and contains serious gaps.Furthermore, existing monitoring systems are unable tocapture the impacts of rapid demographic, economic,and sociopolitical changes that result from economicdevelopment and increasing global flows of information,trade, and technology (MA 2005; Berkes
. 2006). The difficulties in quantifyingsocial and ecological uncertainty, the lack of expertagreement on what indicators to monitor, poor-qualityexisting data, and the costs associated with setting uplong-term monitoring programs (Walters 2007) all ham-per our ability to steer away from, or to prepare for,abrupt changes to ecosystems and the loss of related ES.This is particularly true for countries that suffer frompoor governance and weak environmental institutions(Danielsen
. 2003; UNEP 2007).
Information and communication technologies
The role of information and communication technology(ICT) – for economic growth, education, and humandevelopment – has been discussed elsewhere (Leach andScoones 2006). Meanwhile, the evolution of “web 2.0”permits more interactive use of the internet and allowsusers to post, edit, comment on, and provide information
Can web crawlers revolutionize ecologicalmonitoring?