The Israel Taxonomy Initiative is a consortium of government ministries and agencies, research universities and higher education institutions that aims to promote training of taxonomists and basic knowledge of Israel’s biodiversity by:
– Providing doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships;
– Providing funding for overseas training for graduate students;
– Providing funding for biodiversity surveys;
– Inviting taxonomists from the international scientific community to teach short courses on local species groups.
Conservation of biodiversity – the variety of life forms on earth – depends on scientific knowledge and expertise. Government agencies, research institutes, and conservation organizations around the globe have identified an alarming gap between existing taxonomic knowledge of biodiversity and the need for this information to guide conservation practices. Taxonomic research is essential In order to identify the great majority of living organisms, to understand the evolution of life, and to halt the loss of species; but the state of the discipline is presently inadequate. Many sophisticated tools and models – morphological, biochemical, and genetic – as well as advanced software, are available for taxonomists; however, basic research lags seriously behind needs.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment – a UN taskforce to review the trends and implications of changes in global ecosystems – identifies the lack of knowledge of species and their geographic distributions as one of the impediments to sustainable development; the international treaty of the Convention on Biological Diversity initiated the Global Taxonomy Initiative in an effort to remedy this situation.
In Israel, where geographic, topographic, and climatic conditions have produced amazing and unique diversity of life, taxonomic research is declining. A recent report submitted to the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities demonstrated that within 10 years, the average period required to train a young taxonomist, Israel would have no scientists in research or teaching positions who can train the next generation of taxonomists. Thus, a major and urgent effort is required to salvage this field and to ensure the continuation of a critical discipline.
In addition to nature and environmental conservation, taxonomic research has applied implications for agriculture, the economy, human welfare and health; it is therefore crucial that it remains viable in face of fleeting fashions in scientific research.
Our goal is to resurrect Israeli taxonomy and increase our knowledge of biodiversity, thus promoting the contribution of science to conservation of Israel’s ecosystems and developing the sustainable use of the country’s natural assets.