Considerations for a sustained long-term operation
An effective method with low maintenance costs
- The use of simple methods and low maintenance costs of the permanent plots are important features for the continued operation of a long-term multi-site network. The sampling design encompasses sites aligned along the fundamental climatic gradients (elevation and horizontal gradients across the major life zones) and thus is expected to be effective in assessing the current and future large-scale patterns of plant diversity of the world's mountains.
- The establishment and re-recording of GLORIA permanent plots can be conducted without costly equipment. The time requirement for re-recording is about half of that needed for the establishment of the sites. As monitoring intervals are scheduled to be in the range of 5 to 10 years, there is no need for an expensive high-frequency service of the sites.
A global community of committed researchersAn effective large-scale observation network is accomplishable through the continued efforts of a large number of committed ecologists. The interest in joining GLORIA has been high in the international community of ecologists, geographers and climate impact researchers because of the network's unrivalled global design of comparable sites along the three fundamental climatic gradients.
- Funding for site setup and resurvey campaigns is necessary, since it cannot be attained with voluntary commitment alone – although the involvement of citizen science is welcome. In the earlier stages of GLORIA, European Union projects in FP5 and FP6 and the Swiss MAVA foundation provided essential support for building to a critical size towards a global network. Currently, the necessary funds are provided through many different national and private sources.
- For securing the longer-term operation, however, financial commitments through international/intergovernmental funding bodies would be important, especially also for bridging generation gaps in the responsible research institutions.
An overview of GLORIA supporters is in preparation.
Capacity building for future fieldworkersA successful and lasting long-term operation requires, in addition to adequate funding, the availability of trained research staff. Many of the GLORIA participants are based at universities. In their role as major scientific educational institutions, universities assure that experienced well-trained researchers will be aware of the importance and the value of future long-term monitoring efforts. Educational support for gaining a profound expertise in identifying all species in a study regions, however, is declining at many institutions and in countries with low research budgets, expertise may be rather limited even for vascular plants. For other organism groups, such as bryophytes, lichens, and many arthropod groups, the situation is very unsatisfactory in most countries.
High-quality baseline data - an investment for the future
- The datasets acquired through the GLORIA programme provide the first standardised assessment of the planet’s alpine plant diversity.
- Most importantly, data were sampled in permanent plots and thus can be used as baseline for a detailed monitoring of species composition and abundances. Establishing baselines is a highly demanded and urgent task of increasing relevance, since global anthropogenic climate change has accelerated during the past 35 years.
- Standardised in-situ data from a large-scale network of permanent plots will become successively more attractive for re-investigators.
- Such data, collected at sites undisturbed or only little disturbed by direct human land-use will be invaluable for any future assessment or model-based evaluation of climate change-induced biodiversity and habitat losses.
- A network of precisely documented permanent plots, combined with a continuously updated database will be essential for coming generations of researchers, conservation managers and for responsible policy and governance.