Tropical ecosystems are the biologically richest places on the planet, yet what we know about them comes from scientific studies so specialized that the studies rarely make the local news. “Most ecological studies last fewer than five years at a single study site, with measurements focused on an area of only ten meters squared,” explains Sandy Andelman, Vice President of Conservation International for the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) network. “Ecology needs to scale up to address global climate change and other environmental threats.”
Scaling up to global proportions is precisely what TEAM was created to do. This ambitious initiative is devoted to monitoring long-term trends in biodiversity and is establishing networks of tropical field stations and standardized methods of data collection so that scientists anywhere on Earth can quantify at the pace at which we are saving tropical ecosystems. TEAM is an early warning system for nature, akin to the USArray system of broadband sensors that track seismic activity at a continental scale to warn of impending earthquakes.
The idea behind TEAM is deceptively simple: to measure and compare plants, insects, frogs, birds, monkeys, and other life forms living in a range of environments, from relatively pristine places to those most affected by people.