India set to check environmental pulse
Proposal aims to measure changes in the land, sea and atmosphere.
India desperately needs to join a coordinated global effort to monitor climate change, scientists say in this week's Science.
Pallaoor Sundareshwar, an atmospheric scientist at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, and an international team of environmental scientists say that the country needs a nationwide monitoring network to assess how emissions are changing and the environment is responding.
Sundareshwar and his colleagues outline a proposal for a nationally coordinated network, dubbed INDOFLUX, which would consist of giant towers to measure atmospheric gases as well as systems to monitor the oceans and coasts1.
"Countries like India are rapidly growing; the state of the environment is going to change and there's nothing in place to examine it," says Sundareshwar.
The Indian Department of Science and Technology has requested US$50 million from their government to fund the project over the next five years, and scientists are hopeful it will go ahead.
INDOFLUX will be modelled on existing atmospheric monitoring networks such as AmeriFlux, AsiaFlux and CarboEurope, which, along with other regional networks, comprise FLUXNET, a global network of over 450 atmospheric flux towers that monitor carbon dioxide levels and other environmental variables.
"Ultimately, the goal is that the data generated will benefit the global effort on measuring and tracking environmental variables," says Sundareshwar, who came up with the idea two years ago.
Bob Cook, lead scientist at FluxNet's data office and a senior researcher at NASA's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, says that INDOFLUX will allow scientists to start monitoring a region that is largely an environmental unknown.
"The ecosystems that exist in India simply aren't being measured," says Cook. "A network of towers would really go a long way to help us chart the global ecosystem."
Regions in northern Canada and Siberia would also benefit from such stations, says Cook. And Africa doesn't have good environmental monitoring either.
Sundareshwar says that INDOFLUX would characterize the current state of India's environment and have a crucial role in informing policy decisions.
"Changes are happening, we can see that," says Sundareshwar. A comprehensive monitoring network will help work out why those changes are happening, he says.
Cook explains that FLUXNET contributes heavily to environmental policy. "Some of the conclusions presented at last week's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meeting in Brussels were a direct result of these monitoring networks," he says.
Sundareshwar organized a workshop in Chennai last July, with the help of the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum Strategic stations a non-profit organization to foster scientific collaborations between India and the United States, to lay the groundwork for the project. There the DTI announced their intention to press ahead, and their request for funds. "What we have to do now as scientists is to present an implementation plan to the [Indian] cabinet so that the money can be released," says Sundareshwar.
If that money is approved later this year, Sundareshwar says that the next step will be to conduct studies to decide on the exact type of monitoring stations, and where best to place them.
- Sundareshwar P. V., et al. Science, 316 . 204 - 205 (2007).