Biodiversity conservation requires the effective monitoring of biodiversity and resource use for natural resource management. The increased awareness of biodiversity among the international community has triggered an explosion of studies outlining the fundamental assumptions for quantitative recording of biodiversity. There is now a sound theoretical basis for designing rigorous programmes for sampling and analysing biodiversity data under ideal (laboratory) conditions, and the experiences have been summarised in various textbooks and field survey manuals.

Study design and methodology are crucial factors for robust hypothesis testing but it is questionable as to whether a strict scientific approach is feasible when the aim is management and when financial, organisational and human/professional resources are taken into consideration. Recommended approaches are heavily biased towards North American, European and Australian conditions, while in other geographical and socio-economic situations they are feasible only as long as foreign researchers with adequate funding are present. Most of the Earth’s biological wealth is to be found in the less financially wealthy countries and yet, in these areas, most biodiversity monitoring programmes are incapable of contributing to conservation because they suffer from:

1) An unrealistically large size and complicated design that are impossible to sustain with the locally available funds, institutions and human resources
2) Ineffectiveness in integrating information into decision-making.

Compared to the North, many developing countries in the South have high numbers of species but incomplete taxonomic knowledge. They have a large overall extent of protected areas but limited funding and administrative capability. In addition, the de facto day-to-day management of biological resources is largely in the hands of poor rural people and local government staff with virtually no operational funding. Nevertheless, local communities already carry out some monitoring of access and resource use in certain areas. If biodiversity monitoring in developing countries is to comprise more than isolated academic exercises, the challenge is to develop simple and cost-effective biodiversity monitoring systems which:

1. Require a minimum of training and education on the part of the implementers,
2. Require little equipment and financial resources,
3. Seek to involve the rural people and the local authorities,
4. Consolidate existing local systems for monitoring and managing natural resources,
5. Are able to operate even when the government is dysfunctional, and
6. Have a short process time from data to management actions on-the-ground.

The objectives of this symposium are to review and critically examine the state of knowledge of biodiversity monitoring for management in developing countries as well as to exchange experiences, and identify common problems and strategic responses. 

We specifically wish to examine the possibilities for simple and affordable monitoring systems that involve people with little or no training. We would like to: 
Assess whether such monitoring can effectively bridge the gap between local resource management systems and the natural resource management agencies and lead to improved resource management, 

Assess whether data obtained in such ways reflects real trends in environmental quality and whether the methods are sufficiently sensitive to serve as “early warning systems”. 

The aim of the symposium is to bring together a small number of resource persons/specialists who can present original, data-based studies on experiences in the effectiveness of community-based monitoring of biodiversity and resource use in developing countries, in order to explore the subject and to develop a stronger and more realistic theoretical framework based on their collective experience and ideas. In addition, through the presentation of a number of case studies, we hope to be able to propose a number of generalized strategic responses to the common problems experienced. There will be presentations from terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats and from all three tropical continents.