Burgess, Neil D. {ZMUC} NDBurgess at ZMUC.KU.DK
Tue Apr 23 15:22:00 CDT 1996

To:  All in Taxacom

From:     Neil Burgess, Zoological Museum of the University of Copenhagen,
Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100, Copenhagen, Denmark

 E-mail:  ndburgess at

Date 18/4/96


Re:  Mapping the species distribution of African snakes and amphibians

Fistrly appologies to those who opened this last time.  I have resent it
because some people have observed that I should add a line in the subject
heading and my address, so that this is not overlooked by those who are
actually interested in its contents.

At the University of Copenhagen we have recently initiated an attempt to map
the species-richness and endemism values for the snakes and amphibians of
Sub-Saharan Africa at the scale of 1 degree square.

We believe that this is an important task at the present time as the world
is debating the values of  biodiversity  and so far as we are aware there
are no clear maps of the biodiversity priority areas in continental Africa
which are based on the computerised analysis of species distributional data.
 This seems to represent an obvious barrier to the setting of conservation
priorities, and to understanding why certain areas are so important for
particular species-assemblages.  It is also something that we believe we can
do something about by compiling the existing distributional data and
undertaking some relatively simple analyses on already existing computer

This attempt to map African biodiversity for snakes and amphibians will be
made through the Centre of Tropical Biodiversity in Copenhagen, in
collaboration with as a wide a network of collaborating agencies and
individuals as will be prepared to join in this task.

The methodology and project phases that we envisage are as follows:

 - produce species-list of African snakes and amphibians.  We already have
drafts which are available for people to comment upon if they wish.

 - gather species distribution data for the all species of snakes and
amphibians which live in Sub-Saharan Africa

 - input species range and locality data onto the specialised biodiversity
analysis programme WorldMap which has been developed at the Natural History
Museum in the UK.

 - check draft species-distribution and locality maps with recognised experts
in the field.

 - finalise the data-base on the computer and analyse the patterns in terms
of species-richness and endemism for all species or subsets of them
(families, forest species, phylogenetic relics etc).

 - Publish an overview of the biodiversity distribution of African species
and snakes and amphibians and specialist papers as appropriate.

 - Promote the results within the scientific, conservation and development

So far, we have compiled the most readily accessible sources of data on
snakes and amphibians.  This is mainly the literature sources, but also
includes some unpublished material.

We are writing now to ask whether you would be prepared to help us to gather
remaining published information, and more importantly unpublished data in
Museum collections and with individual researchers which has species
distribuition information that we might use in this project.  If you are
interested I could also send you a copy of the gridded map that we are using
for this project, with the 1 degree scale grid already marked on it.

We would be delighted with any help you could provide, and can provide
further information if requested.

We would also be very interested to know of any other list-servers that we
can use to try and reach other people who might have relevant data for this

Right at this first stage in the project, we would also like to assure you
that any information and data that you do provide will under no
circumstances be duplicated, or transferred from us to other persons.  The
data will remain in the compiled form on our computers and would remain
there. We will not at any time during this project reproduce the ranges of
individual species; instead all the analysis we undertake will be done on
the computerised data-base of many overlain species-distribution maps.  In
this way if individuals are prepared to provide us with currently
unpublished species distribution information then we can assure them that it
cannot be reproduced by us and that therefore their information will be
safe.  We would be very happy to enter into formal agreements with anyone
who might require this.

We hope that this project interests you, and we look forward to hearing from

Yours sincerely

Dr. Neil Burgess                             Carsten Rahbek
Coordinator - Danish Centre for Tropical Biodiversity       Research Fellow

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