[Taxacom] Who uses biodiversity data and why? GBIF Response, Part 3

Meredith A. Lane mlane at gbif.org
Mon Dec 4 12:03:16 CST 2006

*Who uses biodiversity data and why?  GBIF Response, Part 3*

To those readers who would prefer to read the four parts of this 
response as a single document, please see

Now the flip-side question: Whether "global" primary species occurrence 
data (from a collection in, say, Lincoln, Nebraska) could be useful for 
a "local" conservation policy or resource management choice (in, say, 
the Philippines). We again note that there are several angles from which 
to view the question about applicability of universally available data 
from anywhere to a local question somewhere.

1.   Once more, we cite Mexico's 6,580,396 records of species locality 
data, drawn from 32 institutions in Costa Rica, Peru, Spain, the UK, and 
the US in addition to Mexico itself. It is undeniable that much of the 
richness of the information within this huge data set specifically on 
the local plants of the Yucatan comes from the data held by the Yucatan 
Scientific Research Center (CICY). However, the CICY data are greatly 
enhanced by adding those from Kew, the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid, 
the California Academy of Sciences, the Universities of California and 
Texas, and the New York Botanical Garden. Why? Because over the years, 
for whatever reason, collectors from those institutions have spent 
various durations of time in the Yucatan, and their specimens (including 
large numbers of types) are housed not at CICY, but at their home 
institutions. A local expert asked for an informed opinion about a 
conservation choice having to do with the plants of the Yucatan surely 
benefits from the willingness of the distant institutions to share their 
data, originally with the country of origin but now or very soon 
"universally" via GBIF.

2.   We recognize that there are many, many instances in which the data 
held in institutions at remove from the locale in which a conservation 
choice is to be made are not extensive nor intensive enough to make a 
decision about the survivorship potential of a particular species, and 
therefore the collections of the local institution/knowledge of the 
local expert must be relied upon. However, the prevailing tendency today 
is to take conservation action on the basis of habitat (and therefore 
multiple species). Such an approach significantly raises the likelihood 
that there may be highly valuable and applicable species occurrence data 
held by institutions on the other side of the world that when analyzed 
together provide insight into the habitat as a whole and thus contribute 
to conservation choices.

3.   There are also many, many conservation decisions that need to be 
made in and for local areas that have no corresponding local 
collection(s) and no local experts on particular taxa. Biodiversity 
would benefit greatly if those probably non-local expert(s) who are 
consulted would, in forming their opinions, analyze any real data about 
organisms from the area, even if those data come from institutions that 
are half-way around the world. Those person(s) are more likely to do 
such an analysis if the data are readily, universally available (for 
instance via GBIF).

4.   Even if there is the will and a funded intiative to do so, it can 
be a daunting task to gather, /de novo/, sufficient amounts of local 
data to be used in a conservation choice when an area is very little 
known scientifically (as is the case in many developing countries). In 
such instances, existing though remotely held data can be of service to 
the development of a well-conceived sampling plan. The GBIF Mapping and 
Analysis Portal Application (see 
http://gbifmapa.austmus.gov.au/mapa/help.jsp) is a tool that can be used 
for just such a purpose, utilizing data that are universally available 
via GBIF. Where this technique falls down is where data are lacking -- 
and this lack is in the majority not because data have never been 
collected from the selected area, but because the institutions that hold 
those data have not (yet) made them universally available. Yes, a forest 
conservation choice in the Philippines could actually benefit from 
universal Internet availability of the data of the herbarium of the 
Nebraska State Museum, which happens to hold about 15,000 specimens of 
plants, primarily trees, of the Philippines that were collected in the 
middle decades of the 20th century. Didn't know that? The foresters in 
the Philippines probably don't either. But if the collection data were 
available via GBIF it would be an easy discovery for them to make, and a 
highly valuable data resource to call upon for an analysis that could 
become part of an informed opinion to be shared with decision-makers.

In these several ways, use of /globally/ shared data can be highly 
important to /local/ decision-making.

-- /Meredith A. Lane/, PhD
/*mlane at gbif.org <mailto:mlane at gbif.org>*/
Public & Scientific Liaison
Global Biodiversity Information Facility
GBIF Secretariat
tel: +45 3532 1470
direct: +45 3532 1484
mobile: +45 2875 1484
fax: +45 3532 1480

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