[Taxacom] Who uses biodiversity data and why? GBIF Responses

Bob Mesibov mesibov at southcom.com.au
Mon Dec 4 18:00:37 CST 2006

Hi, Meredith.

Many thanks for your lengthy and carefully considered answers to my 

Except for one point, we don't seem to be disagreeing, since the discussion 
has become something like one on the length of an unspecified piece of 
string. I have no doubt that universal access to all biodiversity data will 
help _some_ local conservation workers _somewhere_. You see this as 
important in and of itself, I see it as relatively unimportant in the big 
picture of getting the data needed to make good conservation decisions. I 
think very little of that data will come through GBIF.

We disagree when you say:

"What is /global/ biodiversity conservation, anyway? In fact, isn't it the 
summation of local and regional conservation efforts?"

No, it isn't. Conservation effort is distributed over a range of spatial 
scales, and works differently at different levels. A campaign to ban the 
harvest of wild Southern Bluefin Tuna in the world's oceans has to _start_ 
at the top and involve many governments, fishers and consumers. It won't 
succeed if activists just hand out "Save the Tuna!" leaflets to fishers on 
the wharves in those countries where the tuna fleets dock.

More importantly, in my view, local conservation efforts tend to be focussed 
on glamorous species and particular bits of land regarded by some local 
people as wonderfully natural. There is a large conservation literature on 
the adequacy of reserves for biodiversity conservation. This literature is 
_not_ full of examples where a piecemeal approach adds up to successful 
regional conservation.

I am also surprised that you seem to see so much potential in 110,588,578 
occurrence records, i.e. the bigger the number, the greater the usefulness. 
Every biodiversity conservation effort I've been involved with has dealt 
with rare and geographically restricted taxa. Prior to these efforts, there 
were no or very few occurrence records for the taxa concerned, because a 
majority of occurrence records are for common and/or widespread species. In 
order to plan successful conservation, large numbers of _new_ occurrence 
records had to be obtained by diligent field work. By the time these records 
entered local museum databases, the conservation plan was already in place.

Dr Robert Mesibov
Honorary Research Associate, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
and School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
(03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195

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