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

Donat Agosti agosti at amnh.org
Tue Dec 5 04:33:47 CST 2006

The failure of our community to build up specimen observation based
monitoring system (eg within the target2010 initiative to stem loss of
biological diversity) is probably the best case to demonstrate the
disconnect between systematics data and conservation.

It is not just enough to collect old data, but also to assure that collect
new data as well. GBIF is certainly indispensable in this to show what is
out there.

In 1996, Norm Johnson run a project to collect all the data for one genus, a
hymenopteran Pelecinus with three species. He included 7859 records from 100
collections, 2,310 distinct localities in 18 countries. Still few countries
are missing, but it gives a very interesting insight into various biases,
such as using data of only one or few data.

GBIF is certainly at best slowly getting into a position to address such
problems. There are tools to measure some of the deficiency of the data. At
the same time it seems to be simple task to figure out distribution ranges
for species accessible through GBIF.

But even in the case, where new data has to be colleted it ought be made
accessible and, hopefully in ten years, it could be used to measure and
monitor conservation management.

Of course, this depends on using sort of standardized protocol to collect
data in the field. And that is of course one of the impediment: A taxonomist
want's to get the biggest number of species, a conservationist ought to have
a representative sample. 

If conservation and systematists are really feeling they need each other,
then both ought to make a step towards such as collaboration, and since
these are large projects, GBIF ought to be included so data can be accessed
in the easiest possible way.

What we do now is to declare biodiversity hotspots, new parks down to
management plans. But most of these projects do not have an element allowing
to measure change in species over time besides using proxys.

Google-Earth contribution to this is to show how very weak most of the
historic data is. Whilst we can now increasinglgy soom into few meters
anywhere in the world, and thus could see one which side of a stream a
specimen has been collected, the geographic error of a posterior
georeferenced data is probably at about 20 to 50km.

The old data though allows still well informed sample strategies, but only
if we have not too much sampling artifacts, which brings us back to
Johnsons' work and the need that we need all to contribute - may be with
some focus on taxa where further analysis and usage is going on


-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Rob Guralnick
Sent: Tuesday, December 05, 2006 2:55 AM
To: Bob Mesibov
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Who uses biodiversity data and why? GBIF Responses

> 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
> Every biodiversity conservation effort I've been involved with has dealt 
> with rare and geographically restricted taxa. Prior to these efforts,
> were no or very few occurrence records for the taxa concerned, because a 
> majority of occurrence records are for common and/or widespread species.
> order to plan successful conservation, large numbers of _new_ occurrence 
> records had to be obtained by diligent field work. By the time these
> entered local museum databases, the conservation plan was already in
    Bob and Taxacomers ---

    This is an important topic to hash out, and I worry that no response 
to Bob's comments will be taken as implicit agreement rather than 
"argument exhaustion".   I truly disagree with Bob's views here, and for 
me it comes down to a simple point:   If one is interested in 
conservation or biodiversity at local levels, there is absolutely no 
compelling reason why one shouldn't determine the past sampling in the 
local region of interest by accessing GBIF data.  To do so is 
effectively zero-effort.   How many of you would spend the effort, 
money, gas, and wear and tear on the environment doing needless 
fieldwork when the data to do good research and make good management 
decisions already exists?  The rapidity at which we are losing 
biodiversity requires us to be more efficient with our time and 
resources.  In cases where more fieldwork is required, lets use the 
existing occurrence data to make good choices about how to effectively 
choose new sites.  Lets do what makes sense given what we already 
know.   And lets not presume or make blanket statements about the sample 
quality or usefulness of our global biodiversity registry - lets go out 
there and test what we can legitimately do with it and how it will help 
us more quickly make a wise policy of conservation and development. 

Best, Rob
Dr. Rob Guralnick
Curator and Asst. Professor
CU Museum and Dept. of Ecol. and Evol. Biol.
University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder CO 80309-0265
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