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

taxacom2 at achapman.org taxacom2 at achapman.org
Tue Dec 5 18:30:32 CST 2006

Work I have done, Donat, would suggest that retrospectively georeferenced data is generally in the range of uncertainty of 3-10km (with some worse and occasionally far worse)

Your post reminds me of a request I once received from a major telecom company wanting to know which side of the road they should lay their cable from Sydney to Melbourne to affect the least number of threatened taxa.

It will be a long time before we can answer such questions if ever.

There are examples where data from GBIF are, and will, be usefull in conservation planning.  To explain fully here is very difficult, but already such data is being used in Papua New Guinea where the majority of collections from there are not held locally, but are spread throughout various institutions in Australia (especially the West Australian Museum, Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and the Australian National Herbarium and Insect Collections in Canberra) and elsewhere around the World, including  Kew and the Natural History Museum in London as well as a number of US institutions.  Without those data, it has proved very difficult to make robust conservation decisions in that country.  Tools are now being used to integrate those data to look at priority areas.  Such data are extremely valuable at the meso scale, but local and on-ground decisions will still be needed at the micro level to determnin the boundaries of such conservation actions.  The global and regional/local must go hand in hand.

Another example of using global data such as available through GBIF is in the determination of areas for conservation of the Wild Relatives of Crop Plants.  With global change (including climate change), such conservation actions are essential and can only be done on a global scale (or at least large regional scale) for many taxa. Work currently going on involves, Potatoes, Wheat, Rice, Apples, Walnuts, Coffee, Pistachios and many, many other taxa. 

There are many other examples where the taxa will become increasingly useful - both observational data as well as specimen data as mentioned by Meredith in her lengthy and excellent response.

Indeed, with some of the taxa Bob is using, global data is likely to be of little value, but that doesn't mean that it is not valuable, if not essential, for other taxonomic groups.

Conservation is importanty for more than rare and threatened taxa - especially in a world of changing climate regimes.

AnotheOne such example where such data are beginning to prove valuable is in managing the spread and control of invasive species.  By using collections in native ranges, climate profiles can be built up which can then aid in determining areas of most effective control.  This is an issue of conservation that is working at the global scale, and will do so increasingly. An example is in the spread of Cactoblastus cactoprum in Mexico and southern USA, where data from Australia has been used to determine areas of likely spread.

Amazing what one can do while sitting at an airport awaiting a delayed plane - thank goodness for airport lounges!

Arthur D. Chapman

>From Donat Agosti <agosti at amnh.org> on 5 Dec 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.
> http://rd.mailshell.com/iris.biosci.ohio-state.edu/projects/tpp/
> 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
> Donat
> -----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
> 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.
> >   
>     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. 

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