[Taxacom] Who uses biodiversity data and why?
mesibov at southcom.com.au
Fri Nov 24 17:03:17 CST 2006
This is a complex topic and the thread has begun to wander, as such things
Arthur Chapman suggests that universal access to all biodiversity data will
overcome barriers to data access at the local level. Local conservation
workers will be able to access species locality records they didn't know
existed, or that were held in places from which they could not previously be
I agree that this could be an example of the "(b)" use in my second post.
(In replies so far I haven't seen support for the "(a)" use, i.e. improving
decision-making at the global level, which still sounds to me like wild
But there's no automatic benefit from having additional species locality
records from "outside". These may only duplicate existing local records, or
merely fill in patterns which were already evident from local records. As a
terrestrial invertebrate specialist who's looked at many "outside"
collections, I've found that most such collections derive from fairly short
visits by "outside" collectors. The records in these collections are
overwhelmingly of common and widespread species. To find records for species
of conservation concern (uncommon and geographically restricted species),
you need to look in local collections, accumulated over long periods of time
by local collectors.
The exceptions, clearly, are in places of special interest which have been
repeatedly visited by talented and focussed collectors. Madagascar comes to
mind, and the wonderful Madagascan collections in Paris, Chicago and San
Francisco. But it would be hard to imagine that a conservation worker in
Madagascar would be unaware of all that earlier survey work.
There is also no guarantee that "outside" records will be accepted as
high-quality by the local conservation worker, who acts as the human
filter/converter turning species locality records into conservation advice.
The local museums, hopefully, will have had their taxonomy kept up to date
by the local taxonomists who worked up their collections. Suppose the
Mexican beetle "Aus bus Smith, 1850" has been split into "A. bus" and the
rare "A. cus Jones, 1995" and "A. dus Jones, 1995" in Mexican museum
databases. Should a Mexican working on "A. dus" conservation accept at face
value a GBIF record of "A. bus" from a museum in Vienna, collected by an
Austrian visiting Mexico in 1900?
The potential "(b)" user asks "Is universal access to all biodiversity data
going to help me with conservation, land-use and resource-management
planning at the local level?" and the answer seems to be "Not very often,
and not very much." There are other reasons to support universal access, and
it makes me uncomfortable to see conservation planning promoted as a key
benefit when it clearly isn't.
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
Spatial data basics for Tasmania
More information about the Taxacom