By Mahlatse Kgatla

Data from projects related to the Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme (FBIP) have started streaming in.

FBIP funded projects need to generate and deliver primary biodiversity data sets or contribute to the compilation of species pages or produce DNA barcodes for species, using the recognised barcoding genes.

Grantholders’ commitment in submitting their project data sets have contributed a total of 1 033 356 occurrence records (i.e. where certain species occur), 4045 species pages (detailed information about species), and 15 206 DNA barcode records (a genetic barcode to identify a species). Figure 1, 2 and 3 below give a breakdown of the total number of records per taxonomic group.

These foundational biodiversity data sets form the basic building blocks on which many other important products and services are built which are important for management of our biodiversity.

For example, the data feeds into important national strategic endeavors like the South African National Biodiversity Institute ‘National Biodiversity Assessment’ better known as the NBA, which is used to inform policies, strategies and actions for managing and conserving biodiversity more effectively.

Figure 1: The percentage specimen/observation records per taxon group.
Figure 2: The percentage DNA barcode records per taxon group.
Figure 3: The percentage species pages written per taxon group.

Animal records cover the widest distribution

FBIP biodiversity data sets cover a wide range of organisms that occupy various habitats. Currently the data sets mostly cover four taxon groups: animals, plants, fungi and bacteria spread across marine, terrestrial and river habitats. Figure 4 indicates the spread of each taxon group.

Figure 4: Distribution of occurrence records generated through FBIP funded projects, (Fungae = fungi, Bacteria = bacteria, Plantae = plants, Animalia = animals).

It can be clearly seen that the animal records cover the widest range of habitats, followed by plants.

It is also worth noting the wide distribution of records in the marine realm of South Africa, this is because of the SeaKeys project, the first large FBIP funded project, which focused exclusively on marine biodiversity. The project helped bridge many marine data gaps.  

Working closely with Grantholders, the FBIP is able to help unlock standardized quality foundational biodiversity data that can be made freely available to anyone.

Data generated through projects are disseminated through online databases such as GBIF, GenBank and BOLD, species pages, guides and maps along with publications.

The FBIP has also created a website which serves as a portal for conveniently downloading FBIP data.

Potential data users such as researchers, policy makers, consultants, biodiversity advisors will continue to rely on foundational biodiversity data as value is added from foundational level to policy level or even drafting of laws and regulations.

The continuous generation of quality standardized foundational biodiversity data sets are therefore crucial, especially in previously neglected areas.