Introduction to biological collections and biodiversity data resources

Biological (natural history) collections

Natural history collections worldwide house roughly 2.5 to 3 billion specimens
These are mostly herbariums for plants and museums for animal collections

Global Biodiversity Patterns 

To better understand the nature of these collections both locally and internationally you should understand global biodiversity pattern.

Please revise the following:

Biomes and Biodiversity Hotspots Chapter 14:
Biogeographical Realms A classification of the Biogeographical provinces of the world. Also look at the following article
Floral Kingdoms

Natural history collections in South Africa


An assessment of zoological research collections in South Africa:

South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB)


Bolus Herbarium
Compton Herbarium
Plant collectors:

Guide to Plant Collections:

Biodiversity data resources

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) GBIF was established by governments in 2001 to encourage free and open access to biodiversity data, via the Internet. Through a global network of countries and organizations, GBIF promotes and facilitates the mobilization, access, discovery and use of information about the occurrence of organisms over time and across the planet.

South African Biodiversity Information Facility(SABIF) SABIF mobilises primary biodiversity information to make it freely available on the internet so that policy makers, managers and researchers can make well-informed decisions that contribute to South Africa’s sustainable development.

International biodiversity data portals

Fishbase FishBase and the independent Catalog of Fishes.

Welcome to the BioFresh data portal: a collaborative global freshwater biodiversity data hub

Atlas of Living Australia


Belgian Data Portal


Biodiversity Information System for Europe

Sharing and accessing Biodiversity data globally
By Hannu Saarenmaa, Deputy Director for Informatics, GBIF Secretariat

The GMBA Mountain Portal

Benefits of data sharing: the role of GBIF is a web portal to nearly 200 reviewed mega biodiversity databases and Biodiversity News

The Data Centre has developed an online mapping system, Biodiversity Maps, which provides access to data on the distribution of Ireland’s biological diversity.

GBIF has produced a number of booklets on specific GBIF-related topics.

Ocean Biogeographic Information System 

World Register of Marine Species

Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk Project

Global Invasive species Information Network

Biodiversity data resources in South Africa

The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) which incorporates SABIF facilitates the mobilization of South Africa's primary biodiversity data through its SIBIS portal. Here you can access data from large number of natinal and regional location for South Africa. 

A useful site to provide a perspective to use of biodiversity data in the South African context is the Biodiversity Advisor

Citizen science and atlasing data resources in south africa

Animal Demography Unit This includes metadata and descriptions of the following projects: BIRP: Birds In Reserves Project (BIRP); CAR: Biannual roadcounts of large terrestrial birds; CWAC: Coordinated Waterbird Counts (CWAC) Programme; SABAP1: Southern African Bird Atlas Project; SABAP2: Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2; SABCA: Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment (SABCA); SAFAP: Atlas of the Frogs of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland; SAFRING: Southern African Bird Ringing Unit (SAFRING); SARCA: Southern African Reptile Conservation Assessment (SARCA).

Protea Atlas Project A Citizen Science Project that provided the geographical location of Proteas throughout southern Africa for the benefit of Conservation, Rural Communities, Farmers, Reserve Managers, Tourism, Cut Flower Trade and Botany.

iSpot southern Africa A gateway for sharing and identifying South African biodiversity.

Spatial biodiversity data in south Africa 

Biodiversity GIS (BGIS) is run by SANBI and includes information on various biodiversity planning projects and reports. It includes online mapping resources and tools including a Land Use Decision Support tool which help a user to find the biodiversity planning information available for a specific area of their choice. The GIS data downloads and metadata is also available for download from the site.

Compulsory Reading Material

Research and Societal Benefits of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility:

Interoperability of Biodiversity Databases: Biodiversity Information on Every Desktop

How Global Is the Global Biodiversity Information Facility?

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