Global Biodiversity Data and Information

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Chandra Prasad Giri Surendra Shrestha Timotthy W. Foresman Ashbindu Singh

1. Introduction
Biological diversity or biodiversity, a term that first emerged some twenty years ago (Lovejoy, 1980; Wilson, 1985; Norse et al. 1986; Wilson and Peters, 1988; Reid and Miller, 1989; McNeely et al. 1990; Chauvet and Oliver, 1993), describes the variety and variability of life on Earth. It encompasses all forms of terrestrial and aquatic plants, animals and microorganisms, their genetic material and the ecosystem of which they are part. Global biodiversity is usually divided into three categories: genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem diversity. • • • Genetic diversity refers to the differences in genetic make- up between distinct species and to generic variations within species. Species diversity refers to the variety of species within a region. Ecosystem diversity is the variety of habitats, biotic communities, and ecological processes, as well as the diversity present within ecosystems.

Biodiversity is important to human being for their sustenance, health, well-being and recreation. For example, humanity derives all of its food, medical and industrial products from the components of biological diversity. The benefits of biodiversity conservation can be grouped into three broad categories: ecosystem services (conservation of water resources, soil conservation, nutrient storage and cycling, maintenance of ecosystems, pollution breakdown and absorption, contribution to climate stability, and recovery from unpredictable events), biological resources (food, medicines, forest products, breeding stocks, population reservoirs, and future resources) and social benefits (research and education, recreation, cultural, and religious/philosophical values). Global biodiversity data and information are necessary to support well- informed decision making at the global level, yet information critical to such decisions are not available readily. Part of the problem is associated with the complex nature of biodiversity data and information given the uncertainties in terms of their existence and distribution. In addition, global biodiversity data are scattered, outdated and available in incompatible formats and resolutions. The continued loss of biodiversity along with the reporting requirement of international conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Ramsar Convention, World Heritage Convention, etc. have called for extra efforts to generate better data and


information. Moreover, baseline information on the status and distribution of biodiversity resources is necessary that can serve as a benchmark for monitoring. The purpose of this chapter is to examine what biodiversity data are available at the global level? who are the producers/users? Where are the main sources of data located? What are the problems and obstacles exist in current data sets? What is the Present direction? What is needed to improve the situation? And what should be the future directions? The chapter ends with a set of recommendations hopefully to influence existing and planned efforts towards better data collection, maintenance and dissemination.

2. Biodiversity Data
The scope of biodiversity data has been expanding beyond classical “conservation” or “biological” data. The latest trend, especially after the ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), is to embrace resource utilization and socio-economic data as well. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) outlines eight major categories of biodiversity data for country studies (UNEP, 1993). These datasets will serve three main objectives of CBD namely, the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of biological resources and the equitable sharing of the benefits from using those resources. The categories are as follows:

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Biological: Information on ecosystem, species, and genetic...
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