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NZ Hosts Compilers Of "Catalogue Of Life"

Fri, 01 Oct 2004

News Release - Landcare Research - New Zealand Hosts Compilers Of "Catalogue Of Life"

New Zealand hosts compilers of "catalogue of life" International delegates are gathering in New Zealand to progress work to free up access to data on all known creatures * and to launch a project to aid Pacific nations in particular. There are about 1.8 million named species on Earth, from mammals to plants to bacteria, but no complete catalogue of them.

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is a new organisation working to establish such a catalogue on the Internet, thereby making the vast storehouse of biodiversity information held in museums and research institutions freely available to all. New Zealand is a founding member of GBIF, and its Governing Board will meet in Wellington next week.

This meeting will bring together about 150 representatives from 40 countries, and from organisations including major museums, research institutes and government ministries. The occasion will see the launch of the Pacific Biodiversity Information Forum (PBIF), a new branch of GBIF with a focus on delivering biodiversity information to small Pacific nations.

Landcare Research is hosting the meeting, and Landcare Research scientist Dr David Penman is head of New Zealand's Governing Board delegation. Dr Penman says in many parts of the world, poorer countries are rich in biodiversity but have few resources to record and share data. The Pacific is no exception. "Many developed countries around the Pacific Rim such as Australia and Japan hold significant data and collections from smaller island nations where access to databases and the computer hardware and software they require has been a major constraint.

"PBIF will allow online access to that information, while collections remain in secure storage. This information means small Island nations can know more about what biodiversity they have. This will in turn open the door for many new developments, such as improved biosecurity and quarantine practices, better risk assessments for trade, increased opportunities for developing nature tourism, and better options for bioprospecting, finding economically useful components in nature.

"Landcare Research a major information provider to Pacific Island nations. We hold the largest collection of insects in the Pacific in our arthropod collection in Tamaki, and a very large plant collection at our herbarium in Lincoln. However, until now, we have not had funding to do anything other than merely maintain these collections.

"The work of GBIF provides us an opportunity to bring these collections into the digital age and make the information available." Dr Penman says GBIF will also address another major barrier to biodiversity knowledge in Island nations * a lack of personnel skilled in biological classification. "There is a great shortage of trained taxonomists.

Training people up to work where they are most needed in the Pacific is an additional goal of GBIF, PBIF and the associated Global Taxonomy Intiative, set up by the United Nations to address the lack of taxonomic information and expertise in many parts of the world." The GTI will hold its Asia-Pacific regional meeting in Wellington following the GBIF and PBIF meetings.

Already in its three-year life, GBIF has established a web-based data entry point with links to more than 40 million records of species and specimens, 1.8 million of which are New Zealand records. By the end of the year, GBIF expects more than 100 million records to be freely available.

In the week following the GBIF, PBIF and GTI meetings, more than 100 biodiversity database experts from around the world will gather in Christchurch for the Taxonomic Databases Working Group meeting, to discuss progress on developing GBIF's series of interconnecting databases. GBIF Governing Board Meeting Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, WellingtonMonday, 4 October * Friday, 8 October Displays and demonstrations will feature during the GBIF meeting. PBIF meeting: Friday, 8 October (Te Papa) GTI meeting: Saturday, 9 October- Sunday, 10 October (Te Papa) Taxomomic Databases Working Group meeting: Monday, 11 October * Friday, 15 October (University of Canterbury, Christchurch) GBIF Governing Board chair Dr Christoph Haeuser (University of Stuttgart, Germany) and Executive Secretary Dr Jim Edwards (Program director, National Science Foundation, Washington DC, USA; now based in Denmark) will be available to speak with media via David Penman.


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