Biodiversity in a Rapidly Changing World: How to Manage and Use Information?

TitleBiodiversity in a Rapidly Changing World: How to Manage and Use Information?
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsGiannini, Tereza C., Francoy Tiago M., Saraiva Antonio M., and Imperatriz-Fonseca Vera L.
Excerpt from article: According to Chapman (2009) the Earth’s biodiversity is estimated to comprise approximately 11.3 million species, from which less than 2 million have been formally described by science. These figures reveal the limited knowledge we have which is a key issue for the preservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services. In order to fill that gap more field data is necessary to discover and map the biodiversity before it is gone. Nonetheless a lot can be done with the existing data, if it becomes more available and if other techniques are applied to analyze the data. Traditionally biodiversity primary data are hosted in biological collections distributed around the world. They vary broadly in relation to size and organization, ranging from large, structured, well-documented and maintained museum collections to small sets of specimens kept by individual researchers with limited resources. Both data sources are important as they may cover different gaps – taxonomic and geographic - in our quest to know life on Earth. The most traditional users of biological collections have been taxonomists and systematists that use them for identifying, naming and classifying species, for studying the diversity of species and the relationships among them through time (Baird, 2010). However, while these studies are essential for the development of other disciplines, such as ecology, biological collections are also essential data sources to help answer questions that interest and may involve many more individuals and knowledge areas including basic biology, human economics, and public health. A broader, more open and easier access to specimen data is vital to distribute information and in turn create knowledge (Canhos et al., 1994; Baird, 2010). However for this to become effective it is necessary to digitize data and make it available on the web. Only then we will be able to make plain use of the wealth of data and information which is hardly accessible in many cases in collections throughout the world and which, in many cases, only integrated can provide a better picture of a species scenario.