Tanzania Biodiversity Information Management Tool (BIMT): access data delineating areas of high biodiversity conservation priority in Tanzania
Tanzania Biodiversity Information Management Tool started to mobilize data of Tanzania’s higher plant species into an online database for identification of gaps in currently available data and for delineation of areas of high plant conservation priority in Tanzania. Moreover currently BIMT continues to mobilize data of all Tanzanian biodiversity, starting with plants, amphibians, birds, reptiles and fishes.
“Enhancing the understanding of biological diversity for
the benefit and sustainability of life on earth” (JRS Biodiversity Foundation).
The importance of Biodiversity
“Biological diversity – or biodiversity – is the term given to the variety of life on Earth. It is the variety within and between all species of plants, animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems within which they live and interact” (WWF).
Biodiversity is one of the world's greatest natural resources, on which rural and urban societies depend for their social and economic development. In terms of species diversity, genetic diversity, and ecosystem diversity, biodiversity provides goods and services - such as water purification, grazing, eco-tourism, fisheries, sources of medicine, energy, food, healthy soils, pollination, carbon storage, clean air/oxygen - vital for human well-being and the survival of the planet.
Biodiversity and Tanzania
Tanzania is among the tropical countries richest in biodiversity - containing parts of two Global Biodiversity Hotspots: the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa and the Eastern Afromontane - with 38% of her land area in protected areas for conservation. Due to its heterogeneity of landscapes - ranging from several meters below sea level to 5540 meters above sea level - Tanzania contains various ecosystems from ocean to the highest elevation in Africa.
However, the value of this biodiversity is not regularly considered as a major basis for national land use and management planning; including the establishment of conservation areas. Moreover, natural habitats are under threat due to natural habitat destruction and conversion, overexploitation, climate change, and invasive alien species, resulting in biodiversity losses, deforestation, and environmental degradation.
Tanzania Biodiversity Information Management Tool (BIMT)
To store, enhance and disseminate data representing more than 10,000 higher plant species in Tanzania, the Tanzania Biodiversity Information Management Tool (BIMT) project was launched in 2011 (and funded now by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation.
The ongoing project is supported by Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH; actually a sustainable home for the BIMT), Tanzania Land Use Planning Commission, Missouri Botanical Garden, and the JRS Biodiversity Foundation.
BIMT has been designed to be a user-friendly online database management system (open source Botanical Research and Herbarium Management System, BRAHMS v.7) to store and disseminate biodiversity information for use by natural resource managers and other stakeholders. The project team successfully assembled a comprehensive set of records on vascular plant biodiversity in Tanzania.
The project considers two main types of data: species occurrence data and geospatial data that form the initial building block for the new BIMT. Data on at least 35% of Tanzania’s higher plant species have been mobilized for identification of gaps in currently available data and for delineation of areas of high plant conservation priority.
(Source: Tanzania Biodiversity Information Management Tool: distribution of biodiversity occurrence data in the BIMT database.)
Occurrence data for target species have been collected from technical literature, online databases, museums, and local and international herbaria. Species occurrence data have been overlaid on geospatial layers, analyzed, taxonomically updated, uploaded to the database and populated in a range of output scales and resolution.
In particular, the team of the project has gathered and organized:
- data for 9, 108 species and 12, 025 taxa of the country’s 10,000 vascular plant species;
- 107,884 records from diverse sources (81,163 of these records are geo-referenced),
that are added to the online BIMT database.
(Source: Tanzania Biodiversity Information Management Tool: Online Biodiversity Database)
“Although the database is currently restricted to vascular plants, its flexible design permits expansion to incorporate all national biodiversity data [on not just plants, but amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, insects, and other invertebrates], facilitating accurate species checklists, conservation status updates and better ecological and climate change modeling” (JRS Biodiversity Foundation).
Tanzania’s species occurrence data and other biodiversity information are freely accessible through the BIMT to various stakeholders. The BIMT database enables users to search biodiversity occurrence data by scientific and common name, species status, uses, location, and conservation status:
(Source: Tanzania Biodiversity Information Management Tool: Data Search)
In its current version, the BIMT acts as the first national repository for plant data, based on reputable and citable scientific evidence and publicly available and searchable through the internet.
Datasets of species and geospatial layers stored in the BIMT are helpful for:
- identification of geographic and taxonomic gaps in currently available data and for delineation of areas of high plant conservation priority (i.e. by determining how much biodiversity we are losing, and how and where we can best conserve it);
- further discovery and exploration of Tanzania's natural resources for sustainable socio-economic development (i.e. use of the BIMT in national and zonal land use planning processes);
- connection/linking of data repositories (e.g., institutions participating in the project have agreed to link the tool to their websites, enabling access and use of the information it provides);
- reviving interests of young scholars to enjoy and study biodiversity, because the current lack of such interest poses major problems, especially in developing countries.
Last but not least. BIMT encourages:
- any data holder to provide/upload his/her biodiversity occurrence data to the system;
- you to be one of five weekly photograph winners and then the monthly winner. Just upload your photos in the BIMT database.
If you have any question related to the BIMT, send your inquiry to [email protected]