Albertine Rift Conservation Society (2013)

Albertine Rift Biodiversity Portal

Project Details

Grantee Organization: ARCOS
Grant Amount: $100,000
Contact: Sam Kanyamibwa
Contact Email: skanyamibwa 'atsign'
Funding Dates: 12/15/13 - 3/14/15

For information on the first phase of this grant, please click here.


Building on the momentum gained with the previous JRS support to develop the Albertine Rift Biodiversity Portal and build capacity in data management, mechanisms for data collection and sharing will be enhanced involving strategically selected institutions, local experts and volunteers. The project will upgrade the existing portal to integrate the data into a single regional database with a web interface to the wider public and a GIS service integrating a database and various tools made available to the users to allow them to carry out spatial‐based data analyses. The previous phase identified the”Congolese Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles (CRSN)” as the main data holder in the region, with thousands of specimen collections and paper data records that needs digitization. CRSN will be the main focal institution. There is a collection of more than 350,000 specimens at CRSN, of which only less than 10% are digitized.

Apart from the mobilization of existing data, the project will support new data collection initiatives especially in sites of high biodiversity importance and where no existing baselines data collection have been performed. The project will focus mainly on two most important ecosystems in the Albertine Rift: freshwater and montane forests ecosystems; and the main taxa that will comprise the most bulk of data collected will be on birds endemic, and endangered species indicator species such us dragonflies and other species of special significance. They will also include data on habitats, protected areas, and land‐use change as well as threats. Finally, the project will establish long‐term legacy by building the capacity of ARCOS to become a Regional Centre of Excellence in information management, training and outreach.

Key Objectives and Activities

1. Upgrade the Albertine Rift biodiversity portal and database to attract more users and add value to data published through it.

The project will engage key institutions holding data in the region and formalize data accessibility. This will involve strategically selected institutions, not only those with existing MOU with ARCOS. They will agree on data standards, cleaning, exchange protocols, building on existing data sharing framework. To do so, they will develop DIY tutorials and training modules make these available for anyone who wishes to become part of this initiative. It is planned that during the first 6 months of the project, the database and web portal, as well as the webmapping service will be up and running and maintenance of this infrastructure will be done throughout the remaining life of the project and beyond (Months 1‐6).

2. Catalyze existing mechanisms and pool of expertise in the region for multidisciplinary data collection and mobilization to guide decision‐making

A large number of data in the region exist in hard copy and natural museums and herbaria holds a lot of specimens collections whose importance would be more enhanced if they are made public in digital form. The project will work with institutions that have already started some digitization activities to accelerate this process. Moreover, they will support new data collection initiatives in sites of high biodiversity importance. ARCOS, in partnership with its regular field partners, will undertake baseline data collection in at least 3 sites of high biodiversity importance and for which no comprehensive survey has ever been carried out.

3. Build the coordination capacity of ARCOS to become a Regional Centre of Excellence in information management, training and outreach

The project will seek to enhance the capacity of ARCOS in information management and this will entail among others to have its technical staff, especially the Information Manager, trained in relevant fields of advanced bioinformatics, database administration, and web mapping applications.

Planned Outputs

Objective 1: Upgrade the Albertine rift biodiversity portal and database to attract more users and add value to data published through it

  • Renewed Albertine rift data sharing agreements.
  • DIY tutorials on how to prepare and publish your data through the Albertine Rift Biodiversity portal will be developed and disseminated to data publishers and the public.
  • Development of the Albertine Rift data quality control policy.

Objective 2: Catalyze existing mechanisms and pool of expertise in the region for multidisciplinary data collection and mobilization to guide decision‐making

  • Data holders in the region to publish their data through the portal
  • Baseline surveys in at least 3 sites of high biodiversity importance
  • Data digitization at 2 institutions in the region

Objective 3: Build the coordination capacity of ARCOS to become a Regional Centre of Excellence in information management, training and outreach

  • The online platform to support virtual interaction among data users and publishers.
  • Training modules on topics like Biodiversity data georeferencing, biodiversity data standards, biodiversity and data quality principles.
  • The ARCOS GIS and Bioinformatics Training programme and alumni engagement strategy (Month 4‐9)

Planned Outcomes

All countries in the Albertine rift are signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity as well other important international treaties related to environment preservation and have subscribed to international biodiversity conservation‐related targets and commitments such as Aichi targets, etc. The availability of biodiversity data will result in better measuring of performance of these countries against these conventions and it is assumed this will encourage the countries to perform even better.

In addition, all countries of the Albertine Rift have National Biodiversity Action Plans and all of these generally focus countries’ interest to some taxa, and issues such as invasive species, medicinal plants, economically‐ important species, etc. ARCOS is member of some national committees in the region to formulate National Biodiversity Action Plans. The portal will be designed to facilitate the search datasets in relation to these issues and by providing a sort of progress measure along these areas, they believe that these National Biodiversity Action Plans will be better implemented and so biodiversity conservation goals in the region achieved.

Another outcome of this intervention is the improvement of the quality of EIAs carried out in the region. ARCOS is leading a regional initiative to build a coalition for EIA leadership and expertise development in the region. By having accurate biodiversity data on the implementation sites of new projects, EIA practitioners will better incorporate biodiversity aspects in their reports and better projects environmental management plans will be devised.

The project aims to steer more students towards this field of study and so the region will become the hub for biodiversity information in Eastern and Central Africa. Indicators of the attainment of this outcome will be the number on new students’ theses related to this field, the number of new academic internships in related institutions as well as the number of new university programs related to this field.

The specific outcomes expected from this initiative are the following:

  • At least 3⁄4 of CRSN’s specimens digitized
  • ARCOS’ input to biodiversity trends as reported under CBD national country annual done in at least 2 countries
  • Number of EIA experts connected to the Regional EIA Network and at least 75% use the EIA resource

Notes from JRS

JRS is optimistic that the reinvestment in this work by ARCOS will see the successful development of a regional biodiversity portal that was not achieved in the initial investment. We continue to explore the contexts where regional efforts might succeed in sub-Saharan Africa or where strong national biodiversity information systems might be a necessary step toward regional data sharing. A second question facing many of our grants is to understand when investment in partnerships and consensus planning and development is the best approach to successful information system development and when investment in creating working prototypes of biodiversity information systems is the best approach to stimulating partnership. We hope ARCOS’ effort will inform future approaches in the region.

Last Updated: February 28th, 2017

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