Albertine Rift Conservation Society (2011)

Albertine Rift Biodiversity Portal

Project Details

Grant Amount: $196,075
Contact: Faustin Gashakamba
Contact Email: fgashakamba 'atsign' arcosnetwork.org
Funding Dates: 7/1/11 - 6/30/13
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UPDATE: JRS awarded follow-up grant to continue the work of the project. Please click here to view.

Backgroundarcos

One of ARCOS’ pillars is promoting effective mechanisms for biodiversity information sharing in the Albertine Rift region to guide decision-making. Since 2011, JRS Biodiversity Foundation has been supporting ARCOS through the project “Albertine Rift Biodiversity Portal – Building competence for biodiversity Information Systems in the Albertine Rift region”. The first phase of this project ended in June 2013 and aimed to build the capacity of a network of practitioners in the region through training, equipment, and networking activities, to mobilize biodiversity data, and to create a regional web portal to serve biodiversity data according to global data standards.

Key Objectives and Activities

The overall goal of the ARCOS JRS-funded project is to develop a collaborative biodiversity portal for integrated biodiversity information system in the Albertine Rift region through institutional collaboration, capacity building and information dissemination to guide decision-making. The project aims to operationalize the Albertine Rift Biodiversity Data Sharing Agreement that is in place in the region by building capacity of stakeholders, establishing a data sharing platform, mobilizing all existing data in the region, collecting new data where serious gaps are evident and ensuring that effective mechanisms are in place to package biodiversity information in a format that is accessible to decision makers and the public.

Planned Outputs and Outcomes

In terms of outcomes, the project will contribute in improving the accuracy of reporting of Albertine Rift countries to Convention on Biological Diversity and in assessing their progress towards achieving Aichi Targets.  Moreover, ARCOS assumes that environmental Impact assessment reports will become more consistent since a body of critical biodiversity data will be readily available for practitioners to start from. Finally, ARCOS believes that increased awareness and capacity in biodiversity information science will help promote interest among young students and researchers in embracing this new field in the region hence helping our countries catch up quickly with the rest of the world in biodiversity conservation.

The main project’s desired outputs were primarily a webportal to serve biodiversity data for the region. The portal and data collection would also enable a regular publication of the “Albertine Rift Conservation Status Report”, a report that will be highlighting progress achieved through various conservation efforts in the region. Another important output of the project consists of the publication of various thematic Atlases.  As of December 2013, the Albertine Rift Amphibian Atlas and the Albertine Rift Reptiles Atlas are under print.

Results to Date

  • A total of 44 trainees from the data centers, NGOs and government institutions have benefited from the training in GIS and Bioinformatics, Remote sensing and Database Management Systems, constituting a pool of expertise in the region not previously available.
  • Partnerships with many data holders have been established and ARCOS has conducted a thorough situational analysis of data holding in the region.
  • The portal’s database contains 824 records of observational data mostly birds. These were exclusively collected by ARCOS in the baseline surveys it conducted in key landscapes of the AR region and more data is expected to be shared by data centers after they will have digitized and cleaned it in-house in the future.

Lessons Learned

  • Data publishers in our region need real incentives to be able to share their data freely. It is hard indeed to convince freelance consultants and researchers who hold data to share it freely and the easiest way to go is to operate through formalized institutional partnerships.
  • Some areas taxa have not been well covered in researches in our region. There is also some lack of targeted researches on some areas like endemism, invasive species, etc
  • ARCOS realized that delivering a truly functional biodiversity data portal system requires technical skills higher than those found in the region. Relying on outside consultants is also risky since the costs involved can go high quickly and maintenance is hard to ensure if not enough in-house technical team is trained to carry out this task. Therefore, a balance need to be stricken between the use of consultants and the in-house training and development of partnership with experienced institutions outside the region.

Primary Software Platforms

ARCOS and its partners use various software for different purposes ranging from collecting to data-basing to publishing biodiversity data. These include ESRI’s products (ArcGIS Desktop, ArcGIS Online, etc.) for spatial data maintenance, modeling and publication as well as BRAHMS for maintaining botanical gardens databases.

ARCOS builds on its long-dated membership of GBIF community and so adheres to standards, protocols as well as benefit from the open-source tools made available by the institution. As such, this project plans to make use the GBIF’s Integrated Publishing Toolkit to help data holders in the region publish their data on the web in standard formats. Our under-development thematic portals on Freshwater Ecosystems, Environmental Impact Assessment and Mountains Ecosystems also make use of open-source web-mapping software such as OpenLayers to bring to users tools that allow them combine data from various sources and derive meaningful information.

Notes from JRS

The abundance in this area of Lake Albert is diminishing at an alarming rate; an estimated 1.4 percent of the Albertine Rift’s species disappear every year. Serious challenges confronting conservation efforts include the absence of a mechanism to access, interpret, analyze and use plentiful data to guide decision makers and inform the public. A challenge to the sharing of and access to biodiversity data and knowledge is that data is often organized and held by national institutions though ecosystems and species occurrences cross boundaries. ARCOS’ multi-national and eco-region identity offers a platform with which to facilitate international exchange and access. Ecosystems and species’ migration cross the political boundaries of countries, making regional data exchange and collaboration an essential feature to meeting national and global commitments for biodiversity conservation. ARCOS is well positioned as an independent, regional NGO to facilitate data sharing and collaborative research. The project achieved some of its goals of developing partnerships, conducting training sessions, and mobilizing some data, however the overall goal for the launch of a regional biodiversity portal has not yet been met. A key challenge to the project team is creating institutional agreements, creating incentives for data sharing, and retaining key technical personnel.

Last Updated: February 28th, 2017

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