Faculté des Sciences Agronomiques (UAC)

Implementation of the National Biodiversity Information System (NBIS) of Benin

Project Details

Grant Amount: $150,000
Contact: Dr. Jean Cossi Ganglo
Contact Email: ganglocj 'atsign' gmail.com
Funding Dates: 6/2/14 - 12/31/16
Project Links:


Most biodiversity data held in Benin and overseas are neither digitized in any appropriate format nor published, severely limiting access by important users such as students, teachers, researchers, traditional practitioners, and policymakers. Based on a national survey on biodiversity data holders and users across Benin, project researchers discovered that large reserves of biodiversity data form Benin remain unpublished: the National Herbarium (University of Abomey-Calavi) and the General Direction of Forest and Natural Resource Management (Ministry of Environment) each holds at least 50,000 plant and animal records, and the biodiversity center of IITA – Benin holds more than 200,000 insect specimens. Moreover, owing to colonial-era biodiversity exploration and documentation, even more of the relevant data on Beninese biodiversity resides outside of the country, in largest part in museums and herbaria in France and elsewhere. These resources thus represent an opportunity to dramatically increase the availability of information for the country.  This JRS grant award to UAC follows on to a grant awarded in 2011 to the National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica (INBio), to provide technical assistance to UAC to establish the digitization equipment, protocols, and data publishing software.

Key Objectives and Activities

The objectives of this project aim to overcome the difficult access to biodiversity data in Benin by digitizing and publishing much of the data held in the country, as well as overseas:

  • Extend and consolidate partnerships with institutions working in the field of biodiversity in Benin.
  • Mobilize more plant and animal data, including records and specimens residing both in Benin and in European and North American collections.
  • Advance Beninese capacity in biodiversity analyses.

Planned Outputs

  • Advocacy, partnerships, training and demonstrations will convince at least 70% of major institutions working in biodiversity in Benin to publish their data on NBIS and GBIF portals and therefore become partner institutions.
  • At least 50,000 geo-referenced animal and plant records will be digitized in partner institutions. With technical assistance from INBIo and the GBIF Secretariat, the digitized data will be published using GBIF procedures and standards.
  • In formal partnership with researchers and institutions in Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, and Cameroon, the project will develop and prototype workflows for capture and repatriation of data from ‘frozen’ European and North American herbaria and workflows for cleaning and sharing these data.
  • In partnership with the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, a full curriculum will be developed to incorporate biodiversity informatics into Masters programs in Benin.

Planned Outcomes

Anticipated outcomes of the project are as follows:

  • The NBIS portal of Benin would be recognized as the ‘go-to’ source of biodiversity information for Benin and biodiversity data use will be promoted through several Masters and Ph.D. theses. These data will permit accurate niche modeling of animal and plant species in support of conservation decisions and climate change mitigation.
  • Assembly of a novel digitization consortium will provide a proof-of-concept; at least 50% of West African data in ‘frozen’ European and North American museum collections will be captured, cleaned, and published on NBIS and GBIF portals. Knowledge of the flora and fauna of West Africa will be improved and increased.
  • Recruitment of new trainees in biodiversity science will reinforce high-level training in biodiversity informatics within Benin. Trainees will promote the development of detailed case studies relevant to decision making in biodiversity conservation.
  • Beninese capacity in biodiversity informatics will be enhanced and therefore up-to-date, active, and informative curriculum content will be available.

Results to Date

  • The project has published 30 datasets with GBIF and GBIF Benin totaling over 175,000 geo-referenced occurrence records (against the initial goal of 50,000). Thus this project is the majority contributor to GBIF data from Benin, both in terms of number of records and datasets. These data are already being used in publications.
  • Technology to support training and data digitization was acquired.
  • Three partners agreed to publish their Benin data on GBIF and GBIF Benin. Initial visits were made to the National Museum of Natural History (France) and Naturalis Biodiversity Center (The Netherlands) to initiate data provision partnerships.
  • Two students successfully completed pre-requisite training in Biodiversity Informatics at the University of Kansas, and applied to the University of Kansas’ Master’s program. It is anticipated that their training will strengthen the capacity of programs in Benin.
  • A workshop was held in December 2016 to present to natural resources managers and policy decision makers the results GBIF-Benin achieved thus far, and to demonstrate the importance of biodiversity informatics for sustainable natural resource management in the context of global changes. A video communication from the workshop can be found here.
  • A workshop was held in June 2017 to inform and train participants on items related to data mobilization, data cleaning, and data publishing, and to showcase successful research projects utilizing GBIF Benin data through a science symposium. A video communication from the workshop can be found here.
  • The curriculum for a Master’s and PhD program in Biodiversity Informatics at the University of Abomey-Calavi has been developed and validated by the university administration. The team is preparing for the Master’s program training to begin next academic year.
  • Staff development and training continues to occur. Three members of GBIF Benin’s team were trained in Ibadan at the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, and six members of GBIF Benin’s team were trained at the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa.

Primary Software Platforms

For data digitization and publication, Darwin Core Archive is used.

Lessons Learned

  • A collaborative, mentoring project of this type can lead to outstanding success in capacity building, data mobilization, and NBIS portal development.
  • Establishing a National Biodiversity Information System (NBIS) is a function of reliable and strong partnerships with global networks of scientists and institutions working in the field of biodiversity science.
  • In person contacts with potential data providers and workshops to inform and train participants (e.g. students, researchers, etc.) are critical activities for enhancing data mobilization and establishing effective communication with decision makers.
  • While the stage has been set for the launch of a graduate program in Biodiversity Informatics at UAC, the next challenge will be to assemble faculty with expertise in this discipline and to involve international experts with the program to strengthen its credibility. Dr. Ganglo’s prior experience in building the capacity of his department to teach a program in biodiversity will be valuable for this next growth phase.

Related Publications

  • Adjahossou SGC; Gouwakinnou NG; Thierry Houehanou DT; Sode AI.; Yaoitcha AS; Houinato MRB; Sinsin B. 2016. Efficacité des aires protégées dans la conservation d’habitats favorables prioritaires de ligneux de valeur au Bénin. Bois et Forêts des Tropiques, 328 (2): 67-76. (link)
  • Dossou, EM; Lougbegnon, TO; Houessou, LG; Codjia, JTC (2016) Analyse de l’impact du changement climatique sur l’aire de distribution actuelle et future de Lannea microcarpa Engl. & K. Krause au Bénin, Afrique de l’Ouest. Afrique Science. 12(1):27-38. (link)
  • Dotchamou, F; Atindogbe, G; Sode, A; Fonton, H (2016). Density and spatial distribution of Parkia biglobosa pattern in Benin under climate change. Journal of Agriculture and Environment for International Development. 110(1):173-194. (link)
  • Ganglo, JC; Kakpo, SB (2016) Completeness of digital accessible knowledge of plants of Benin and priorities for future inventory and data discovery. Biodiversity Informatics. 11:23-39. (link)
  • Gbètoho, AJ; Aoudji, AKN; Roxburgh, L; Ganglo, JC. 2017. Assessing the suitability of pioneer species for secondary forest restoration in Benin in the context of global climate change. Bios et Forets Des Tropiques. 332(2):43-55 (link)
  • Fandohan, AB; Oduor, AMO; Sodé, AI; Wu, L; Cuni-Sanchez, A; Assédé, E; Gouwakinnou, GN (2015) Modeling vulnerability of protected areas to invasion by Chromolaena odorata under current and future climates. Ecosystem Health and Sustainability. 1(6):20. (link)
  • Fandohan, AB; Moutouama, JK; Biaou, SSB; Gouwakinnou, NG; Adomou, CA (2015) Le réseau d’aires protégées Bénin-Togo assure-t-il la conservation de Thunbergia Atacorensis (Acanthaceae)? Rev. Cames. 3(2):25-31. (link)
  • Fandohan, A; Koko, I; Avocevou-Ayisso, C; Gouwakinnou, G; Savi, M; Assogbadjo, A (2015). Lantana camara (verbenaceae) : a potential threat to the effectiveness of protected areas to conserve flora and fauna in Benin. Agronomie Africaine. 27(2):115-126. (link)
  • Idohou, R; Ariño, AH; Assogbadjo, AE; Glèlè Kakai, RL; Sinsin, B (2015) Diversity of wild palms (Arecaceae) in the Republic of Benin: Finding gaps in the national inventory combining field and digital accessible knowledge. Biodiversity Informatics. 10(2):45-55. (link)
  • Idohou, R; Assogbadjo, AE; Glèlè Kakaï, R; Peterson, AT (2016) Spatio-temporal dynamic of suitable areas for species conservation in West Africa: Eight economically important wild palms under present and future climates. Agroforestry Systems. 90(3):1-14. (link)
  • Padonou E; O Teka; Y Bachmann; M Schmidt; A Lykke; B Sinsin (2015) Using species distribution models to select species resistant to climate change for ecological restoration of bowé in West Africa. African Journal of Ecology. 53(1):83-92. (link)
  • Saliou, ARA; Oumorou, M; Sinsin, AB (2014) Variabilités bioclimatiques et distribution spatiale des herbacées fourragères dans le Moyen-Bénin (Afrique de l’Ouest). International Journal of Biological and Chemical Sciences. 8(6):2696-2708. (link)

Project Director Biography

Dr. Jean Ganglo was educated at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences where he graduated with an Agricultural Engineering degree, with a focus in forestry, in 1987. After almost ten years in civil service, working on silviculture and forest management, he began his Ph.D. studies at the Free University of Brussels with the financial support of the World Bank in 1996. There, he recieved a doctorate in agronomic sciences in 1999. He entered the University of Abomey-Calavi as assistant in 2000 and attained full Professor in 2012. He is author of more than 50 scientific articles. In 2009, he was appointed GBIF Benin node manager and elected 3rd Vice-Chair of the GBIF science committee in 2011. Dr. Ganglo is coordinator of many research projects selected in the framework of international competitions. His experience in the collaborative mentoring project with Costa Rica is of great importance in designing the present project.

Notes from JRS

In 2011, JRS made a grant to the National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica (INBio) to help establish the National Biodiversity Information System of Benin. That grant was successful in many aspects and ended with the launch of the Benin NBIS with an initial data holding of more than 100,000 records, a quarter of them being newly digitized information from Benin. This award to the University of Abomey Calavi marks the first time that JRS has followed an investment in a more developed country with a direct investment to its African partner. We are very appreciative of INBio’s effort and the dedication of the team in Benin that has made this possible. The second phase of the work is ambitious in aiming to engage a broader array of data holders and stakeholders in Benin and to expand beyond plants. We hope to learn about how we can best support national information systems and how to catalyze long-term support from national and international donors.  The project has shown great progress toward publishing Beninese data to GBIF and has exceeded its initial goals!  Challenges remain to accelerate the digitization and sharing of Beninese specimens and data held abroad and to complete the planned scientific exchanges in region.  Congratulations UAC and your collaborators!

Last Updated: September 5th, 2017

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