Home to arid savannahs, deserts and semi-deserts that shelter several significant populations of threatened mammals and birds, including the Sahel’s only remaining wild population of West African giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis peralta), the agrarian nation of Niger in the south-central Sahel has become the GBIF network’s newest Associate Participant.
The signature of the GBIF Memorandum of Understanding by Kimba Ousseini of Niger’s Ministry of the Environment, Urban Health and Sustainable Development (Ministère de l'Environnement de la Salubrité Urbaine et du Développement Durable) makes the nation in the south-central Sahel the 17th African country to join the GBIF network.
Niger's entry into GBIF comes as the Ministry is engaged in a large regional project supported by the EU-funded Biodiversity Information for Development or BID programme, a collaboration that includes institutions in Niger and seven other Francophone countries working together to build capacity and mobilize biodiversity data for conservation, sustainable use, and decision-making.
At present, users of GBIF.org can access 28,046 records relating to more than 15,000 species collected or observed in Niger, thanks to the work of the GBIF publishing network. Of the four largest contributing datasets, two reflect the importance of agrobiodiversity to Niger’s biological resources.
- A new global database for the distributions of crop wild relatives, published by Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) in Colombia and hosted by GBIF Norway
- Collection specimens from the Natural History Museum, London
- SINGER, the System-wide Information Network for Genetic Resources, published by Bioversity International
- eBird Observation Dataset, published by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and including observations from volunteer recorders around the world
Important biodiversity reserves include seven protected areas that comprise more than 14% of Niger’s land mass, among them the Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves, Africa’s largest protected areas. To the south, Park W and adjacent protected areas in Benin and Burkina Faso form the last refuge in the semi-arid savannahs of the Sudan zone.
According to Niger's Fifth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), prolonged drought and pressure from human development have accelerated the degradation of Niger’s biological resources over the past 30 years. Ecosystem function, hunting, genetic diversity, and revenue from ecotourism have all declined. Aquatic biodiversity has likewise suffered, contributing to food insecurity, malnutrition, poverty and social conflict. The establishment of a Participant node will help data-holding institutions in Niger share scientific knowledge that builds a more complete understanding of the country's biodiversity and contributes to its biodiversity policies, targets and commitments.
“It is very encouraging to see this new member of the GBIF community arising directly out of Niger’s participation the Biodiversity Information for Development programme (BID),” said Tim Hirsch, deputy director of the GBIF Secretariat, in welcoming Niger's entry into the network. “We hope and expect BID to result in several additional participating countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific.”