Plant inventory completeness and collection patterns in tropical East Africa

Study reveals extremely uneven collection and recommends prioritizing efforts in Kenya and Tanzania

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 32,536,833 species occurrences
Kigelia africana
Sausage tree (Kigelia africana) observed in Kidepo Valley, Uganda by congonaturalist. Photo via iNaturalist (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Primary biodiversity data is crucial to understanding biogeographic patterns of species richness and for being able to predict impacts of climate change or anthropogenic activity on biodiversity.

Tropical East Africa has a very rich flora with important hotspots. In this study, researchers use plant data from GBIF and other sources to assess the completeness and collection patterns in the region.

Authors of the study find extremely uneven collection densities across the region—with very low density in northern Kenya and southern Tanzania. By comparing richness observed in occurrence data with predicted richness modelled using Maxent, the authors reveal that collection effort in half of East Africa is indeed incomplete.

Species richness was the most important factor in explaining both collection density (positive correlation) and inventory incompleteness (negative correlation) across the region. The authors highlight the importance of digitization and prioritizing future collection efforts, especially in low-density areas of Kenya and Tanzania.

Original article

Wang S, Zhou Y, Musili PM, Mwachala G, Hu G and Wang Q (2020) Inventory incompleteness and collecting priority on the plant diversity in tropical East Africa. Biological Conservation. Elsevier BV 241: 108313. Available at: