Assessing completeness of plant inventories for Africa

Reviewing the sampling of plants in Africa in the past 300 years.

Data resources used via GBIF : 3,546,206 species occurrences
Salacia madagascariensis

Salacia madagascariensis by Fidy Ratovoson. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

In this study, researchers assessed the quality of occurrence data of flowering plants in Africa to determine the reliability of these records, and to systematically review botanical sampling in Africa in the past 300 years. Finally, the authors aimed to determine the overall completeness of the plant inventory for Africa. Using a download of more than three million GBIF-mediated records from 2012, the researchers make the following observations: the number of specimens collected in South Africa surpasses the total number for all other African countries, and there is a pronounced bias towards old specimens. The overall peak of sampling took place in the 1970s and 1980s, and well-sampled areas are sparse (less than one per cent of investigated units of 25 km by 25 km) and generally clustered in both time and space. The authors suggest implementation of community feedback mechanisms to allow continued improvement of data quality.


Stropp J, Ladle RJ, M. Malhado AC, Hortal J, Gaffuri J, H. Temperley W, Olav Skøien J and Mayaux P (2016) Mapping ignorance: 300 years of collecting flowering plants in Africa. Global Ecology and Biogeography. Wiley-Blackwell 25(9): 1085–1096. Available at doi:10.1111/geb.12468.