Namibia has become the 61st country to join the GBIF network, with Teofilus Nghitila, Executive Director of the Ministry of Environment, Forestry & Tourism, signing the GBIF Memorandum of Understanding to signal the government's intention to support open sharing of biodiversity data.
"Namibia has been generating biodiversity data for over a century, but much of it has been locked up in local institutions", said Francois Becker, Chief Curator at the National Museum of Namibia and newly appointed Node Manager. He continues: "Joining GBIF will provide a central platform to make this data available, and will ignite a unified national effort to generate and publish more species records. As Namibia continues to develop and our population grows, these records are imperative to the conservation and research of our unique ecosystems."
A Namibian project aimed at increasing the availability of biodiversity information—particularly on the country's many endemic species—has received funding through the most recent cycle of the EU-funded Biodiversity Information for Development (BID) programme. The project's twin focus on mobilizing data from key collections in the National Museum of Namibia and the National Botanical Research Institute and improving engagement on open data have together driven the push for Namibian participation in GBIF and the establishment of a national GBIF node.
GBIF's Deputy Director Tim Hirsch commented: "We warmly welcome Namibia into the GBIF community. As well as improving global knowledge about the extraordinary biodiversity of this diverse nation, Namibia's innovative approaches to conservation and sustainable use based on strong community buy-in will add rich experience to the GBIF Africa nodes group and support future collaborations in the region."
Namibia is home to the world’s largest cheetah population and to nutrient-rich waters along its 1,500-kilometer coastline, which support some of the planet's greatest populations of marine life. The coast is unique in the world for being entirely protected as a national park that forms the largest terrestrial protected area in Africa and the sixth-largest globally.
Despite being the most arid African country south of the Sahara Desert, Namibia holds a remarkable variety of habitats and ecosystems ranging from deserts to subtropical wetlands and savannas. It hosts the northern extent of the Succulent Karoo ecosystem, the planet's only arid biodiversity hotspot and home to the greatest diversity of these striking, water-preserving flora. The Tsau //Khaeb National Park (formerly Sperrgebiet NP), much of which was left undisturbed and closed to the public for nearly a century after the discovery of diamonds in the region, helps safeguard this unique landscape.
Users of GBIF.org currently have access to 1.6 million species occurrence records in Namibia, one third of which originate from the Southern African Bird Atlas Project published by the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology in neighbouring South Africa. The IUCN Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species (GRIIS) checklist published through GBIF identifies 297 introduced (alien) and invasive species known to occur in Namibia.