Uzbekistan joins GBIF as associate participant

First national member from Central Asia brings total number of formal participants to 100

Iris warleyensis
Iris warleyensis observed in the Samarkand region, Uzbekistan by Улугбек Кодиров. Photo via iNaturalist (CC BY-NC 4.0)

The Republic of Uzbekistan has become an associate participant in GBIF and the first country in Central Asia to join the network. This addition brings the number of participating countries in GBIF to 62, and the total number of formal participants to 100 including associate organizations.

The president of the Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences signed the GBIF Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of the country. The Academy will also host the national GBIF delegation and node.

Uzbekistan is now the third nation to join GBIF after involvement in the Norwegian-led BioDATA programme, following Belarus and Armenia as examples demonstrating that project's effectiveness in establishing strong regional efforts through international collaboration in higher education.

Though not formally participating in BioDATA, Uzbekistan—represented by two researchers—participated in a workshop in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in June 2019, organized through the programme, which targets biodiversity data skills training in higher education. This event followed the publication of the first two datasets from Uzbekistan in in 2016, with assistance and support from the informal '' community.

"Joining GBIF is significant for Uzbekistan because the country is recognized as the leader of floristic and phytogeographic research in the region of Central Asia, " said Tojibaev Sh. Komiljon, Director of the Institute of Botany at the Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences, who becomes the country's Head of Delegation on the GBIF Governing Board. "A large-scale project—the Flora of Uzbekistan—is being implemented through international cooperation, and since 2016, the first three volumes have been published with next two volumes being prepared for publication. The fundamental basis of this project is the database of plant diversity of Uzbekistan and the digitized collection of the National Herbarium of Uzbekistan—the largest herbarium collection in the world in terms of the number of Central Asian plants. Thanks to this—and with an active and young team of scientists responsible for floristic research in accordance with modern standards—we have a huge array of original scientific information which we want to share with our colleagues around the world."

"Uzbekistan's entry into GBIF marks an exciting milestone for the network," said Tim Hirsch, GBIF deputy director and head of the Secretariat's participation and engagement team. "As the first Central Asian country to join our community, this represents an important step forward in the strategic priority for GBIF to expand participation into regions where until recently there was little or no open sharing of biodiversity data. It reflects sustained recent engagement with institutions in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and demonstrates the great opportunities to fill gaps both in data and in GBIF participation from these regions."

Doubly landlocked and geographically situated between the Amudarya and the Syrdarya rivers, Uzbekistan is dominated by mountains and the vast Kyzylkum Desert, making the country's subtropical climate predominantly arid, subject to intensive desertification and droughts. With half the Uzbek population living in rural areas, highly dependent on irrigated agriculture responsible for 90 per cent of the country's crops, natural ecosystems are inherently vulnerable to antropogenic interference.

With 4,388 species of native vascular plants registered to date, Uzbekistan possesses the third most species-rich flora of Central Asia with a large number of endemic, threatened and globally important species. Ten per cent of the flora are considered as national endemics.

Uzbekistan also has rich fauna with more than 14,000 invertebrate and 700 vertebrate species. The country's reptilian fauna, in particular, is known for the high level of endemism with half of the species occurring exclusively in Uzbekistan.

Currently, users are able to access 78,000 species occurrences in Uzbekistan, contributed by publishers in Russia, Colombia, USA and elsewhere. As of today, 40 peer-reviewed studies have used data published by Uzbek institutions for scientific analyses covering topics ranging from biogeography to the effects of climate change.