The GBIF network has expanded further in the Pacific, with the island nation of Tonga joining as a full voting member. Tonga's accession brings the current number of participating countries to 59 and adds the first new country to the Oceania region since GBIF's founding (Australia and New Zealand both joined in 2001).
Tonga is also the tenth national participant to join GBIF following a successful project funded by the Biodiversity Information for Development (BID) Programme, accompanied by one organizational participant (also located in Oceania), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme—most often known simply as SPREP.
Representatives from the Department of Environment will lead the actitivies of the GBIF Tonga node within the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change & Communication (MEIDECC).
Having signed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1998, Tonga developed its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which identifies the indiscriminate expansion of agriculture as the primary threat to Tongan biodiversity. Invasive alien species represent another key threat, which is the focus of the BID regional project in which the Tongan project team (including MEIDECC) mobilized data to aid priority setting for invasive species management in the Toloa rainforest in the southern part of Tongatapu. Since its publication in April 2018, this dataset has helped enable three peer-reviewed studies, including the global test of ecoregions featured in the GBIF 2019 Science Review.
Visitors to GBIF.org can currently access more than 66,000 occurrence records for Tonga, coming from 280 datasets and 133 publishers in 25 countries. MEIDECC was directly responsible for mobilizing 15 datasets through the BID regional project.