Guatemala has joined GBIF as an associate participant, with Carlos Martinez, Executive Secretary of the National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP), signing the GBIF Memorandum of Understanding in December 2021 on behalf of the national government.
Established in 1989, CONAP is the agency responsible for ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in the country's protected areas and will house both the national GBIF delegation and node. Guatemala is the tenth national participant from GBIF's Latin America and the Caribbean region.
"Formalizing Guatemala's participation in GBIF underpins our country's commitment to the CBD and the implementation of our National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan," said Leslie Melisa Ojeda Cabrera, who will add the roles of Guatemala's head of delegation and node manager to her place as the national CBD CHM focal point. "We expect that joining GBIF's growing global and regional networks will further increase our capacity to mobilize and manage the data we need to understand and protect biodiversity in one of the planet's 20 megadiverse countries."
CONAP hosts the National Biological Information System of Guatemala (SNIBgt), a network of networks already active in mobilizing data and collaborating within the GBIF community. Recognized as the national Clearinghouse Mechanism under the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the SNIBgt portal is built on the open-source Living Atlas platform developed by GBIF's Australian node and supported by the GBIF community. CONAP had previously participated in a regional project funded in part by the Capacity Enhancement Support Programme (CESP) and led by GBIF Argentina, which enabled the publication of an Updated list of Guatemala's bats.
"I am delighted to welcome Guatemala into the GBIF community, joining Costa Rica as the second Central American nation in our network," said Joe Miller, GBIF executive secretary. "The development of a national portal through the Living Atlas collaboration demonstrates that Guatemala is bringing considerable expertise in biodiversity data management to GBIF and will be a valuable addition to our active nodes community in the Latin America and the Caribbean region."
The country's name itself signals its rich natural heritage, deriving from the Nahuatl word Quauhtlemallan, meaning "land of many trees." Located within the Mesoamerica biodiversity hotspot (the world's third largest), forests cover 37 per cent of Guatemala. However, three fifths of them (59 per cent) remain outside a substantial protected area network that itself comprises 32.4 per cent of the national territory.
The country's biological riches face multiple high-impact threats from deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution. Such dangers risk the erosion of genetic diversity in a country with highest rate of species endemism in Central America (13 per cent)---for example, the 19 of 41 species of lungless salamanders (Plethodontidae) that occur nowhere else in the world. Guatemala is also a centre of diversity for many wild relatives of the world's cultivated plants, such as corn, beans, squash, chilis, cassava and avocado.