Africa's most populous nation, Nigeria, has become the latest country to join GBIF as an Associate Participant.
The signature of the GBIF Memorandum of Understanding by the Permanent Secretary at Nigeria's Federal Ministry of the Environment, Dr Bukar Hassan, brings the number of African national Participants in GBIF to 16.
The ministry has designated the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN) to represent the country on the GBIF Governing Board.
Users of GBIF.org can already access more than 175,000 records relating to over 10,000 species collected or observed in Nigeria and its coastal waters, published from institutions in other countries. The largest datasets currently contributing data relating to Nigeria are Fishbase, the London Natural History Museum, and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands.
Nigeria's entry into GBIF and the establishment of a Participant node will help holders of biodiversity data in Nigerian institutions to add their own datasets to the information freely accessible through GBIF.org, giving visibility to Nigeria's data resources and building a more complete picture of the species occurring in the country's varied ecosystems.
According to Nigeria's Fifth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the major threats to the country's biodiversity include habitat degradation, unsustainable agricultural practices, unsustainable harvesting of biological resources and the impacts of extractive industries, especially oil and gas exploration.
Among the most important reserves of biodiversity in Nigeria is the Cross River National Park bordering Cameroon, part of a biodiversity hotspot that is home to nearly 80% of the country´s primates including the critically endangered Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) and the endangered drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus), a relative of the baboon and mandrill.
GBIF Secretariat's deputy director, Tim Hirsch, welcomed Nigeria's entry into the network, commenting: "We greatly appreciate the enthusiasm shown by the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria to bring the country into our community. We look forward to working with our Nigerian colleagues to place much more data into the public domain, and thus support research and policies to conserve Nigeria's rich biodiversity for the benefit of all.
"The addition of Nigeria to GBIF's collaborative network comes at an especially exciting time for the development of biodiversity informatics in Africa as an increasing number of countries and institutions recognize the advantages of promoting free and open access to data on the continent's species."