Ecuador is the latest country to join the GBIF network, bringing the total number of national participants to 56. The South American nation is the 13th of the world’s 17 so-called megadiverse countries to join GBIF.
The immense biodiversity of Ecuador is due its location in the Neotropics, the presence of the Andes mountain range and the influence of the Pacific’s currents on its coasts. Ecuador is recognized for its incredible floristic richness, and it is estimated that the country has more plant species per unit area than any other country in South America.
The Galápagos Islands are a part of Ecuador and a unique ecoregion with an amazing array of endemic species. The islands are home to the giant Galápagos tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra), the Galápagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) and the flightless cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi), among many others. About 80% of land birds and 95% of the reptiles and land mammals are found nowhere else in the world. The islands, and particularly its finches, inspired Charles Darwin, who visited in 1835, to develop the theory of evolution by natural selection expressed in On The Origin of Species.
In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, as the country’s Constitution now recognizes the inalienable rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish. This legislation also gives people the authority to petition on the behalf of ecosystems and requires the government to remedy violations of these rights.
As of September 2016 there are more than 700 datasets with a combined 2.2 million occurrence records of biodiversity in Ecuador contained in over 700 datasets, with 150,000 occurrences coming from the Galápagos Islands alone. These occurrences represent more than 40,000 species. Publishers from 33 countries have published data about Ecuador, with the United States contributing more than 85 per cent.
With the signature of the GBIF Memorandum of Understanding, Ecuador becomes an Associate Participant in GBIF, represented by the Ministry of Environment. As a participating country, Ecuador will now establish a national node to coordinate mobilization of data from its own institutions, while collaborating with GBIF nodes in Latin America and elsewhere to promote the tools and skills needed to provide free and open access to biodiversity data.
GBIF Secretariat’s deputy director Tim Hirsch commented, “We are delighted to welcome Ecuador as the newest member of our community, further strengthening the involvement of Latin American countries in the field of biodiversity informatics. As the birthplace of the evolutionary theories that drive biodiversity science and conservation, Ecuador’s participation is especially symbolic.”