Containing several distinct ecoregions designated as part of a biodiversity hotspot, Western Cameroon is home to numerous endemic and threatened plant and animal species. Although the country has established several protected areas in the region, the process has taken place in the absence of data-driven prioritization analyses due to lack of biodiversity data resources on which to base decision-making.
In this project, a team led by the Tropical Plant Exploration Group (TroPEG) will seek to bolster data mobilization efforts to assemble a representative and comprehensive database of the plants in the region, with which to characterize and document endemism and threatened status. Significant holdings of primary botanical data have so far been held by individual scientists who worked in the region over recent decades, and by institutions that have not facilitated access to data associated with the specimens that they hold. This wealth of information, based on decades of collecting efforts represents a major challenge, as data exists, but is unused in the analysis of western Cameroonian biodiversity.
An example of unaccessible data is the The Limbe Botanical Garden Herbarium (SCA), the only herbarium in the region, with approximately 7,400 high-quality botanical specimens from crucial sites across western Cameroon. Established about 100 years, the herbarium has been out of use by researchers and students for more than a decade.
TroPEG itself, currently the sole institution with concentrated efforts on the plant biodiversity of Western Cameroon holds more than 40,000 data records. This project will concentrate effort on mobilizing this data while providing detailed training to potential students and biodiversity data managers in capturing and improving biodiversity data.
The project started off by uploading 23,427 initial occurrence records to the GBIF portal from TroPEG. A one-day introdutory training workshop was held in January 2018 on biodiversity informatics and data mobilization at the Univeristy of Buea. In February 2018 a four day training workshop on biodiversity data capture, cleaning and management as a part of the biodiversity informatics concept. At this second training, 23 students were trained from different universities in Cameroon. Following, a stakeholder meeting was held with members of the Ministry of Environment and Protection of Nautre, university lecturers, researchers and members of the civil society. And as a part of the project, the project coordinator attended two training workshops in Cape Town, South Africa.
Data was captured using Darwin Core (DWC) and published on the GBIF portal. A total of 43,420 records has been published. VetNet and GBIF France assisted the upload of data using the IPT of GBIF France.
The project has trained students on the aspects of biodiversity informatics including data capture, clearing and mangement. Field work and thesis of three students were supported by the project. The theses resulted in the utilisation and valorisation of non-timber forest product in the Rumpi Hills landscape, a guide to medicinal and wild food plants of the continental Cameroon Mountains using the biodiversity informatics concept, and an assesment of threatened and endemic plants using the biodiversity informatics techniques in the continentla Cameroon Mountains, respectively.