Institutions in Malawi combined hold a wealth of biodiversity information, including 100,000 plant specimens at The National Herbarium of Malawi (MAL), up to 20,000 zoological specimens at The Museums of Malawi (MOM), and various seed collections with the The National Tree Seed Centre under Forestry Research Institute of Malawi (FRIM). Currently, however, data on these specimens is fragmented, difficult to analyse, and not accessible to the wider community nor the many government agencies, research institutions and NGOs that could make good use of improved biodiversity data.
In this project, a team led by the National Herbarium and Botanical Gardens of Malawi will develop and manage a comprehensive national biodiversity database using BRAHMS, through training of project technical staff and local partners; including the Environmental Affairs Department (EAD), a central user of biodiversity information, particularly at policy level.
The team will construct the database by mobilizing, digitizing and publishing selected biodiversity datasets comprising threatened plants, invasive alien species (IAS) and pollinator species. Available online and updated regularly, the database and associated website will providing access to reliable biodiversity information for research and natural resources management and strengthen the biodiversity information infrastructure of Malawi.
A two-day knowledge dissemination workshop was conducted during the second week of May 2018 at the National Herbarium & Botanic Gardens of Malawi.
The National Commision for Science and Technology (NCST) has been registered with GBIF as a national data publishing institution. As of now there has not been published any data but specimen barcode labels have been printed, data has been mobilized on IAS for Threatened plants and pollinator species, and targeted plant and animal specimens have been digitized into BRAHMS and Excel respectively.
The project has made a website in collaboration with NCST who has developed and hosts it.
A total number of 5587 specimens have been digitized and published on GBIF. There was 2641 occurrences of threatened plants, they found 1040 occurrences for invasive alien species, 621 pollinator occurrences, 264 Sphingidae, 338 Lymantriidae, 183 Notodontidae, 104 Arctiidae, and 396 Lasiocampidae. To apply biodiversity data in response to national priorities an IAS and Threatened species handbook has been made as well as pollinator fact sheets.
The project has trained 17 people on BRAHMS to improve digitization of datasets leading to publications and to create awareness of usefulness of BRAHMS and determination to aquire the new BRAHMS version 8. This project helps strengthen the infrastructure of Malawi's biodiversity information through accessible databases and human capacity building (i.e. skills obtained in training on use of equipment and digitization and database/website management).
This programme is funded by the European Union.