Enhancing accessibility of forest flora data in Tanzania

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Annatto (Bixa orellana, Tanzanai. Photo 2019 oceanshine via iNaturalist Research-grade Observations, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Tanzania Forestry Research Institute (TAFORI) was established by the Tanzanian government in 1980 to conduct and coordinate all forestry-related research activities. TAFORI's primary roles are to develop appropriate silvicultural practices for various tree species and to improve and strengthen the national herbarium and arboretum.

The institute currently hosts an herbarium in Lushoto Tanga established by the Tanganyika government in the late 1940s. The herbarium hosts more than 70,000 undigitized plant specimens and is regarded as an important institution facility. Despite its importance, there has been limited efforts in making herbarium data accessible to a wider community due to financial constraints. Limited accessibility of specimen data is one of the major roadblocks for research and conservation in Tanzania. Thus, the Herbarium potentiality as a vital source of information in decision making has been undermined.

In addition, several other herbaria which are coordinated by other institutions have been established in recent decades to cater their needs for research and/or teaching. Nevertheless, there is limited coordination and information sharing among these institutes which may result in poor biodiversity data management and data redundancy. Increasing accessibility of these data and coordination among plant data holding institutes will enable more research and better-informed conservation schemes.

In this project we aim to enhance accessibility of forest flora data by:

  1. Digitizing and updating the nomenclature of voucher specimens at TAFORI herbarium
  2. Publishing the digitized data in TanBIF and GBIF data portals using integrated publishing toolkit (IPT)
  3. Building capacity of TAFORI staff to enhance continue mobilization, digitization and publication of new species
  4. Building capacity of Herbarium data users on how to access herbarium data through GBIF portals for enhanced decision-making.

Project progress

In June 2021 a training workshop was organized whereby herbarium staffs and project members were trained on how to perform biodiversity data digitization, mobilization and data publishing. Furthermore, to date the project digitized more than 10,000 specimens. Among these, a data set of flowering plants (8,689 specimens) have been published on GBIF data portal.

The project team is progressing with the implementation of the project activities as planned:

  • Data Capture and standardization following Darwin Core format: This is core activity of digitizing data preserved in Herbarium. This activity involves extracting information from preserved specimen in to excel sheet following the Darwin Core Data standards
  • Data Cleaning and Validation: Captured data from specimen labels contain number of errors including spelling errors, wrong date formats, incorrect taxonomy etc.
  • Geo-referencing: Nearly all of the specimens collected before year 2000 in the herbarium do not have geographical coordinates.
  • Updating specimen labels: One of the objectives in this project is to update taxonomy ranking of the preserved specimens. In addition, some specimens were labelled using synonyms.

The project is expecting to have four data sets instead of one as mentioned in the submitted proposal. This will increase the usability of the herbarium data. The data sets will be as follows:

  1. Data set of flowering plants (covering Dicotyledons and Monocotyledons) Specimens
  2. Data sets of Pteridophytes
  3. Data set of Gymnosperms
  4. Data set of Bryophytes
€ {{ 19609 | localNumber }}
€ {{ 9462 | localNumber }}
Type of grant
Institution-level biodiversity data mobilization grant
1 April 2021 - 30 March 2023
Project identifier
Funded by
  • Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI)
  • Department of Botany, University of Dar es Salaam
  • Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH)
  • Department of Ecosystem Sciences, SokoineUniversity of Agriculture
Contact details

Thomas Sawe
Tanzania Forestry Research Institute
P.O.BOX 1854
502 Morogoro

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