Africa's rich biodiversity provides critical ecosystem services. It contributes substantially to the continent’s economy and serves as a buffer to climate change. However, the continent is experiencing a dramatic loss of biodiversity even before we have been able to fully identify, document and enjoy the benefits of these natural resources.
Biodiversity loss affects livelihoods and lessens resilience to extreme events, particularly for people in rural areas who are often the poorest. Integrating biodiversity into decision-making is a key strategy for mitigating these losses, and availability of relevant data is critical for informed decision-making.
Focusing on birds, which are excellent indicators of general environmental health, the African Bird Atlas Project (ABAP)—a well-established citizen science project—is designed to capture bird distributional data across wide spatial scales. It is exceptional in its ability to report biodiversity changes in real time and thus provide decision-makers with current information.
Country-level projects have been running successfully in southern Africa since 2007, and there has been a concerted effort to expand coverage to East and West Africa in the last 5 years. The proposed project seeks to mobilize and strengthen collaborative data management among ongoing national projects across the continent to establish an up-to-date distributional database for Africa's birds under the ABAP.
The project will also develop institutional capacity of partners for managing and using this data to improve environmental management decisions, while also connecting more people to nature.
Success will be measured via sustained growth of data coverage, establishment of new country-level atlases under ABAP framework and the development of user-friendly tools to summarize, visualize and analyze the data. Impact will be measured through the inclusion of this data in key conservation-management decisions throughout the continent.