African Biodiversity


  University of Copenhagen
  Universitetsparken 15
  DK-2100, Kobenhavn O
tel. +45 35 32 10 31, fax. + 45 35 32 10 10, e-mail.

To: Those interested in the Biodiversity of Africa

From: Neil Burgess, Carsten Rahbek and Jon Fjeldsaa Danish Centre for Tropical Biodiversity

Date: 29/6/96

Re: Mapping African Biodiversity patterns

Dear everyone

Some months ago we put out a general request for assistance with a programme we are undertaking here which aims to map species richness and endemism patterns for African birds, mammals, snakes, amphibians, butterflies and some plant groups, at a one degree scale.

This programme is being undertaken by the Danish Centre for Tropical Biodiversity, and we are working in collaboration with Paul Williams and the other Biodiversity Unit staff of the Natural History Museum (London), Tim Crowe and Helen de Klerk of the FitzPatrick Institute in South Africa, the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UK), the The World Conservation Union - Species Survival Commission (global), BirdLife International (UK), and a large number of Museums, Research Institutions and individuals around the world . Potential collaboration is also being discussed with the World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Bank (Environment Department), the University of Rome (Italy), Antwerp (Netherlands), Helsinki (Finland) and York (UK).

Since the last message we and our collaborators have made considerable progress with this project and we have now made a large number of species distriubutional maps which are starting to show species-richness and species-endemism patterns of considerable interest for the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. The current state of knowledge is summarised below:

Taxonomic      Numbers of species  Species with   Main problem
Group          in group            distribution maps   Taxa

Birds          1825           1825      None

Mammals         965          c.650      Shrews, smaller
                                        Bats & Rodents
Snakes         430             330      Non-poisonous
Amphibians     618            265       Taxonomic
                                        complexes &
                                        non tree-frogs
Butterflies    3600           500       -

Trees/other    ??             being asessed  Not known yet

There are however, gaps in our knowledge of the distribution of many species, and for some genera we currently lack any distributional data which can be mapped.

In the next few weeks it is out intention to send out more specific messages outlining where the major gaps in our knowledge are, concentrated on each of the major groups we are mapping. We hope that there will be people interested in this work and who would be able to share their knowledge with us to allow the best possible data set on species distributions in Africa to be compiled, with the aims of using this knowledge to understand species distributional questions in Africa, particularly those relating to selecting biodiversity conservation priorities in Africa at the continental scale, and explaining the species richnes and endemism patterns which are found.

We hope that you find this message of interest and we look forward to any comments at this stage, and to getting in contact with you again in the next couple of weeks to outline the key problem species and genera, and the key problem countries for obtaining distributional information.


Neil Burgess
Carsten Rahb
Jon Fjeldsaa
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