An interactive resource for global biodiversity analysis — launches today, promising a new era in the visualization of species distributions.
On first glance, Map of Life may seem just one more in the dozens of biodiversity databases online, but it has a novel capability — a web-mapping tool that integrates disparate data types, from single-occurrence records in museum collections to expert-derived ranges found in field guides.
Still in its infancy the demo release of Map of Life will focus on terrestrial vertebrate and fish species. It comprises data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, expert range maps from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and regional presence/absence checklists from the World Wildlife Fund, as well as data from a few individual scientists’ databases.
Map of Life will soon allow users to add or update species data, thereby becoming the first two-way portal of biodiversity information.
The tool grew out of Jetz’s own need to combine his data with existing data sets to best understand how bird biodiversity patterns could inform conservation efforts. But stitching together all the records takes up an enormous amount of time. “I remember thinking ‘This is silly. I’m doing this on my own, knowing others are doing it too’,” he says. He and his colleagues decided to share the tools they were developing and make the process dynamic by allowing users to improve the species-distribution data.
The demo version has two main features. Users can search for a species name to see a map of all the species-distribution records, and can generate a species list of all the animals recorded within 50 – 1,000 kilometres of a specific spot on the planet.
Map of Life still faces a major hurdle — gaining traction in biodiversity circles. For the site to have widespread utility it will require much more data, but unless users are convinced of the site’s usefulness, they may not take the time to contribute their own data. It is expected that the Wikipedia-style approach, allowing the community to improve data, will provide users this confidence.
The above news item is reprinted from materials available at Nature. Original text is edited for content and length to meet the journal’s requirements about permissions for reuse.
(Source: Nature, 10.05.2012)