The youngest country in the world, South Sudan, has joined GBIF as an associate participant. Through signature of the Memorandom of Understanding by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry represented by Mr. Joseph Africano Bartel, Undersecretary for Environment, South Sudan becomes the 17th country in Africa and 55th country in the world to participate in GBIF as a national member.
South Sudan’s entry into GBIF is linked to its participation in the EU-funded Biodiversity Information for Development (BID) programme managed by GBIF and focussed on enhancing the availability of biodiversity information for priority policy needs in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific regions. This includes funding for a project to create a facility for mobilizing biodiversity data from South Sudan’s ecosystems through development of the National Biodiversity Database System (NBDS).
South Sudan is home to one of the world’s largest wetlands, the Sudd, host to the world’s second-largest land mammal migration with an estimated 1.3 million antelopes, including species of global importance such as the endemic and endangered Nile lechwe (Kobus megaceros) and Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii), as well as elephant, giraffe, lion, hippopotamus and a huge population of the Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), a vulnerable bird species. The Imatong Forest, a major biodiversity hotspot, supports over 2,000 vascular plant and 500 bird species, and is one of the largest intact podocarpus forests in Africa.
The Deputy Director for Biodiversity at the South Sudanese Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and leader of the national BID project, Paul Demetry, comments:
“Participation in GBIF will aid South Sudan in fulfilling its commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), achieving the Aichi targets and facilitating regular updating and reporting on its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action (NBSAP).”
“South Sudan’s entry into GBIF coincides with national data mobilization efforts supported by the European Union through the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Biodiversity Management Programme (BMP). Combined, the two initiatives will ultimately aid sound decision-making process in management and conservation of biological resources in South Sudan and beyond.”
Tim Hirsch, GBIF Secretariat’s Deputy Director and Head of Participation, added: “It is great to see Africa’s newest country placing such early priority on the importance of biodiversity information in its national development, and we welcome South Sudan to our collaborative community.”
GBIF.org provides access to 58 datasets containing just under 7,000 occurrence records tagged with the ISO country code SS, assigned to South Sudan in 2011. A third of these are derived from the Mammal Collection dataset of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.
Other contributors to data on South Sudanese biodiversity include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (eBird Observation Dataset), the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution, and the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. Additional contributions are expected to come from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), University of Juba, the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) East African Herbarium, Ministry of Wildlife Conservation & Tourism, and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry among others.