To celebrate the achievements of ordinary citizen scientists, a new booklet titled Biodiversity early warning systems: South African citizen scientists monitoring change has been developed by joint venture between the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.
The fourteen page booklet highlights South Africa’s potential for rapid environmental change impact detection and was edited by Phoebe Barnard from SANBI and Marienne de Villiers from the ADU at UCT. It covers short interesting readings with attractive titles such as Something fishy: shifting marine resources; Science for the people by the people; and Butterflies as indicators of environmental change, amongst a few others.
It is the strong active participation of ordinary citizens in engaging with biodiversity and the environment that will guard natural assets. The contribution of "citizen scientists" to biodiversity data projects is an invaluable resource which enables scientists to provide sound information for decision makers at all levels, including national policy.
Ecosystems and biodiversity are facing serious challenges now. As the environment underpins human development and the economy, in South Africa early warning systems for biodiversity and ecosystems are being developed. Early warning systems for biodiversity under increasing environmental change are a powerful and serve as proactive tool to do this.
“South Africa has a huge strategic advantage in biodiversity monitoring in terms of its very committed and engaged citizens, and this is an incredibly powerful way for us to help mainstream biodiversity conservation in the public consciousness.” Says Barnard. “Our challenge is to expand this participation to every corner of the country.”
The status and distribution of our plant and animal populations are critical indicators of environmental health. By monitoring changes in populations, we can readily gauge the impacts of human activities, including climate change. The trends detected by monitoring programmes can provide a useful tool and early warning of biodiversity loss to guide environmental management decisions.
The booklet is downloadable on the SANBI website www.sanbi.org
The booklet can also be downloaded from the website of the Animal Demography Unit http://adu.org.za/pdf/Biodiversity_booklet_2012.pdf