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Bolivian biodiversity observatory takes its first steps

September 16, 2015

NEW YORK - September 16, 2015 - EcoHealth Alliance, an environmental health nonprofit organization that focuses on local conservation and global health issues, announced the creation of the first centralized repository to collect data on the biological diversity in Bolivia. EcoHealth Alliance Senior Scientist, Carlos Zambrana-Torrelio, in collaboration with Miguel Fernandez from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research in coordination with more than 40 Bolivian scientists worked together to create the unique repository. The value of a biological repository will assist in measuring the status of biodiversity knowledge in Bolivia. The real value of this information can be applied to biodiversity conservation, climate change, food security and public health. "This kind of collaboration has no precedents. For many years scientists have been using data hosted in international databases and the need for a central repository was crucial to catalog the country' plants and animals," said Mr. Zambrana-Torrelio.

The group reached out to Bolivian scientists and suggested a data sharing opportunity in response to the clarion call to the scientific community. The team experienced an overwhelming response to the query and the repository became a reality. "These data sets will change the way we do science in Bolivia, thus allowing us to make informed decisions for conservation," continued Mr. Zambrana-Torrelio.

This gargantuan effort included multiple Bolivian institutions such as the Instituto de Ecología, the Herbario Nacional de Bolivia, and the Museo Noel Kempff Mercado, as well as international institutions including NatureServe and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research. The ultimate goal of this work is to understand the bigger biodiversity picture and the information will be used to observe and measure the changes in biodiversity to better inform policy and decision making.

Mr. Miguel Fernandez, a long time collaborator of EcoHealth Alliance continued, "At the global level our knowledge on the complexity of the natural world is very limited. These information gaps are even more evident in mega-diverse countries such as Bolivia. In many ways the work that naturalists did from a couple centuries ago and the work that scientists do today working in museums and herbariums is very similar. The main difference is in today's world we are fortunate that technology and analytical tools to measure the natural world have expanded so quickly. This project is only the first step in a long and intricate process towards the creation of a true biodiversity observatory in Bolivia."
The results of the study were published in the journal, Biodiversity, and the article can be accessed here: "Challenges and Opportunities for the Bolivian Biodiversity Observation Network"

About EcoHealth Alliance

Building on over 40 years of groundbreaking science, EcoHealth Alliance is a global, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and safeguarding human health from the emergence of disease. The organization develops ways to combat the effects of damaged ecosystems on human and wildlife health. Using environmental and health data covering the past 60 years, EcoHealth Alliance scientists created the first-ever, global disease hotspots map that identified at-risk regions, to help predict and prevent the next pandemic crisis. That work is the foundation of EcoHealth Alliance's rigorous, science-based approach, focused at the intersection of the environment, health, and capacity building. Working in the U.S. and more than 20 countries worldwide, EcoHealth Alliance's strength is founded on innovations in research, training, global partnerships, and policy initiatives. For more information, please visit Twitter: @EcoHealthNYC

EcoHealth Alliance

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