Plant Diversity ›› 2024, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (01): 39-48.DOI: 10.1016/j.pld.2023.06.003

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How to fill the biodiversity data gap: Is it better to invest in fieldwork or curation?

Carlos A. Vargasa,b, Marius Bottinc, Tiina Sarkinend, James E. Richardsona,d,e, Marcela Celisf, Boris Villanuevab, Adriana Sancheza   

  1. a. Programa de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá, D.C., Colombia;
    b. Subdirección Científica, Jardín Botánico de Bogotá “José Celestino Mutis”, Bogotá, D.C., Colombia;
    c. Independent Researcher, Bogotá, D.C., Colombia;
    d. Tropical Diversity Section, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, UK;
    e. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland;
    f. Departamento de Química y Biología, Universidad del Norte, Km. 5 Vía Puerto Colombia, Área Metropolitana de Barranquilla 081007, Colombia
  • Received:2022-11-21 Revised:2023-06-05 Online:2024-01-25 Published:2024-03-02
  • Contact: Carlos A. Vargas,
  • Supported by:
    We are grateful to all the collaborators and contributors of Jardín Botánico de Bogotá (Proyecto flora de Bogotá) specially Diego Moreno, manager of Flora de Bogotá database. We would like to thank the group “Genética evolutiva, filogeografía y ecología de biodiversidad Neotropical” and the High-Performance Computing service of the Universidad del Rosario for hosting our PostgreSQL database on their servers. This study would not have been possible without the support of MinCiencias Doctoral funds and the support of Universidad del Rosario. We would also like to thank Iván Jiménez (curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden) for his valuable comments on the document, and to Domingos Cardoso and an anonymous reviewer for their valuable comments to the manuscript. This project was supported by Colciencias Doctoral funding (727–2015) and Universidad del Rosario, through a teaching assistantship and a doctoral grant.

Abstract: Data gaps and biases are two important issues that affect the quality of biodiversity information and downstream results. Understanding how best to fill existing gaps and account for biases is necessary to improve our current information most effectively. Two current main approaches for obtaining and improving data include (1) curation of biological collections, and (2) fieldwork. However, the comparative effectiveness of these approaches in improving biodiversity data remains little explored. We used the Flora de Bogotá project to study the magnitude of change in species richness, spatial coverage, and sample coverage of plant records based on curation versus fieldwork. The process of curation resulted in a decrease in species richness (synonym and error removal), but it significantly increased the number of records per species. Fieldwork contributed to a slight increase in species richness, via accumulation of new records. Additionally, curation led to increases in spatial coverage, species observed by locality, the number of plant records by species, and localities by species compared to fieldwork. Overall, curation was more efficient in producing new information compared to fieldwork, mainly because of the large number of records available in herbaria. We recommend intensive curatorial work as the first step in increasing biodiversity data quality and quantity, to identify bias and gaps at the regional scale that can then be targeted with fieldwork. The stepwise strategy would enable fieldwork to be planned more cost-effectively given the limited resources for biodiversity exploration and characterization.

Key words: Colombia, Flora de Bogotá, Sample coverage, Species richness, Tropical Andes