Understanding biodiversity

Main screen of the Atta system

How many species of Costa Rica’s biodiversity are known? How many of them have been described in detail?

Only by conducting continuous research, generating precise information and properly processing it, can we obtain the answers to such questions.

In 2001, INBio inaugurated its website on the Internet, providing the public with free access to the Atta information system. This flexible and user-friendly system offers access to information on some 2.5 million specimens and more than 20,000 species.

Atta usa tecnologías como bases de datos relacionales, sistemas de información geográfica y multimedios, integrates relational, geographic and multimedia databases, under a client/server architecture, accessible from local networks, which can be consulted through the World Wide Web; its electronic address is http://www.inbio.ac.cr/atta

The advantages and volume of systematized information offered by Atta make it an extremely useful tool, which gathers, validates, organizes and presents information on Costa Rica’s biodiversity, assigning a unique bar code to each specimen collected. This code contains information on the place and date of collection, the collector responsible, field notes and the number of the sample.

Every day, new data on our national biodiversity is incorporated into the Atta system, including information on the specimens and their taxonomic identification, with full color pictures and details of their natural history. Information is also included on the loan of specimens from the collections to other national and international institutions. At the same time, efforts are under way to further integrate Atta into the Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

One of INBio’s main goals is to become a library on biodiversity, where information on Nature is catalogued and disseminated to create a greater awareness of the importance of living in harmony with our environment. As part of this effort, INBio also organizes educational activities on conservation and the rational use of natural resources.

The formats employed to achieve these goals are many and varied, as is the public to whom they are directed. In the case of Atta, this flexible information system is extremely useful to those who require summarized information on specific topics or particular details related to the collection, as well a those who are developing applications for bioprospecting or who wish to expand their knowledge of biodiversity, whether they are primary or high school students, university students, scientists, decision-makers, journalists, business people or tourists.

Another of Atta’s great technical and strategic achievements is its integration into the World Biodiversity Information Network (REMIB), coordinated by the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) of Mexico. This is the first time that two databases from different countries, with such a large volume of information –more than four million records in total– have been joined together through a system of distributed access to information.

In 2001, an average of 12,000 daily “hits” or visits to the INBio website were recorded. This figure includes visits to INBio’s mirror sites on the websites of the University of Alberta (Canada) and the Missouri Botanical Garden. About 80% of these “hits” correspond to Atta’s information on species and specimens (the UBIs).

  Geographic context

Search screen for the Atta system.

Processing information on biodiversity has many aspects, among them the above-mentioned Geographic Information System (GIS). During 2001, the Ecomapas project contributed to the institution’s GIS through the creation of:

• A final digital map of the Osa Conservation Area (ACOSA), which is used by officials of the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC).

• 15 final digital maps of the Savegre River Basin, used for land use planning in that area.

• 90% of the final digital map of the La Amistad-Pacifico Conservation Area (ACLA-P).

• 50% of the preliminary digital map of La Amistad-Caribe Conservation Area (ACLA-C).

• 100% of the database on the floristic composition of ACOSA, 90% of the database on the floristic composition of ACLAP and 100% of the database on the floristic composition of ACOPAC.

• 100% of the databases of digital photographs of the ecosystems of ACOSA and the Savegre River Basin.

• 90% of the databases with digital photographs of ACLAP and ACOPAC.

• Printing of 15 final maps of the Savegre River Basin, to the scale of 1:25.000.

• 90% of a book on the ecosystems of ACOSA and the Savegre River Basin, and 40% of another similar publication relating to ACLAP.

This work is complemented with other phases associated with the electronic processing of information, such as multimedia and the INBio website.

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