Wednesday, August 1, 2012

9 Great Biodiversity Resources

Biodiversity Resources, US Botanical Garden
From the US Botanical Garden, listed in the
CSIRO's enormously  useful database

Want to delve a little deeper into the world of biodiversity but don’t know where to start? Here are some biodiversity resources to help you out, to educate you and to tune you in to the living world.

  • The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia’s science agency, maintains an incredible database of all things biodiverse. The database is organized into categories starting with General Zoology, then lists of resources for individual phyla, plants, algae, prokaryotes and viruses
  • The Encyclopedia of Life gives “global access to knowledge about life on Earth”. Put your favorite animal in the search box and see what comes up. You can also browse or create collections, rate photos and contribute specialized knowledge. So far, the encyclopedia has 1.1 million pages and counting! See the variety of tools and activities by visiting their explore biodiversity page.
  •  The Tree of Life provides information about our evolutionary tree of life. It has been growing since 1994 and its goal is to have a page of images, text and video of every species on Earth. You can explore the tree by looking at images and movies of different groups, browse popular pages, check out some user-made treehouses or live dangerously and go to a random page
  • The Arkive is a comprehensive multi-media guide to the world’s endangered animals, plants and fungi. You can search for species by species group, eco-region, geography or conservation status. If you don’t know where to start, just go to the explore page and select a random species!
  • The IUCN Redlist is widely recognized as the most comprehensive database for describing the conservation status of threatened animals and plants. Check out their photo gallery for 2012. Try putting in your own favorite animal into the search box, like the gray wolf, or bluefin tuna and see what comes up. You’ll get information on taxonomy, geographic range (be sure to open the map), habitat and ecology, population, threats, conservation actions and a bibliography for more information.
  • The US Fish and Wildlife service is the principal federal partner for administering the Endangered Species Act and they maintain a great site about US endangered species and I recently wrote about the site here. Try launching the interactive map to find endangered species in your state or simply search the database (by species, state or county). Again, try putting in “gray wolf” or your other favorite species and see what comes up. If I put Massachusetts into the search box I see that three species of beetle are endangered here, four species of turtles, sturgeon, terns, plovers, wedgemussels and five species of whales. I also find out that the gray wolf used to be found in Massachusetts because it’s listed here but is  no longer found here.
  • Again in North America, try the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History tool for North American Mammals. Skip the “Map Search” (which doesn’t seem to be working) and go to “Enhanced Map Search (BETA). You can left-click on any region to get a list of species or you can search for a species, or you can toggle orders, families and species by checking and unchecking the appropriate boxes. See my previous description here for additional things to try.
  • Or try the new Mapping Life tool, which allows you to map and produce lists of species for about 25,000 species worldwide, including all described birds, mammals and amphibians. See the Dashboard for information on the various lists. Try right-clicking on a map region to get a list of all species that are found at that location. Or put in a species like the piping plover, gray wolf or grizzly bear and look at the Expert Range Map. Very cool.
  • If you don’t want to explore individual species, how about exploring protected areas? Now you can enter your favorite national park and get a list of which species you expect to find there. The database presently contains amphibians and mammals; birds will be added within a year. Once you have entered a protected area in the search box, you can filter the display according to the IUCN’s threatened categories. Try putting in Yellowstone or go further afield and examine the fauna of Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park, Tanzania’s Ngorogoro Conservation Area, or China’s Huanglong World Heritage Site.

Do you have a favorite biodiversity tool or resource not listed here? Please share in the comments below. 


  1. I really like your website, and I hope you will write more, thanks for your information. Biodiversity conservation ensures conservation of wild plant gene pool to augment the narrow genetic base, provide disease resistance, improve productivity, and environmental tolerance of established food crops.

    1. thanks for the encouragement -- it's good to know about your business: