The Second Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) is the most important bird conservation project in the region. It holds this status because all other conservation initiatives depend on the results of the bird atlas, to a greater or lesser extent. You cannot determine the conservation status of a species unless you know its range and how this is changing. So red-listing depends on the results of this project. So does the selection of sites and habitats critical to bird conservation. SABAP2 is the follow-up project to the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (for which the acronym was SABAP, and which is now referred to as SABAP1). This first bird atlas project took place from 1987-1991. The second bird atlas project started on 1 July 2007 and plans to run indefinitely. The current project is a joint venture between the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town, BirdLife South Africa and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The project aims to map the distribution and relative abundance of birds in southern Africa and the atlas area includes South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. SABAP2 was launched in Namibia in May 2012.
The field work for this project is done by more than one thousand seven hundred volunteers, known as citizen scientists - they are making a huge contribution to the conservation of birds and their habitats. The unit of data collection is the pentad, five minutes of latitude by five minutes of longitude, squares with sides of roughly 9 km. There are 17339 pentads in the original atlas area of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, and a further 10600 in Namibia and 4900 in Zimbabawe.
By the end of June 2015, the SABAP2 database contained nearly 130000 checklists. The milestone of six million records of bird distribution in the SABAP2 database was reached on 30 October 2014, and seven million is within sight, and it looks like it will take a month or two less than a year. It took almost exactly a year to get from five million to six million, the fastest million records ever. More than 72% of the original SABAP2 atlas area (ie South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland) has at least one checklist at this stage in the project's development. This information is updated continuously on the project website.
The most pressing data collection needs are to get coverage as complete as possible, and to try to build a foundation of four checklists per pentad. On top of this foundation the skyscraper of checklists can be built. Ideally, we would like checklists representing every month of the year. We would also like to have lots of checklists for each pentad in every year.
SABAP2 is on track for a record year. If we maintain the present rate of data collection, we will reach 31 December 2014 with somewhere between 19500 and 20000 full protocol checklists submitted during the year. A superhuman effort will take SABAP2 beyound 20000 checklists. The previous best year was 2010, with 18364 checklists.
Here is an update on the current SABAP2 priorities.
(1) Please maintain “sustainable atlasing.” We cannot afford for you to suffer “burn-out.” Please keep on atlasing at the pace you enjoy doing it. We need you in 2015.
(2) Please recruit new atlasers, teach them the protocol and get them involved. We are NOT near the END of the project, we are near the BEGINNING. We need everyone on board. Atlasing is easier than it has ever been with Lynx Birdticks (Android) and BirdLasser (iPhone). See their Facebook pages. Getting other people to help with the atlasing effort is the best way to get to 20000 checklists this year!
(3) There is no pentad for which we have “enough” data.
(4) Please treat any pentad with fewer than four full-protocol checklists as a top priority pentad.
(5) The top priority remains carefully produced full protocol checklists – a minimum of two hours of intensive birding within a pentad which aims to produce as comprehensive a list as feasible of the species present in the pentad.
(6) If you are able to travel, please help fill the major gaps in coverage. Try to participate in gap-filling expeditions. Even better, take courage, and organize an expedition yourself. There is a map showing where the current target areas are at this news item
(7) If you are in an area where data coverage is poor, and you have the opportunity to make even a short list of species for a few minutes, please submit the records as an ad hoc list.
(8) If you have seen a single species which you know is rare in a pentad (or might not yet have been observed), please submit it as an incidental record. If in doubt, submit.
(9) If a pentad has not yet been atlased in 2014, treat it as a priority. Try to get 2014 coverage up to four checklists in as many pentads as feasible.
(10) Please be careful. Please ask permission before you venture onto private land. Please don’t atlas and drive at the same time.
(11) If you have a collection of "Out of Range Forms" (ORFs) please make a resolution to deal with them.
(12) Please try to be an Ambassador for Biodiversity. How do you answer this question: “How does my participation SABAP2 make a difference for biodiversity conservation?”?
(13) Please try to recruit new atlasers. Mentoring is a powerful tool in bringing new atlasers on board. We need to share the workload out more broadly
(14) There are two more ADU Citizen Scientist Days before the end of 2014. Cape Flats Nature Reserve, University of Western Cape, in Bellville on Saturday, 25 October, and Pretoria National Botanic Gardens on Saturday 6 December. The programmes include bird atlas feedback. We are planning to visit lots of other centres next year, with the Eastern Cape in January more or less sorted out. Please register your intention to attend here.
(15). Most important, your participation needs to be something that you enjoy doing.
The power of Citizen Science is that we are able to collect data on scales otherwise unimaginable. During October SABAP2 reached an awesome six million records. This data, collected by atlasers, is conservation critical. The distribution maps we are generating show exactly where species actually occur, rather than where they are thought to occur, or even where the models produced by statisticians predicts them to occur.
Team SABAP2 continues to beaver away at unprecedented levels. The number of checklists submitted in October was a record 2213. Next best was the previous month, September, with 1879. Then to find the third best month you need to go all the back to November 2010, with 1833 checklists. To put the increase in perspective, the average from January to August this year was 1534 checklists per month and 1447 for the whole of last year. October was festival month for SABAP2!
November has started with a bang! Checklists continue to pour in. On the first three days of November, in spite of a bout of loadshedding, the rate of checklist submission continues at the October rate of 71 checklists per day.
There are three challenges on the go, and it is as well to review them with two months to. Top performer has been the Greater Gauteng challenge. We have already exceeded our target of 3456 checklists for the region. We should reset our aim higher, and go for 125% of target, 4320 checklists.
There are now only 82 pentads out of the 576 without a checklist. We have statistical analysis in view for which gaps in data is a showstopper. So we would be hugely grateful if the Greater Gauteng section of Team SABAP2 pulled out all the stops and got to every pentad this year. Second priority is to get a second checklist for the 194 pentads with only one checklist made in 2014.
The Greater Kruger National Park challenge has, at this stage, visited 349 different pentads in the region, just one short of the target of 350. 89% of the target of 1250 checklists has been made. No problems here.
The Western Cape is falling behind the clock. The targets here were set as reaching the same data volumes as in 2013. 84% of 2014 is behind us. 83% of the target of 700 pentads have had at least one visit. 82% of the target of 2500 checklists have been made, so 452 remain. So this is a gentle plea to atlasers in the Western Cape to roll up their sleeves and get this year’s contribution to SABAP2 up to 2013 levels! There is still time to get back on track.
During November, the arrival of Palearctic migrants continues. Let us continue to atlas as diligently this month as we did last month!
Thank you all for your amazing dedication and commitment to SABAP2.
Six million records in the SABAP2 database. Team SABAP2, you have got from five million to six million in two days less than a year. The previous millions have all taken about 13 months (apart from the first, which took two years!).
We are steadily building not only the start-of-the-21st-century distribution maps, but we are also getting enough data on an annual basis to start thinking about mapping changes in bird distribution continuously. No one, nowhere, has come close to achieving this!
Well done, Team SABAP2. Seven million, here we come.
|Latest cards submitted (in order of submission)|
|a||2015-08-01||2545_2720||Clacey, Mike & Chibby||31|
|f||2015-07-27||3400_2145||Viljoen, Christiaan Johannes||0|
|f||2015-08-01||2510_3155||le Grange, Jaap||56|
|Gauteng 4DY and 3456 in 2015|
Get all 576 pentads in the four degrees of 'Greater Gauteng' to YELLOW in 2015
Get 3456 checklists in total (average of 6 lists per pentad!)
|Pentad with 0 cards||134||23.26%|
|Pentad with 1 or more cards||442||76.74%|
|Pentad with 2 or more cards||273||47.40%|
|Pentad with 3 or more cards||182||31.60%|
|Pentad with 4 or more cards||139||24.13%|
|Total cards submitted in 2015||2977|
|Total percentage submitted in 2015||86.14%|
|Greater Kruger National Park in 2015|
|Area East of 31°E and North of 26°S contains 446 pentads. The challenge for 2015 is to visit 400 pentads and make 1500 checklists.|
|For more detailed data, go to Challenge data|
|Pentad with 0 cards||2||8 cards needed|
|Pentad with 1 card||20||5.00%||60 cards needed|
|Pentad with 2 cards||30||7.50%||60 cards needed|
|Pentad with 3 cards||26||6.50%||26 cards needed|
|Pentad with 4 or more cards||369||92.25%||0 cards needed|
|Total cards submitted in 2015||1089|
|Total cards needed by 30 December 2016 to reach goal||154|
|Total percentage submitted in 2015||72.60%|
|Western Cape challenge 2015|
|Get 700 pentads and 2500 cards in the Western Cape in 2015|
|Pentad with 1 or more cards||461||65.86%|
|Pentad with 2 or more cards||226||32.29%|
|Pentad with 3 or more cards||141||20.14%|
|Pentad with 4 or more cards||101||14.43%|
|Total cards submitted in 2015||1509|
|Percentage of target||60.36%|