Six decades to survey East Africa’s flora

first_imgThe primeval Bwindi forests are home to many of the continent’s gorillas. (Image: Wikimedia Commons) The completed series of the Flora of Tropical East Africa.(Image: Dr Henk Beentje) The newly described Solanum polhillii Voronts., a type of wild spiny aubergine named after botanist Roger Polhill, is restricted to partly shaded limestone savanna habitats sheltered from herbivory. (Image: Dr Maria Vorontsova, Kew) MEDIA CONTACTS • Bronwyn Friedlander  PR manager, Kew  +44 20 8332 5607 or +44 788 195 3420 RELATED ARTICLES • Kirstenbosch best place to picnic • Kew shows Africa’s plant wealth • Mount Mabu yields hidden bounty • EC to get first botanical garden • Teaching people to work with natureJanine ErasmusAn epic survey of the flora of tropical East Africa is now complete, 60 years after it began.The study was initiated in 1948 by scientists from the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, and is known as Flora of Tropical East Africa (FTEA).The survey covered over 12 000 plant species from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, in habitats ranging from desert to wetland, and at altitudes from sea level to the continent’s highest point – this equates to about 4% of the world’s flora.The Eastern Arc Mountains in Kenya and Tanzania – a chain that starts in the northeast near Mount Kilimanjaro and continues down almost as far as Zambia – the lush coastal forests of Tanzania and Kenya, and the region from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park across Lake Victoria to the largely untouched Bwindi rainforests in Uganda were areas of particular interest, as they are renowned for the high diversity of both flora and fauna.The Kew Drylands: Africa team, which managed the project and works in 16 sub-Saharan countries, claims the FTEA is the largest regional floral survey ever completed.Over 1 500 of the species uncovered were new to science, according to Kew, and in the last four years alone 114 of this number were described.The first FTEA data were published in 1952, and the final parts of the catalogue were eventually revealed in September 2012.The latter stages of the project were overseen by Dutch botanist Henk Beentje, who also served as current editor of the series. He said at the launch in September of the final volume, that the catalogue is of vital importance not only to conservationists, but to those who work in the fields of forestry, agriculture, horticulture, and wildlife management – now and in the future.With deforestation an ever-present threat, conflicts often arise over the use of land for agriculture versus natural plant growth, Beentje said, and more often than not the natural plant growth will generally lose the fight.“There’s not much we can do about it, except keep conservationists informed as to how to identify the plant, where the plant grows, what its biggest threats are, and how to combat the threats.”Breaking new scientific groundThe project’s original duration was thought to be around 15 years, but scientists soon realised that cataloguing the larger plant families would take time. They also realised that the area’s floral richness and the total number of species growing there had been sorely underestimated, and that a new system of collecting was needed.Now, 60 years later, say the Kew team, the East African area is one of the best collected regions, in terms of floral samples, on the continent – thanks to a large pool of contributors from, among other countries, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Egypt, Denmark, Zimbabwe, Spain and Poland.The completed survey is invaluable in that it provides checklists of the area’s plant diversity, offers scientists a solid taxonomic base from which to work, and is an important source of data for conservation purposes as it pinpoints the species that are endemic to small areas as well as the areas of high botanical diversity.Besides the contributors from Britain and 20 other countries – 135 authors in total – the work is extensively illustrated by 211 artists. In addition, said Beentje, many more people, including locals, have received training in scientific techniques.“Now all further work on the wild plants of this region will be built on a solid foundation,” he said. “Not just botanical work, but work on local uses by local people, ecology, vegetation work, zoology and, of course, conservation.”The Kew team is also working on a similar project involving Southern African flora, titled Flora Zambesiaca.last_img read more

The Data Lies and You Believe It

first_imgThere has been a shift in focus over the last decade. As more and more data is generated, more and more we look to the data. Our attention is spent sifting through the information to understand something. The more data, the more information and allegedly, more insights and deeper understanding. With so much data available, we build dashboards to display it in ways that provide a measurement at any given time.The Map Is Not the TerrainYou can learn a lot by looking at the map. But you get a real sense of a place by walking the streets, dining in the local restaurants, and spending time speaking to natives in the small cafes. The map, which, while providing direction, provides very little understanding.Data, Analytics, and Business Intelligence are all important capabilities but they do nothing to change the outcomes they provide. To make meaningful change, you must shift your focus from the data to the course of that data.Not What Does It Say but What Do I Need to DoYour dashboard tells you that the bottom 20 percent of your people are struggling to create any new opportunities. The data clearly shows that they are way behind on their numbers and their activity is too low to produce the result they need. You, recognizing the pattern, demand more activity. The map is clear, as is the direction, as far as you are concerned.However, were you to shift your attention away from the data and towards the individuals that make up that bottom 20 percent, you might discover that a number of them are very capable, but also very lazy. These people need to do more work. You might also find that a few of them are not salespeople at all, but really account managers at best, customer service at worst. They lack the attributes, skills, and desire to be a good salesperson. A person or two could have excellent raw material, the kind of natural attributes that could make them a top performer, but for their lack of training and leadership and development.The idea of that data telling only part of the story is true for the top performers as well. Two of the top ten reps inherited large accounts that happened to grow on their watch. They are no more responsible for that growth than the man on the moon. Another two believe they are great reps, but they are in excellent territories with a brand that is so desirable that it covers up their lack of skills. You might also have one or two that take their sales manager (that’d be you) to every major sales call and haven’t won a deal on their own in the entire time they have been in your employ.You Change the Data by Changing the InputsThe data gives you a starting point to look and discover the “why” to go with the “what” provided by the objective information. Once you know the “why,” you can begin to take action to do something to change the data in the future. But to do this, you might have to step out from behind the monitor and the dashboard. Essential Reading! Get my 3rd book: Eat Their Lunch “The first ever playbook for B2B salespeople on how to win clients and customers who are already being serviced by your competition.” Buy Nowlast_img read more