B. Coordinating Efforts
1. Support for research and development of a database
Obviously, this has been accomplished through the establishment of National Biological Laboratory Program that CONABIO runs. It implements these programs by supporting research projects. A good deal of the $3 million a year goes into supporting research projects in the specific areas of great importance either because there are groups very critical to understanding certain aspects of the biogeography of Mexico, or certain areas of the country which are very poorly understood. We need to know more about and have more information about them. This information is put into electronic data graphs which are constantly updated and maintained. This data bank is made available to all members of society.
The design and implementation of a national biodiversity plan for Mexico City requires putting together all the information of all the Mexican museums. Plus, as you will see, adding the data we are getting from all the institutions abroad both in the U.S. and also in Europe. This information comes from watching the development of projects that focus on sustainable use, either potential or actual, of resources within the communities that own the areas. The majority are indigenous communities or rural communities. CONABIO advises the government on how to make decisions in terms of allowing or not allowing concessions to take place, or establishing new reserves or new protective areas, etc. Finally CONABIO gives information to social groups and teachers, research people who are working in Mexico and want to do some research on using the databases.
2. Working Together
Going back to what I was telling you about putting together the people and institutions who are working very much in contrast to what happens for many other things in Mexico. Mexico is an extremely centralized country (like many underdeveloped countries are). Everything happens in Mexico City. You have to go to Mexico City to do everything. But in this case, for some reason, for historical reasons, the institutions and people who work on ecological studies (on plants or animals) are much better located geographically in the country than many other things. So, we have institutions that work in these areas, are fairly well distributed in the country, and, as you can see have a good number of people.
This is the case for zoological collections. Each one of these has at least two or three taxonomies. Some of them have up to 50 or 60 taxonomies. That is working well. It is not just a recent phenomenon. This goes back to the last century of the history of this nation. The history tells you the kind of tradition that has been in doing this type of work in Mexico. So, that really helps a lot to carry out an effort of this nature and this magnitude.
3. Verifying Information
One of the most important things of CONABIO is checking the quality of the information and getting the data bank. Not a single Latin binomial gets into the database, if not vouched for by a specialist in the group. Obviously, the whole system that we are going to see is specimen based. The whole database bank is built around specimens that are in a number of museums. Of those specimens, we always check that it's the correct name for the organism and second, as you are going to see, providing the reference.
So, the many specialists that we have in the country, plus those which collaborate with us from outside Mexico, helps us to maintain and update this data bank which is of great quality. If we have any doubt, that information doesn't get into the data bank. The specimens are held in various institutions. We don't have any specimens. You won't find a sheep in CONABIO or a preserved bird or a lizard. They are in the places that they ought to be. Obviously, taxonomists become a crucial element here. We are fortunate enough to have a decent number of them.
This helps us to construct and catalogue some historical files, and to compile the literature on which the classifications and the database regulations are based. These are incorporated within the system called BIOTICA (developed by CONABIO) to which all the taxonomists have access. They are using this as their tool of work so they are constantly updating the information.