History of the Protea Atlas Project
The Protea Atlas Project was launched in November 1991 at the initiative of the Botanical Society of South Africa and championed by the National Botanical Institute. Based at Kirstenbosch, it is funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism and WWF-SA. The project will be formally concluded in 2001 and will culminate in the production of an "Atlas of Proteas" and the handing over of the database to the National Botanical Institute for posterity.
Data are collected by interested amateurs (atlassers). Data include both geographical and ecological information. The unit of area - the Record Locality - is defined by the atlasser as any uniform area, but not exceeding 500 metres in diameter. These areas are identified by their co-ordinates and altitude. Additional habitat data, such as geology and soil, are also noted. Species data - for those species in the record locality - include data on population sizes, flowering, growth and picking. Other data of interest to the atlasser can also be included on the data forms. Details are provided in the Protea Atlas Project Manual.
Atlassers require a good field guide (we recommend Sasol Proteas), a map, a pencil, and an adventurous spirit, although much atlassing is also required in and around Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. Notebooks are provided to assist with data collection.
Findings are communicated to atlassers in a quarterly newsletter Newsletter, annual Interim Distribution Maps, and as requests, queries and clarifications based on the data they have submitted. An electronic data capture programme (Protea Atlas SRS Database, written by Nigel Forshaw) and locality data (WORLDMAP - courtesy of the Natural History Museum, London) are available free to participating atlassers. Data are available free to atlassers to enhance their enjoyment, to bona fide research students and, at a fee, to commercial agents, in the form of species lists per area, flowering times for species, "Life Lists", and in other tailor-made formats.
A total of 252 513 species records from 61 591 Record Localities (December 2002) makes this the premier locality data base for plants in the Cape Floral Kingdom. Some 47 species have been atlassed at more than 1 000 localities, including an alien invader protea, the Silky Needlebush Hakea sericea. To date, eight new species have been discovered by atlassers, one third of all species have had their distribution ranges significantly extended (some by hundreds of kilometres), and two of four "extinct" species has been rediscovered. Data on common names in use are also being compiled.
Some 438 atlassers have provided the data to date. Most collect data on their trips and hikes, but Atlas Special Projects and educational trips have been organised to assist atlassers with learning the techniques and to investigate particular species and areas. Have a look at our atlasser's Achievements and Discoveries.
Courses on Protea Identification, Atlassing and visits to outstanding and remote protea localities are arranged regularly.
Protea Atlas Project Website Launch was held at the National Botancical Institute at Kirstenbosch, Cape Town at a cheese and wine function on 11 March 1998.