Interim Distribution Maps - Zimbabwe
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This is the first Interim Distribution Map for the proteas of Zimbabwe. Hopefully the next edition will look nothing like it.
First of all, we have hardly any data. Only four atlassers have contributed 40 record localities of proteas for the whole country. The next edition hopefully early in 2000 if the demand exists will have a far more realistic pattern of distribution of the countrys proteas. To our four pioneers John Burrows (5 locality records or Sight Record Sheets), Benedicta Graves (13 SRS), Mervyn Lotter (5 SRS), and Peter Ross (17 SRS) thanks for the start. Nor have we included the herbarium data in this edition. We will try to rectify this in the next edition.
Secondly, we have some taxonomical conundrums. John Beard classified Africas proteas into many species. John Rourke sunk them. Chisumpa, Brummit and Serena Marner have to a large degree followed John Rourkes ideas. However, from undercurrents, local Zimbabweans are unhappy with the current taxonomical circumscriptions. There is no point in complaining about the ignorance of South African and Kewish botanists, and their lack of understanding of Zimbabwean proteas. There is only one solution: those who know the proteas must convince those who are attempting a classification as to the current state of affairs.
However, the problem is not a simple one. Zimbabwean proteas evolved in an African context. Thus Protea caffra at one time spread from the Drakensberg up through the rift valley to Kenya. That cannot be disputed. When this occurred is a matter of conjecture. Currently, populations descended from this stock remain at Kilimanjaro, Mt Mulanje, Mafinga, Chimanimani and the Drakensberg, to name a few localities. Whether these are regarded as species or subspecies is to a large degree a matter of opinion. For some, the long isolation of these populations (but is it 10000 years or 10 million?) warrants full species status. For others, the high degree of similarity between them causes problems even at the level of separating them. What is unhealthy is the lack of enough taxonomists to deal with these issues. However, even if a dozen taxonomists worked simultaneously on the group, would such issues ever be resolved?
What is clear, is that the issue will never be resolved without suitable data. Herbarium records form the backbone of any such study. Just as important are good distribution records. But most important is the local expertise, the people with the strong opinions, the people who know the flora. This expertise will shape and pace the understanding of the flora. And with current levels of funding, these amateurs may well become the field collectors and taxonomists required to complete the task of cataloging, conserving and understanding our flora.
The Protea Atlas Project aims to encourage amateur involvement in botany. In order not to stand on sensitive taxonomical toes, we will concern ourselves primarily with the mapping of the proteas. We hope that this study will be viewed as a pilot study, to provide an incentive to other atlassing projects, such as trees, grasses or some other interesting or economically important taxa.
Specifically, we hope to show that not all atlas projects need be based on grid squares, and that lots of interesting information can be site based, and reliably mapped at scales much finer than large mapping units. Of course, there is definitely a need for such studies, especially from a pragmatic viewpoint of insufficient amateurs to collect fine-scale data.