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The Missing Second Phase

Protea Atlas LogoThe second phase of the Protea Atlas Project that we were anticipating did not materialize. What all was involved and can we still not do it? Nigel Forshaw

The first phase was amateur collection of data. The third phase is data analyses. The purpose of the second phase was to collate data from the first phase and utilize both trained botanists and the skilled amateurs from the first phase to bring the project to a fitting conclusion: The second phase had the following objectives.

  • Atlassers have sent in some data that are suspect. These currently amount to 1.8% of SRS sent in or 0.4% of species records. These sites need to be visited, the problem assessed, the database corrected, and herbarium records collected, if required. Some of these are incorrect identifications, some may be range extensions and some even new subspecies or species.
  • Included in the suspect data above are several species complexes that require sorting. These are due to inadequate taxonomic circumscription of species - usually due to new populations discovered by atlassers. These include: Pa lagopus / bracteolaris; Pa esterhuysenii / dregei; Pr acaulos / laevis / revoluta; Ld pubibracteolatum / tinctum / "touwsrivierensis"; and Ld loeriense / uliginosum; Se millefolia on Gifberg. These require herbarium specimens from new areas and problem areas, allowing the status of these taxa to be reassessed. In situ notes on field features need to be taken for these groups as some of them cannot apparently be tackled purely from herbarium material.
  • The following new taxa require additional herbarium records. For the description and delimitation of the species: Ld crassifolius, Ld "touwsrivierenses", Pa nova, and Pa spathulatus "gamka". For documenting new populations discovered since description: Ld osbornei and Se rebeloi.
  • Over two thirds of species have had new populations or significant range extensions discovered. Many of these require herbarium specimens. This is to document the characters of the extreme populations that often contain unusual features.
  • Atlassers have noted (as Additional Remarks) many interesting features, odd plants, colour forms and hybrids. Many of these require herbarium specimens.
  • Related to the taxonomy of the proteas, is the new DNA lab. Atlassers and botanists were to collect fresh material of the other genera for Dr Gail Reeves to analyze.
  • There are still entire mountains and sections of mountains that have not been atlassed. This may be because there are no proteas there, or only a few species. Not all of these are high, easily accessible or exciting. These should be visited and records obtained.
  • There are mountains for which we have some data, but which are worthy of further exploration. However, without further analyses of data we cannot be certain if the effort will be worthwhile.

The biggest question is why was Phase Two not overlapped with Phase One. It made sense to tackle these problems during the final stages of the project for various reasons.

  • We would have more data, allowing for efficient planning of collecting herbarium records. Herbarium records should be of flowering material – and we have more data on flowering times. This applies especially to the rarer species which tend to occur in fewer, less accessible areas. A few sorties would have captured most of the material we need.
  • It takes time to collate and analyze these data and this was to have been done towards the end of Phase One. The unexpected closure of the project meant that this could not be completed in time to be of use during Phase Two.
  • By employing a botanist and enlisting a few of the top atlassers in the task of collecting herbarium data, we could more easily apply for specific permits and allay the fears of conservation authorities and landowners regarding indiscriminate collecting.
  • Regarding the closing of gaps, this has been tackled by atlassers and advertised in the newsletters. However, many of the under-atlassed areas have not been visited for logistical and access reasons. Tackling such areas at the end of the project would have allowed us to overcome such problems, if necessary, by helicoptering teams into remote areas or persuading recalcitrant landowners to allow access.

Atlassers can contribute to the Second Phase by helping sort out the queries, by electronically submitting data, and by helping in other ways. Please see our web page or PAN 50 for more details.

Tony Rebelo

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