South African National Survey of Arachnida (SANSA): review of current knowledge, constraints and future needs for documenting spider diversity (Arachnida: Araneae)
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Biodiversity is one of the most important concepts in contemporary biology, with a broad range of applications. In November 1995, South Africa ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Signatories are obligated to develop a strategic plan for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. To meet the requirements of the CBD, the South African National Survey of Arachnida (SANSA) was initiated in 1997. This national project has several aims: to document and describe the arachnid fauna of South Africa; to consolidate all the available data on South African arachnids into one relational database and to make this biodiversity information available to science; and to address issues concerning their conservation and sustainable use. Extensive sampling took place and the SANSA database contains a wealth of biodiversity data that are used to provide answers to ecological questions. Presently 71 spider families, 471 genera and 2170 species are known from South Africa, representing approximately 4.8% of the world fauna. This paper presents the current state of spider biodiversity information and how it is managed. It demonstrates the importance of running a national inventory; emphasises the significance of using a good database application; and the importance of capacity development to improve the quality and integration of biodiversity information. Further, it shows the role SANSA has played in unifying and strengthening arachnid research, with the major thrust to discover the spider diversity in South Africa. We discuss the present status of knowledge, constraints to improving this, and the future directions for research. SANSA has provided the foundations for a more integrative approach to spider diversity research. Future research should build on this legacy by linking taxonomic diversity with that of functional diversity, predicting the response of this diversity to global change drivers. Functional approaches will link these studies to ecosystem processes. Global collaborative studies at several sites following standardised sampling protocols and focused research questions would add value to the SANSA collection and the importance of spiders for the health of ecosystems.
- RESEARCH: Foord, S