South African Journal of Science
On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
Print version ISSN 0038-2353
The first Southern African Bird Atlas Project Project was launched in 1986 and gathered bird distribution data from six countries of southern Africa. The project culminated with the publication of The Atlas of Southern African Birds in 1997. The database generated by the project, seven million bird distribution records, has been widely used by four groups: environmental consultants (for example, to locate electricity transmission lines), conservationists (planning conservation strategies), research scientists (especially macro-ecologists and biogeographers) and birders (ecotourism materials). By 2007, the database had spawned 50 research publications and eight Ph.D.s and master's degrees. These products are a tribute to the more than 5000 'citizen scientists', who gathered the bulk of the data. The atlas concept has been extended to frogs, reptiles, spiders and butterflies; a second bird atlas started in 2007 and will, for example, facilitate knowledge of the impact of environmental change on birds. The South African National Biodiversity Institute is playing a lead role in initiating these new projects.