The Great Southern Bioblitz (GSB), like the City Nature Challenge, is an annual citizen science event. During the GSB southern hemisphere countries participate in observing the biodiversity within their cities using the iNaturalist platform. Participants have 4-days to bioblitz and survey (24-27 Nov 2023) and 14 days to upload and identify observations on the iNaturalist platform. Since the inception of the event in 2020, South Africa has remained at the forefront of the leaderboard and this year was no exception – 6 out of the leading 10 cities for number of observations made, 5 for number of species recorded, and 3 of the top number of observers participating were from southern African.

Table 1: Summary the top 10 participants in the 3 GSB measurement categories

Number of observations Number of species Number of observers
1.       Overstrand, south Africa 1.       Cape Town, south Africa 1.       Greater Sydney, Australia
2.       Cape Town, south Africa 2.       Overstrand, south Africa 2.       Cape Town, South Africa
3.       eThekwini, south Africa 3.       Coffs Harbour region, Australia 3.       Tasmania, Australia
4.       Pondoland region, , south Africa 4.       eThekwini, south Africa 4.       Brisbane, Australia
5.       Coffs Harbour region, Australia 5.       Overberg, South Africa 5.        Great Adelaide, Australia
6.       Overberg, South Africa 6.       Northern Rivers NSW, Australia 6.       Canterbury/Waitaha, New Zealand
7.       Nangak Tamboree, Australia 7.       Vale do Itajai, Brazil 7.       Overstrand, South Africa
8.       Vale do Itajai, Brazil 8.       Great sydney, Australia 8.        Auckland/Tamaki-makau-rau, New Zealand
9.       Grande Curitiba, Brazil 9.       Garden Route, South Africa 9.       Quito, Ecuador
10.   Zambezi region, Zambia 10.   Nouvelle-Calédonie, New Caledonia 10.   eThekwini, South Africa

The GSB 2023 event concluded on 14 December with 7238 participants from 203 cities/regions submitting a remarkable 231,040 observations of 26,062 species (including 1,307 species of conservation concern).  However, 63% of observations still requiring an identification. The most-observed species was the Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) and the most-faved observation was the King Protea (Protea cynaroides) which was observed in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Figure 1: Most favourite observations made during the Great Southern Bioblitz, as voted by participants. Click here to view more favourite observations.

The GSB participation spans 3 continents – South America (76 cities), Africa (38 cities) and Oceania (89 cities). Even though Africa had a low participation rate, the 1 lela starlela starjada stevens577 observers made the greatest number of observations (97,495) and recorded 34% of the overall number of species. Oceania had more than 50% of the number of observers (3,693), made 82,585 observations and recorded 40% of species. South America had 1,796 observers, made 41,163 observations and recorded 26% of species.

Figure 2: Heat map showing the distribution of observations for the GSB 2023 umbrella project

Focusing on the African continent, 37 cities/regions/provinces represented 11 countries across southern Africa (Botswana, Eswatini, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). The SANBI iNaturalist team has provided online training to most of the participating countries during the year and shall continue to provide support to increase participation in the region. In South Africa, all provinces except Northern Cape participated and we hope for Hantam National Botanical Gardens to champion the event in the province next year.

A hearty congratulations to all the coordinators, organizers, observers and identifiers, who collectively made the GSB a huge success. Well done to all who have participated for the first time, here’s to more biodiversity monitoring across the southern African landscape.

For more information about the GSB 2023, check out the International project and the GSB Southern Africa project

Authors: Reshmee Brijlal and Suvarna Parbhoo Mohan

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