The idea behind an All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory is quite simple. If we want to be good stewards of our environment and keep the world around us healthy and vibrant, we need to understand the web of biodiversity. The information we need - how many species live in an environment, what jobs these species do, how they interact with each other - is mostly unknown.
An ATBI seeks to discover that crucial information. A brainchild of renowned ecologist Dan Janzen, the first ATBI was supposed to take place in the rainforests of northwest Costa Rica. Due to bureaucratic difficulties, however, the location was changed to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Although most explanations of an ATBI stress that it is an effort to identify all the species of life in a given area, that is not quite an accurate picture. An ATBI is more than just a checklist of species names. It is a complex and living database of species locations, habitats, genetic diversity, population density, symbiotic relationships, and predator-prey interactions. It is a cooperative effort between expert scientists specializing in all different forms of life. It is a way to discover new species in need of protection, to identify new threats in time to act, and to understand how to protect a complex and valuable ecosystem like the Smoky Mountains.
Since Discover Life in America and the National Park Service organized this first ATBI, many like it have sprung up all over the United States and the World. Visit the ATBI Alliance website for links to different projects from Maine to Texas that are carrying on the work that we have started here.