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Why taxonomy matters
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Implementing the Global Taxonomy Initiative of the CBD
Significant cost savings in road maintenance result from comprehensive taxonomic surveys

Relevant Sector: Civil engineering, Road maintenance, Road Safety

Geographic Location: Namibia; southern Africa

Problem Statement: Namibia has an extensive all weather gravel and surfaced road structure network. In the northern parts of Namibia, where less arid conditions and higher biological diversity prevail, extensive shallow termite burrowing adversely affects the structural integrity of roads. Deterioration of road surfaces due to subsurface collapse leads to road-safety problems, higher maintenance costs and the need to regularly rehabilitate roads.

Methods: A comprehensive survey and taxonomic treatise on Namibian termites was used to provide advice on the species that are likely to be of concern and how to prevent these negative impacts.

Outcomes and Impacts: Following comprehensive taxonomic surveys, contract requirements for road construction in certain areas of Namibia now include provision for extensive treatment of successive layers with persistent pesticides and repellents to reduce burrowing activity by termites, primarily those species that construct extensive, shallow underground galleries. No figures are available to determine cost implications, but the reduced road maintenance costs and greater safety resulting from higher standards of roads have been significant.

Lessons: Comprehensive taxonomic surveys may bring unexpected benefits. Accurate knowledge of species diversity and distribution allowed for an evaluation of the occurrence of species capable of damaging the structural integrity of roads. Problem species should be accurately identified and surveyed to allow the implementation, where necessary, of precautionary steps to counter particular problem species.

Reference: Coaton, W.G.H. & Sheasby, J.L. 1972. Preliminary report on a survey of the termites (Isoptera) of South West Africa. Cimbebasia Memoir 2.

Contact Information: Eugene Marais, Entomology Centre, National Museum of Namibia, P.O.Box 1203, Windhoek. Namibia . email: Tel: +00 264 61 27 68 35. Fax: +00 (264 61) 22 86 36.