Rapid biodiversity assessment is a means of quickly collecting information on the species present in a given area. Rapid biodiversity assessment differs from other biodiversity assessment approaches because it is done quickly, often with the aim of providing information to guide conservation action. Conservation decision-making is usually done on a time frame that is much more urgent that many scientific studies and thus data needed to inform these decisions must be made available as quickly as possible. The typical time frame for CI’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) is: Field survey of 4-6 weeks, with 5-7 days surveying per site; Preliminary report published within 2 months of field survey; Final report (with species lists) published about one year after field survey.
In general, rapid biodiversity assessment involves conducting a survey or inventory of the species of an area. The assessment could focus on one taxonomic group, such as birds or plants. A multi-taxa terrestrial assessment would survey more than one taxonomic group, most typically: plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and select invertebrate groups such as ants, butterflies, dragonflies, orthoptera, beetles, and land crabs. (See Planning a Survey for more information on choosing taxonomic groups to survey). In additional to the species list, scientists doing a survey can also collect information on habitat condition, disturbances, and the biology of the species they are surveying (see Results of a Survey).
Rapid biodiversity assessment is not an exhaustive inventory and will not record every species in an area. A longer term inventory or monitoring program will add more species to the list. How complete a species list through rapid biodiversity assessment depends on the skills of the scientist doing the survey, the methods used, and the length of time in the field. Thus careful thought must go into planning and implementing an assessment. Like any biodiversity assessment, rapid biodiversity assessment can only report what species have been detected and recorded as present in the area. It cannot tell you what species are definitely not there.