Photo by Anton Van de Putte licensed under CC BY 4.0

June 10, 2024

OBIS and GBIF endorse joint strategy and action plan for marine biodiversity data

Technical collaboration and capacity building activities to support shared objectives and ensure free and open access to comprehensive information about life in and around the world’s oceans

Two global data networks have agreed to a joint strategy and action plan that will deepen their collaboration, improve the flows and services of high-quality data about marine and coastal biodiversity, and support research and decision-making on the world’s oceans.

Leveraging their 2020 collaboration agreement, OBIS—the Ocean Biodiversity Information System—and GBIF—the Global Biodiversity Information Facility—will focus on wider technical collaboration and shared capacity-building activities. The combined actions will extend and deepen the partnership by increasing cross-network cooperation while maintaining both communities’ identities and reinforcing their capacity to fulfil their respective mandates.

“We expect this renewed commitment to our partnership will promote direct collaboration between GBIF and OBIS nodes at every scale, from national to regional to global,” said Ward Appeltans, OBIS programme manager. “Both organizations share similar objectives as well as similar challenges. Time has come to help each other and deliver as one community to advance science and policy.“

The focus on marine biodiversity includes data for all taxa listed in the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), which provides a comprehensive, authoritative list of names of marine organisms along with information on synonyms. The plan aims to increase the availability of additional data for these taxa through, and their associated services.

Originally called the Ocean Biogeographic Information System and founded in May 2000 under the Census of Marine Life, OBIS is now a core component of the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) programme of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. Its aim is to provide the most comprehensive data and information on the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life, supporting the efforts of its 150 Member States to achieve a healthy and resilient ocean ecosystem.

GBIF—the Global Biodiversity Information Facility—was established in as a voluntary collaboration between governments in 2001, with the aim of providing anyone, anywhere free and open access to data about all types of life on Earth. Its network of countries and organizations relies on a set of common standards and open-source tools that enable them to bring together information from widely different sources—museum and herbarium specimens, eDNA barcodes, surveys and field studies, and citizen science records, among others.

The history of collaboration between OBIS and GBIF extends to the adoption and refinement of common tools, such as GBIF’s Integrated Publishing Toolkit, and the use of interoperable standards like Darwin Core. More recently, the two networks have worked together to incorporate new streams of eDNA-based data, prompting the addition of new co-authored guidance on how to publish DNA-derived data on marine life to their platforms.

“By creating more frequent and consistent opportunities for GBIF nodes to work with OBIS nodes on marine and coastal biodiversity data, our network staff will be better prepared to support the specific needs and requirements of marine research,” said Joe Miller, GBIF executive secretary. “Having OBIS share their knowledge and expertise will help us do our part to improve the quality of research-ready and policy-relevant information about the marine realm.”

With the strategy guiding the collaboration, GBIF and OBIS will update the action plan annually through a joint implementation committee made up of staff from both networks’ nodes and the Secretariats. This committee will address technical and community components of the annual plans and make recommendations on the activities they outline. The partners will also explore the potential for organizing combined conferences and meetings to foster closer collaboration and host symposia and training workshops.

Those interested in learning more about the strategy and action plan, what it means and how they can get involved can register to attend one of two joint webinars: