Citizen science and global biodiversity monitoring

Mourning dove (Zenaida macroura)

Mourning dove (Zenaida macroura), with almost 5.5 million records, the species with most occurrences in GBIF. Photo by Mike Leveille licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Citizen science (CS) is a potential source of data in many disciplines, including biodiversity monitoring. Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) represent the minimum set of measurements required to capture major dimensions of biodiversity change, and while some EBVs can be monitored electronically and remotely, others require human-assisted data collection, as indeed provided by some CS projects. But what are the characteristics of such projects and to what extent do they make an impact on EBVs as measured through contributions to GBIF?

This study presents an assessment of more 3600 CS projects from around the world, of which most are based in North America or Europe. Far from all of these make their data available through GBIF, whose total records, however, are derived from CS in more than half the cases. The most extensively CS-monitored groups globally are birds, moths and trees.

Overall, the study shows that CS projects play a significant role in global biodiversity monitoring, but also that the scope of CS has the potential to expand across geography, taxonomy and additional EBVs.

Citation information 

Chandler M, See L, Copas K, Bonde AMZ, López BC, Danielsen F, Legind JK, Masinde S, Miller-Rushing AJ, Newman G, Rosemartin A and Turak E (2016) Contribution of citizen science towards international biodiversity monitoring. Biological Conservation. Elsevier BV. Available at: