New partnership targets improved information on marine biodiversity


A new collaboration between GBIF and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) aims to improve the volume and quality of information available to policy makers for conservation and sustainable use of the ocean’s biological resources. The two institutions have signed a Letter of Agreement which recognizes IOC-UNESCO as a GBIF Affiliate.

The agreement promotes and facilitates closer collaboration between GBIF and IOC-UNESCO’s International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange/Ocean Biogeographic Information System (IODE/OBIS), specializing in marine biodiversity data. Recognizing the two initiatives as complementary with common goals on the management, publication and use of biodiversity data, the agreement’s specific goals include:

  • Working together to maximize the quantity, quality, completeness and fitness for use of marine biodiversity data accessible through OBIS and GBIF
  • Developing solutions to enable all marine datasets mobilized through the OBIS and GBIF communities to be available via the web platforms of both networks
  • Cooperating to improve the fitness for use of marine biodiversity data in research and assessment
  • Encouraging collaboration between GBIF and OBIS nodes and identifying joint opportunities to enhance capacity
  • Coordinating approaches to global biodiversity science/policy institutions such as IPBES and CBD, recognizing the special role of IODE/OBIS in meeting the requirements of policy makers and researchers for data and information on marine biodiversity

Under the agreement, GBIF Secretariat will also become an IODE Associate Data Unit, or ADU, making it part of the programme’s network of institutions sharing data, information and best practices.

GBIF’s executive secretary Donald Hobern welcomed the agreement, saying, “OBIS has made a major contribution to the mobilization of marine biodiversity data, and has always been a natural partner for GBIF in our common endeavour to improve the information available to researchers and decision makers. This new collaboration will build on our respective strengths and networks, and the affiliation of IOC/UNESCO to GBIF’s community will further strengthen the contribution we can make to global action in support of the world’s oceans”.

Wendy Watson-Wright, IOC-UNESCO Executive Secretary and Assistant Director General UNESCO commented: "From their early start, back in 2001, OBIS and GBIF have been close partners, and together were pioneers in providing open access to biodiversity data and information and in setting standards and best practices."

"The importance of knowledge of the ocean’s biodiversity to national and global environmental policies was recognised by the IOC Member States when they adopted OBIS from the Census of Marine Life in 2009. GBIF and OBIS are both strong and still-growing networks, each holding an increasing amount of biodiversity data. They also continue to gain importance in support of the delivery of timely and accurate information on the health of our planet, including the ocean.

"This new collaboration between GBIF and OBIS is timely and necessary to meet these growing expectations - it will benefit everyone."