Using data

How data accessed through GBIF are used in research and policy

Methodologies for using GBIF-mediated data

Scanning of the scientific literature has revealed a range of methodologies employed by researchers citing use of GBIF-mediated data. Some of the most prominent are given below, and resources supporting these methodologies are shown on the right. We are always interested to hear of novel ways in which the biodiversity data published through GBIF are being used, so please contact us if you think other methodologies should be included.

Species distribution modelling (SDM)


Species distribution modelling is among the most common techniques employed by researchers citing GBIF-mediated data. Studies of ecology, evolution, conservation and other fields make use of a variety of models that predict the potential distribution of species by combining known occurrence records with digital layers of environmental variables. This method is used to help understand species distributions based on a given number of verified occurrences, as well as modelling the ecological/geographical niche occupied by a species, to estimate the probably of occurrence in the past, present and future.

SDM has been widely used for applications such as predicting the distribution of invasive alien species, protected areas planning and assessing the impacts of climate change on species distributions, and potential species declines.

Taxonomic identification

The elucidation of new taxa and phylogenetic relationships is a major use of GBIF-mediated data. Reference to species data, in particular in museums is core to fundamental study in basic taxonomy. The GBIF portal contains occurrence data for more than one million species, and their use as a taxonomy thesaurus is therefore an important contribution arising from the data publication efforts of the GBIF community. The publication of floras and faunas, and the development of comprehensive checklists, are also examples of this methodology. 

Ecological biogeography

The availability of large volumes of information on the geographical and temporal distribution of a given species or phylogenic groups enables the mapping of different taxonomic concepts, in particular over geographical regions. In combination with traits and other information, this method is used to develop a variety of taxonomy clustering, and bio and geo-representations.

Evolution and phylogenetics

The study of phylogenies, or evolutionary trees, is enhanced by the use of primary species occurrence data. For example, data of the kind accessible through GBIF can assist in research inferring the ancestral geographical area for a given family. Typically, family-level analysis into consistent clusters, combined with the observation of their geographical distributions, is used to improve the understanding of the historical development of biological diversity. 

Species interactions

Methodologies in this category may relate to parasitic relationships, symbiotic relationships between species of animals and plants, predator-prey relationships and other forms of interactions. Such interactions can involve individuals of the same species (intraspecific interactions) or individuals of different species (interspecific interactions). Methods using large volumes of data from GBIF can demonstrate and identify patterns affecting such interactions, including for example their relationship to climate.