What is GBIF

A short description of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility

Overview

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is an international open data infrastructure, funded by governments.

It allows anyone, anywhere to access data about all types of life on Earth, shared across national boundaries via the Internet.

By encouraging and helping institutions to publish data according to common standards, GBIF enables research not possible before, and informs better decisions to conserve and sustainably use the biological resources of the planet.

GBIF operates through a network of nodes, coordinating the biodiversity information facilities of Participant countries and organizations, collaborating with each other and the Secretariat to share skills, experiences and technical capacity.

GBIF's vision: "A world in which biodiversity information is freely and universally available for science, society and a sustainable future."

Some facts about GBIF

  • It provides a single point of access (through this portal and its web services) to more than 400 million records, shared freely by hundreds of institutions worldwide, making it the biggest biodiversity database on the Internet.
  • The data accessible through GBIF relate to evidence about more than one million species, collected over three centuries of natural history exploration and including current observations from citizen scientists, researchers and automated monitoring programmes
  • More than 900 peer-reviewed research publications have cited GBIF as a source of data, in studies spanning the impacts of climate change, the spread of pests and diseases, priority areas for conservation and food security. About 20 such papers are published each month.
  • Many GBIF Participant countries have set up national portals using tools, codes and data freely available through GBIF to better inform their citizens and policy makers about their own biodiversity.

What GBIF can do for you

IF YOU ARE A RESEARCHER:

GBIF offers free access and unlimited downloads for all records published via our network for use in your research. You can explore them by occurrences, species, datasets and countries by clicking on 'Data' at the top of this window. We just urge you to respect our guidelines for data use and citations. These data are available through the goodwill and hard work of data publishers and they have a right to expect proper recognition and attribution. To find how other researchers are making use of GBIF, check out our Using data section.

IF YOU ARE AN INSTITUTION OR INDIVIDUAL WITH BIODIVERSITY DATA:

GBIF offers tools and advice for publishing your biodiversity datasets via the Internet, enabling them to be discovered and cited in research and policy applications. This can raise the profile of your project or institution, attract recognition for those involved in digital data gathering and curation, and help you to comply with legal or regulatory requirements for data management. See our section on Publishing data to find out more about the benefits and how you can become a GBIF data publisher.

IF YOU ARE A NATIONAL GOVERNMENT:

Participating in GBIF makes you part of a global network of collaborators, helping you to meet your country's biodiversity information needs. A range of capacity enhancement activities, including mentoring and training, enable you to benefit from more than a decade's experience and development of free tools to mobilize biodiversity datasets and make them accessible for research and policy. GBIF supports setting up of national biodiversity web portals, and contributes to data and information requirements for intergovernmental processes such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). To find out more about the benefits and how to join GBIF, see our Participation section.

IF YOU ARE MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC, EDUCATOR OR WILDLIFE ENTHUSIAST

GBIF offers great opportunities to explore and contribute to the global body of evidence documenting the huge diversity of life on our planet. Find out what records are available for your country, region or neighbourhood by exploring the country pages and occurrence data on this portal. Contact your GBIF national node to find out about activities such as bioblitzes and other events that help you to become a 'citizen scientist', and consider sharing your observations or images through networks such as iNaturalist, eBird and the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL).

Background and history

GBIF arose from a recommendation in 1999 by the Biodiversity Informatics Subgroup of the Megascience Forum, set up by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The panel's report concluded: "An international mechanism is needed to make biodiversity data and information accessible worldwide." It argued that such a mechanism would produce many economic and social benefits, enabling sustainable development through provision of sound scientific information.

Specifically, the OECD panel recommended the establishment of a Global Biodiversity Information Facility, to "enable users to navigate and put to use vast quantities of biodiversity information, advancing scientific research ... serving the economic and quality-of-life interests of society, and providing a basis from which our knowledge of the natural world can grow rapidly and in a manner that avoids duplication of effort and expenditure."

That recommendation was endorsed by OECD science ministers and in 2001, GBIF was officially established through Memorandum of Understanding between participating governments.

Some of the milestones of GBIF's history are shown below.

January 1999. Biodiversity Informatics Subgroup of OECD Megascience Forum recommends establishment of GBIF.

June 1999. OECD Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy (ministerial) endorses recommendation and encourages steps to implement GBIF.

2000. GBIF Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) opened for signature.

2001. GBIF officially established, first Governing Board held. Denmark chosen as host country for the GBIF Secretariat.

2002. First GBIF Ebbe Nielsen Prize awarded. Communications portal and helpdesk launched.

2003. Secretariat set up in Copenhagen. First demonstration of data portal, registration and training of data providers.

2004. Prototype data portal launched.

2006. Second GBIF MoU (2007-11) opened for signature.

2007. Global data portal launched.

2010. GBIF Young Researchers Award launched.

2011. Major enhancements to data publishing (Integrated Publishing Toolkit v2) and processing tools to improve quality of data accessed through portal.

2012. Third, open-ended GBIF MoU comes into force. More than 230 peer-reviewed studies citing use of GBIF-mediated data identified through literature-scanning.

2013. New combined data and communication portal launched with major enhancements including unlimited data downloads and real-time indexing of published datasets.