The Republic of Croatia (in Croatian, Republika Hrvatska) has joined GBIF, becoming the network's 41st voting participant worldwide and 107th participant overall. The country's entry increases the regional network for Europe and Central Asia to 25 participants—GBIF's largest—20 of them voting participants.
The signature of GBIF's Memorandum of Understanding under authorization of the Croatian Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development (MINGOR) marks the culmination of discussions that gathered momentum during workshops for the Open Regional Funds for South-East Europe (ORF). Led by the German-based international development and cooperation service provider, GIZ (in German, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), this programme also produced a set of Biodiversity Information Management and Reporting Guidelines for South-East Europe that may yet bring additional participants from the Balkan peninsula.
"In the last two decades—and particularly since joining the European Union in 2013—Croatia has made significant progress toward ensuring access to and use of data about our country's biodiversity," said Luka Katušić, head of service for Inventory, Assessment and Monitoring of Nature at MINGOR. "Joining GBIF builds on these efforts and will serve to connect our national scientific research and policy communities global and regional activities while providing the evidence base needed to protect the natural world."
Despite its relatively modest size, the biodiversity that inhabits Croatia's distinctive landscapes—the seas and beaches of the Adriatic coastline, the Danube's alluvial plains, and the forests and karst caves of its mountains and peaks—are among the most diverse in Europe.
Numerous national-scale efforts have supported reporting under European Nature Directives and Natura 2000 protected areas while aligning with the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030. The country's BioPortal has served as the national Nature Protection Information System and Clearing House Mechanism for the UN Convention for Biological Diversity.
"Croatia joining as a member is another example of power of collaboration across national boundaries," said Joe Miller, GBIF executive secretary. "GBIF’s strong network of national nodes continues to show the benefits of participation to new countries, and we hope this trend will extend throughout the Balkans."
These sources provide the basis for increasing the amount of data available about biodiversity from Croatia on GBIF.org. To date, just a few hundred of the nearly 650,000 in-country occurrence records come from Croatian institutions—though they compensate in unique character for what they lack in number, with living cultures from marine microbial specimens from the Institut Ruđer Bošković, Center for Marine Research, and invertebrates inhabiting olive orchards in vineyards along the eastern Adriatic coast from the University of Zagreb Faculty of Science.
The vast majority of records derive from more than 900 datasets published largely by institutions from neighbouring European countries, led by global citizen science platforms such as eBird, Observation.org, iNaturalist, Pl@ntNet and naturgucker. Of note, the institutions involved in the GIZ ORF project referenced above did publish a dataset on endemic beetles from the Western Balkans through North Macedonia's Macedonian Ecological Society. While the Croatian component is small, at just 111 records, the value of records on endemic species is likely quite high.