GBIF formalizes collaboration with biodiversity assessment platform

Memorandum of Understanding with IPBES—the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services—signed at margin of plenary meeting in Medellín, Colombia

Executive secretary of IPBES, Anne Larigauderie and deputy director of GBIF, Tim Hirsch at the signing ceremony in Medellín, Colombia. Photo courtesy of IPBES.

The vital role of open data mobilization in helping to fill gaps in our knowledge about biodiversity and nature’s contribution to people is recognized in an agreement signed between GBIF and IPBES.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed on the margins of the sixth plenary meeting of IPBES, being held in the Colombian city of Medellín. Delegates from more than 80 governments are putting the final touches to four regional assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia; as well as a thematic assessment on land degradation and restoration.

The MoU formalizes continuing cooperation between GBIF and IPBES since the platform was established in 2012. Specific areas identified for collaboration include:

  • Helping IPBES to identify and access biodiversity datasets relevant to IPBES assessments and indicators
  • Using knowledge gaps identified through IPBES assessments to help prioritize mobilization of new data through GBIF’s network of nodes and data publishers
  • Coordinating GBIF’s capacity building activities to support data mobilization and access relevant to IPBES
  • Encouraging collaboration between GBIF’s national nodes and IPBES national focal points

Before signing the MoU, the executive secretary of IPBES, Anne Larigauderie said: “IPBES shares the vision of GBIF for free and open access to biodiversity data for use in research and policy, and IPBES also sees the mandate of GBIF as very complementary to its own. IPBES relies on analysis of published literature which itself relies on robust datasets – and this is where GBIF kicks in.”

In his remarks at the signing ceremony in Medellín, GBIF’s deputy director and head of participation Tim Hirsch noted that the number of occurrence records served through would shortly pass the one billion milestone, representing a huge collective effort involving natural history collections, researchers, government agencies, NGOs, citizen scientists and many other groups around the world.

Nowhere was this effort better illustrated than in Colombia, Hirsch noted, when President Juan Manuel Santos highlighted Colombia BIO in his opening address to the IPBES plenary meeting. The project, led by Colciencias (the Colombian Department of Science, Technology and Innovation), the GBIF national node SiB Colombia and its host institution the Humboldt Institute, is supporting a number of expeditions to explore Colombia’s rich biodiversity, including in areas previously inaccessible due to armed conflict, and will make all resulting data freely and openly available.

“This MoU in part recognizes the foundational role played by the GBIF community in mobilizing the primary data on species distributions that supports the knowledge synthesized in IPBES assessments,” Hirsch said.

“Going forward, a critical area of collaboration will be in catalysing efforts to generate new knowledge: identifying the gaps and uncertainties relating to data deficiencies through the IPBES assessment process can act as a powerful driver for prioritizing mobilization of new data through GBIF’s nodes and partners around the world, including through funding capacity building to support data mobilization in regions where data is scarce,” he concluded.

Video from the signing ceremony