Georgia joins GBIF as an associate participant

Participation expands to the Black Sea as biodiversity-rich mountain republic becomes formal member of the network

Mertensiella caucasica
Mertensiella caucasica (Waga, 1876) observed in Samtskhe-Javakheti, Georgia by Gert Jan Verspui (CC BY-NC 4.0)

The South Caucasus republic of Georgia has become an associate participant in GBIF, joining more than 100 other national governments and international organizations to support and promote free and open access to biodiversity data. As signatories of the GBIF Memorandum of Understanding, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture (MEPA) of Georgia will represent the country on the GBIF Governing Board.

"Georgia has joined GBIF in order to support and improve the research progress in the country in the area of biodiversity," said Nino Tandilashvili, Deputy Minister of MEPA. "Being a member of GBIF will improve our biodiversity monitoring system, contribute to data on global biodiversity, and facilitate science-based decisions in our field. While our country's research organizations already make quite a large amount of data available through GBIF, we will continue to complement it since our biodiversity is rich and scientific data is growing. Participating in GBIF will also be a huge capacity development opportunity for our scientific organizations as well as the Ministry."

Perched at the intersection of Europe and Asia on the Black Sea's eastern coast, Georgia is a largely mountainous country whose territory extends into both the Caucasus and the Irano-Anatolian biodiversity hotspots. These unique reservoirs of plant and animal life are simultaneously among the world's richest and most threatened regions. Though Georgia comprises just one seventh of the land area of the Caucasus, almost all of the region's landscapes and biomes and more than two thirds of its species are found in the country.

MEPA reported in 2020 that the country's terrestrial network of protected areas covered 7,775 square kilometres, or 11.5 per cent of its territory, marking an increase over the 9 per cent reported in 2012. However, with distinctive forests that harbour around 400 species of trees and bushes—61 of them endemic—and a millennia-old agricultural history represented by 265 populations of crop wild relatives, much more remains to be done to preserve Georgia's singular natural heritage.

One prior engagement crucial to Georgian participation in GBIF was a series of training sessions run by Secretariat programme officer Andrew Rodrigues between 2020 and 2022. These workshops aimed to help the experts from Georgia charged with developing a national Red List aligned with IUCN Categories and Criteria and supported by their data collecting activities aligned with GBIF standards. Ilia State University (ILIAUNI) is expected to publish the checklist data resulting from this project, which received funding from the German-based international development and cooperation service provider, GIZ (in German, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit).

"We are excited about deepening our collaboration with Georgia after numerous discussions and interactions in recent years," said Tim Hirsch, GBIF deputy director. "Georgia's natural heritage, especially in relation to agricultural biodiversity, is a unique and valuable asset to the global community, and we look forward to helping colleagues from our newest associate participant share their data and put it more widely to use."

Users of can currently access nearly one million species occurrence records in Georgia, including datasets from the National Herbarium and Institute of Zoology, both institutions hosted at ILIAUNI in Tbilisi, the nation's capital. The largest dataset about Georgian biodiversity from Batumi Raptor Count—an NGO based in the Netherlands—includes more than 460,000 autumn sightings of migrating raptors along the east African-Palearctic flyway situated just north of Batumi on the Black Sea.

As a participant, Georgia will have access to a range of tools and resources to help prepare and publish biodiversity data toward a more precise accounting of the status of its biodiversity. Meanwhile, access to training and capacity building initiatives and the use of globally recognized data standards from the GBIF network can build on previous steps to establish a national biodiversity monitoring system, ensuring comprehensive integration of biodiversity considerations into planning, policy- and decision-making.