Data mobilization and capacity building essential for addressing global biodiversity crisis

GBIF Executive Secretary urges increased investment in open data community of practice in response to IPBES Global Assessment

Compsus viridivittatus. Photo 2019 Sebastian Serna Muñoz via iNaturalist Research-grade Observations, licenced under CC BY-NC 4.0.

The biodiversity data community must continue to build its capacity and rise to the challenges highlighted in the landmark Global Assessment report just released by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), according to GBIF executive secretary Joe Miller.

Many of the scientific papers and indicators cited in the IPBES report rely on free, FAIR and open access to primary biodiversity data from the more than 1,400 institutions worldwide that make up the GBIF network. Together, they provide access to more than 1.3 billion records about where and when species occur on Earth.

Nevertheless, the IPBES report’s authors drew attention to significant gaps in knowledge and data across several areas, including:

  • quantitative syntheses of the status and trends of parasites, insects and microorganisms
  • biodiversity in soil, benthic and freshwater environments
  • the implication of global trends for ecosystem functions

“The urgency of action highlighted in the IPBES global assessment applies equally to the mobilization of all relevant data and information to support the transformative change necessary to reverse the current alarming trends,” said Miller. “Such actions require investment at all levels to ensure that data is collected and shared in appropriate formats and under open licences, making it freely available for re-use by researchers, policy makers and the general public.

“The GBIF community stands ready to facilitate this effort, both through its existing global infrastructure, and also by convening the new alliance for biodiversity knowledge aimed at aligning diverse efforts to deliver current, accurate and comprehensive data, information and knowledge on the world’s biodiversity.”

GBIF and IPBES collaborate in a number of areas set out in a 2018 memorandum of understanding, including support for ongoing IPBES assessments in identification of relevant datasets; using knowledge gaps identified through IPBES to prioritize data mobilization through GBIF nodes and data publishers; and collaborating on capacity building activities to support data mobilization and access.

“The capacity-building projects supported through the Biodiversity Information for Development (BID) programme funded by the European Union and managed by GBIF have mobilized more than 1.3 million species occurrence records from institutions in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific,” said Tim Hirsch, GBIF deputy director, who, along with Mélianie Raymond, GBIF senior programme officer for node development, represented GBIF at last week's IPBES 7th plenary meeting in Paris.

“Many of these projects respond to the data gaps identified in previous IPBES regional and thematic assessments on, for example, pollinators and food production. By giving training and mentoring activities a central role in BID, the programme has strengthened the institutional and national capacity needed to mobilize data in support of future research and policy assessments.”