The state of Israel has become the latest Participant in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).
The director of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA), Shaul Goldstein, signed the GBIF Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which sets out steps to promote and facilitate free and open access to biodiversity data to support research and policy.
The chair of the GBIF Governing Board, Joanne Daly, commented: “We are delighted to welcome Israel as our latest Participant. The Middle East/West Asia region is currently very under-represented in the biodiversity data available to scientists and wider society, so this is an important step.”
The chief scientist of INPA, Yehoshua Shkedy, pointed out that Israel was rich in species diversity and served as an important migration route for birds – and new biodiversity data from the country was accumulating fast.
Dr Shkedy added that since species distributions and conservation problems crossed international borders, globally-accessible information on biodiversity was important for nature protection and sustainable development.
“This step represents Israel’s commitment to global efforts in biodiversity conservation and management,” said Dr Shkedy. “The rich scientific activity on biodiversity in Israel including museum collections and ecological research make the formal association of Israel to GBIF a real contribution to enhancing the availability and usage of biodiversity data, and to international collaboration on nature conservation and research.”
Israel has already made progress in coordinating biodiversity data, with the development of BioGIS, the Israel Biodiversity Website (http://www.biogis.huji.ac.il), a joint project integrating biodiversity data from different institutes. The site provides advanced tools for querying, analysing, modelling and visualizing patterns of species distributions.
Initially, Israel joins GBIF as an Associate Participant, with the option of moving within five years to Voting Participant status under which countries make a financial contribution to GBIF core funds and are entitled to vote in decisions of the GBIF Governing Board.
GBIF is a network of countries and international organizations enabling anyone, anywhere to access online vast volumes of data about life on Earth, collected over centuries in all parts of the planet. A global data portal (http://www.gbif.org/) currently provides access to nearly 400 million records covering over one million species, from over 10,000 datasets published by 464 institutions.
Participation in GBIF operates through a system of national nodes, and enables countries to share skills, expertise and informatics standards to improve management of biodiversity information. Data accessed through GBIF were cited in more than 230 peer-reviewed research publications during 2012, covering issues such as the spread of invasive alien species, priorities for conservation and the projected impacts of climate change.
Even before Israel joined GBIF, more than half a million data records of biodiversity located in the country, hosted from 26 countries, could be accessed via GBIF.org here.
Israeli scientists have made significant use of GBIF-mediated data in research, for example in a study from the Technion Institute, Haifa, using over 300,000 mammal records to model the link between environmental conditions and the occurrence of species in different landscapes.
For more information please contact:
Tim Hirsch, GBIF Secretariat
Tali Tenenbaum, Israel Nature and Parks Authority
Photo: Ibex (Capra ibex). Credit: Dust Mason, some rights reserved.