Using Data in

How data accessed through GBIF is used in research and policy

Anemonia sulcata
Snakelocks anemone (Anemonia sulcata) by Corrado Alessandrini via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

GBIF has established itself as an essential infrastructure underpinning science and policy related to biodiversity. This is demonstrated by the growing volume of peer-reviewed research using data discovered and accessed through GBIF.

Since 2008, more than 2,800 peer-reviewed research papers have cited substantive uses of GBIF-mediated data, and the number has been rising each year. This is the strongest possible demonstration of the return on investment that GBIF Participant countries and organizations have made since 2001, building the GBIF informatics infrastructure and mobilizing data accumulated over 300 years of biological exploration of the planet.

The Secretariat maintains an active and ongoing programme to identify and tag GBIF-relevant research in the scientific literature, and a complete searchable archive of all citations is freely available. You can find publications authored from your own country by clicking on the Research tab of the relevant country page, accessible from here.

For examples of some interesting uses of GBIF-mediated data, visit our featured data use section where the research is simply described, and you can find links to relevant biodiversity data served through this portal. You can also consult our annual GBIF Science Review.

We are aware that many relevant uses of GBIF may be missed in our literature searches, so please get in touch if you know of an interesting example.

Science relevance areas

GBIF-mediated data are used in a wide range of research projects addressing the key scientific questions relating to biodiversity. You will find a summary of the most commonly-used thematic areas below:

Invasive alien species

Research relating to the threat of invasive alien species is among the most common areas in which use of GBIF-mediated data is applied. In 2012, for example, nearly one in five of all use cases identified fell into this category. Typically, researchers use data recording the occurrence of a species either in its native range or in areas where it has invaded, or both, to build models to predict its potential spread, thus helping policy makers to assess invasion risks and to design appropriate prevention, control and eradication measures.

Recent studies have used GBIF-mediated data in research to:

  • Assess past, current and potential future spread of invasive species based on different climate scenarios and other parameters;
  • Assess the drivers behind the spread of invasive species, including the effect of human influence;
  • Assess the impacts and risks of invasive alien species on extinctions of native species, food security, ecosystems and human health

For more information, browse through all publications related to invasive alien species, or have a look at the papers we’ve chosen to feature on

Climate change

The relationship between climate and biodiversity lies at the heart of much of the science informed by data accessed through GBIF. Studies in this category overlap with most of the other science relevance areas, and range from investigations into the influence of ancient climate shifts on species distributions, to projections of the impacts of future climate change on biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides to people and their livelihoods. Researchers commonly combine climate data and scenarios with species occurrence data discovered through GBIF, generating models to support predictions and adaptation strategies.

Recent studies have used GBIF-mediated data in research to:

  • Predict the ability of tropical forest species to survive climate change through migration to more suitable locations;
  • Undertake global modelling of thousands of species to estimate the likely impact of climate change on species distributions according to different scenarios;
  • Investigate the influence of climate change on invasive alien species, agriculture, human health and other factors linking biodiversity with livelihoods.

For more information, browse through all publications related to climate change, or have a look at the papers we’ve chosen to feature on


Conservation biologists rely on species locality records to create range maps, prepare threat assessments, and predict future shifts in distribution and potential ranges. Free, online availability of aggregated occurrence through networks such as GBIF greatly reduces the cost of conservation research, which previously relied on personal observations by researchers or museum specimen records and tags. GBIF also gives local and regional conservation managers, often with limited resources, free access to species data for their area.

Recent studies have used GBIF-mediated data to:

  • Forecast the future effectiveness of existing protected areas in Brazil to conserve key forest species under projected climate change
  • Examine the role of rare species in protecting critical functions of ecosystems
  • Estimate the correct spacing of marine protected areas based on fish dispersal distances

For more information, browse through all publications related to conservation, or have a look at the papers we’ve chosen to feature on

Food and farming

The links between biodiversity and agriculture, biofuels and fisheries form an increasingly important area of research, as society seeks the most sustainable solutions to meet the food security and energy needs of a growing population. The data published through GBIF helps scientists across a range of disciplines to develop research projects looking at questions such as distribution of wild relatives of food crops that may provide the genetic resources of the future; the impact of climate change on agricultural pests and areas of future suitability for different crops; and the opportunities and impacts associated with biofuel production.

Recent studies have used GBIF-mediated data to:

  • Establish priorities for conservation of crop wild relatives (CWR) in Latin America and West Africa;
  • Assess future areas of suitability for cultivation of date palms according to future climate scenarios; and
  • Investigate areas of suitability for different biofuel crops and their potential impacts on spread of invasive weeds.

For more information, browse through all publications related to food and farming, or have a look at the papers we’ve chosen to feature on

Human health

Scientists and policy makers are increasingly interested in the connections between biodiversity and human health. While this area accounts for a relatively small proportion of the research articles citing use of GBIF-mediated data, it is an emerging field and includes modelling of vectors of human diseases based on climate change scenarios, as well as ethno-botanical research that uses plant distribution data to study the relationship between biodiversity and traditional medicines. Other areas of interest include using distribution data to analyse medicinal compounds in plants, and genetic characterization of human diseases and host organisms.

Recent studies have used GBIF-mediated data to:

  • Predict the spread of monkeypox virus in Central Africa by modelling the occurrence of several mammal species believed to spread the disease;
  • Model the likely future spread of malaria-carrying mosquitos in the Neotropics;
  • Map priority areas for plant conservation in Australia based on the concentration of species of importance to Aboriginal communities for traditional medicine.

For more information, browse through all publications related to human health, or have a look at the papers we’ve chosen to feature on