Major progress on global biodiversity observation system

14 March 2016

Great steps towards the development of a global monitoring system for changes in biodiversity have been made in the EU Horizon 2020 project GLOBIS-B. This breakthrough in global collaboration was achieved during a workshop in Leipzig, Germany which was coordinated by the University of Amsterdam.

The GLOBIS-B project stands for ‘GLOBal Infrastructures for Supporting Biodiversity research’ and seeks answers to questions like:  Which dimensions of the environment are changing most dramatically by the increase of the human population and climate change? Where are these changes happening and what will be the consequences for biodiversity? In Leipzig biodiversity scientists, technical experts from research infrastructures and advisors for legal interoperability of data defined so called Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) to address these questions.  

Essential Biodiversity Variables

Like climate variables, EBVs are constructed from various sources of data and are the underlying variables to assess changes in biodiversity through time. They can be used to measure the achievement of targets like the Aichi targets set by the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD), to protect the world from further loss of biodiversity, support sustainable use of natural resources and enhance benefits from these. The variables should be capable of measuring changes in species distributions and abundances, for any type of organism, for any given time and any given area. In doing so, the measurements play an important role in policy decisions and are critical to the future work of the Inter-governmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

GLOBIS-B workshop

GLOBIS-B supports research infrastructures active in  biodiversity and ecosystems research from Australia, Brazil, China, Europe, South Africa and the USA to cooperate with their expertise. The project is coordinated by the University of Amsterdam as part of the LifeWatch European research infrastructure for biodiversity and ecosystems research.

The main outcomes are:

  • The Living Planet Index will make over a quarter of a million data points freely available to be used in these measurements;
  • eBird, the largest data collection of bird distributions in the world, will focus on measuring the change in patterns of bird occurrences globally;
  • The Atlas of Living Australia together with the European LifeWatch capability will create a demonstrator proof-of-concept for the process of measuring and presenting an EBV;
  • Consensus on using the 'Darwin Core Event' (DWCe), a new technical standard for biological datasets;

The Wildlife Picture Index will make their publically available data (2.6 million records) now accessible through the Darwin Core Event.

Global harmonization process

‘With this workshop we set the scene for a global harmonization process’, says Daniel Kissling, scientific coordinator of GLOBIS-B and researcher at the Institute of Biodynamica and Ecosystem Dynamics of the UvA. This will improve the harmonization of data collection and technical data management, and help to address legal complications and constraints. ‘EBVs require big datasets on where species live’, continues Kissling. ‘These data come from all kinds of places and have all kinds of formats. It is not always trivial that this data is made openly available and free. With this project and the workshop we make a great breakthrough in global collaboration among holders of biodiversity data. This will facilitate the processing of big data and making them available for societal use’, concludes Kissling.

Widely endorsed

In June 2016 the participants will gather again in Seville, Spain for a follow up and to write a widely endorsed paper with recommendations on how to build the EBV’s for species populations.

More information

Published by  Faculty of Science