Policy relevance of data mobilized through GBIF

The data mobilized through GBIF help countries and the global community to meet the commitments made in recent years to slow the loss of biodiversity and to use biological resources more sustainably. In particular, GBIF offers support for implementing the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-20 and its Aichi Targets. The data accessible through this portal also provide essential support for the work of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and for the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON). This page summarizes GBIF's contribution towards these three initiatives. A fuller list of GBIF partnerships and affiliations can be found here

Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force in December 1993 and now includes 193 Parties (192 countries and the European Union). Its three main objectives are:

  • The conservation of biological diversity;
  • The sustainable use of components of biological diversity; and
  • The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.

Under Article 17 of the Convention, Parties undertake to "facilitate the exchange of information, from all publicly available sources, relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking into account the special needs of developing countries." The same article specifies that such exchange of information "shall also, where feasible, include repatriation of information."

Since its origins in the late 1990s (see summary here), GBIF's mission has been strongly linked to Article 17 and other provisions of the CBD. Over the years, GBIF has worked closely with the institutions of the CBD in a range of partnerships and projects. The Secretariat of the CBD is a non-voting member of the GBIF Governing Board, and GBIF is an observer to the CBD. 

In 2010, the 10th meeting of the CBD's Conference of Parties (COP10) met in Nagoya, Japan, to agree the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-20, and its associated 20 targets known as the Aichi Targets. The work of GBIF contributes to many of the Aichi targets, and the following may be singled out for special relevance:

  • Target 9 (invasive alien species): GBIF enables easy compilation and exchange of invasive species lists using common standards. Occurrence data served through GBIF generate a large number of models in research predicting spread of invasive species under present and future climates, supporting risk assessments. The GBIF Secretariat coordinates the Global Invasive Alien Species Information Partnership (GIASIP) on behalf of the CBD. See also science relevance and peer-reviewed research using GBIF-mediated data relating to invasive alien species.
  • Target 11 (protected areas): GBIF brings together data on the documented occurrence of species over time for any protected area, or potential protected area, on the planet. Research using GBIF-served data helps to develop priorities for the siting of new protected areas based on modelling of multiple species distributions. See also science relevance and peer-reviewed research using GBIF-mediated data related to conservation, including protected areas.
  • Target 12 (threatened species): GBIF provides tools and support for drawing up and exchanging lists of threatened species and their recorded occurrence, for any country or other geographical area. See also science relevance and peer-reviewed research using GBIF-mediated data related to conservation, including threatened species.
  • Target 19 (sharing and application of knowledge): GBIF’s entire activity supports the free exchange of data and information relating to biodiversity, thus advancing knowledge and building capacity to address all other Aichi targets. GBIF's coordination of the Global Biodiversity Informatics Conference and the resulting Global Biodiversity Informatics Outlook (GBIO) is principally aimed at focussing action towards meeting Target 19.


The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was established in April 2012 as an independent intergovernmental body, with the objective of strengthening the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services, for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.

The four principal functions of the Platform are to:

  • Perform regular and timely assessments of knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services, including global, regional, sub-regional and thematic assessments;
  • Catalyse efforts to generate new knowledge by engaging in dialogue with key scientific organizations, policy makers and funding organizations, although it will not directly undertake new research;
  • Support policy formulation and implementation by identifying policy-relevant tools and methodologies; and
  • Prioritize key capacity building needs to improve the science-policy interface, and catalyse financing for such capacity building.

In the preparatory phase prior to the establshment of IPBES, governments made it clear that they wished the new body to "collaborate with existing initiatives on biodiversity and ecosystem services ... to fill gaps and build upon their work while avoiding duplication." GBIF has taken a number of opportunities to set out the potential areas of collaboration between the two initiatives, in submissions (see links to the right) relating to the first IPBES work programme, due to be agreed at the Platform's second plenary meeting in December 2013.

The major points and suggestions made in these submissions are, in summary:

  • GBIF and IPBES are entirely complementary. GBIF's position acting at the interface between biodiversity data and science gives it a unique role in supporting the work of IPBES as it builds a stronger interface between science and policy in relation to biodiversity and ecosystem services;
  • The experience of GBIF's national and organizational Participants in collaborating to build capacity to mobilize, share and use biodiversity data can and should be built on as a contribution to the Platform's capacity building functions, including the possible development of IPBES regional hubs that could align with current regional collaboration among GBIF Participant nodes;
  • GBIF is well placed to support the assessment and knowledge generation functions of IPBES through identification and delivery of key datasets relevant to the assessments prioritized by the Platform; and to respond to knowledge gaps identified through IPBES by targeting data mobilization efforts;
  • GBIF welcomes the proposal in the draft IPBES work programme for the setting up of a task force or task group on data management, and believes this could form the basis of a strategic partnership for delivering a long-term framework for biodiversity data provision and use to support the work of IPBES.

As a demonstration of the potential contribution of GBIF Participant node collaboration to the capacity needs of IPBES, GBIF worked with partners in Norway and India on a pilot project to enhance decision making for conservation, with a particular focus on mobilization and use of data from camera traps (see presentation to the right).

This page will be updated as the IPBES Work Programme develops, and as the formal relationship between GBIF and the new Platform becomes clearer. 


The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is a voluntary partnership of governments and organizations, coordinating efforts to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems, or GEOSS. It was set up in 2005 in response to calls for action from the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, and from the G8 (Group of Eight) leading industrialized countries.

The 10-year Implementation Plan for GEOSS defines nine 'societal benefit areas' the system is designed to address. One of them, 'Understanding, monitoring, and conserving biodiversity,' forms the mission of the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, or GEO BON. It is a collaboration of some 100 governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to organize and improve terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity observations globally and make their biodiversity data, information forecasts more readily accessible to policymakers, managers, experts and other users.

One of the major current activities of GEO BON is to establish a set of Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs), a set of measurements required for study, reporting and management of biodiversity change. 

GBIF is among ten organizations to sit on the GEO BON Steering Committee, and has been especially active in the area of data integration and interoperability. The biodiversity data published through the GBIF network form a component of several projects designed to support GEO BON's activities, including the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas.

In 2013, GBIF took part in the launch of the European Biodiversity Observation Network (EU BON), which aims to build a substantial part of GEO BON. Its proposed products include an integrated biodiversity portal, a roadmap for handling citizen science data and a framework for open data publishing. GBIF's principal role in EU BON, supported by a grant of nearly 300,000 Euros from the EU-funded project, is to help improve data standards and interoperability, to provide a metadata registry and to provide access to data through robust web services.