The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is an international network that provides access to a huge biodiversity database. Their total number of occurrence records just reached 1 billion on 4 July 2018. This milestone symbolizes a major collective achievement, enabled by the extensive GBIF network: a diverse partnership of more than 1,200 public and private organizations from 123 different countries. GBIF’s global index and research infrastructure provides anyone, anywhere, with instant access to free and open data about when and where life forms exist on Earth.
The observations of more than 1 million individual lifeforms is being celebrated this month by GBIF members from around the globe. These members also participate in various recording societies and citizen science projects, and boost the long-term data contributions made by biologists, field researchers, IT professionals, collections curators, biodiversity informaticians and data scientists.
The continuing growth in the number of GBIF occurrence records also shows a steady rise in species coverage and diversity of species—a trend that reflects GBIF’s increasing emphasis on filling known taxonomic, geographical and temporal information gaps. As of April 2018, GBIF.org have at least one record for 1,049,839 species, representing 62% of organisms reviewed in the most recent Catalogue of Life checklist.
If we want to address the big challenges we face around the future of land use, conservation, climate change, food security and health, we need efficient ways to bring together all the data capable of helping us understand the changing state of the world and the essential role that biodiversity plays at all scales." - Donald Hobern
An unparalleled resource for research
GBIF’s global occurrence index provides an unmatched evidence base for informing scientific research and policy through its support of ‘big data’ analyses. Every day, there are an average of nearly two peer-reviewed research papers published that rely on data accessed through GBIF.org. These data are being used to illuminate our planet’s evolutionary history and to generate models that seek to understand the impact of rapidly changing conditions for life on earth.
The data allows for exploration of how we can improve food security by conserving wild plants related to important crops, as well as the monitoring of human diseases in relation to the distribution of the animals that carry them, and the benefits that biodiverse nature provides.
GBIF’s global infrastructure allows researchers to access data from hundreds of collections and databases worldwide. Donald Hobern, Executive Secretary of GBIF, comments: “If we want to address the big challenges we face around the future of land use, conservation, climate change, food security and health, we need efficient ways to bring together all the data capable of helping us understand the changing state of the world and the essential role that biodiversity plays at all scales.”
“This milestone shows that today’s GBIF is prepared for continued growth and ready to handle the massive volume of data we expect to see from other new technologies and sources, including environmental sequencing and remote sensing.”
Belgium as an important contributor
Belgium has been a member of the GBIF network since its inception and Belgian members have already provided more than 20 million records to the GBIF data portal. In Belgium, GBIF is used for many different purposes, including to trace invasive exotic species and to perform freshwater research. GBIF is supported in Belgium by 19 organizations, such as INBO, Natuurpunt, Natagora, DEMNA, various universities as well as federal and regional governments.
Dimitri Brosens, Data Acquisition Manager for GBIF's Belgian Node explains the importance of GBIF's work: "I think GBIF offers many new opportunities for biodiversity research."
André Heughebaert, Belgian GBIF hub, also stated: "This 1-billion-milestone clearly demonstrates the maturity of GBIF. The societal challenges that lie ahead require a tremendous amount of relevant relevant and more curated data to prevent the 6th extinction of species."