[Taxacom] Who uses biodiversity data and why? GBIF Response, Part 2

Meredith A. Lane mlane at gbif.org
Mon Dec 4 11:58:26 CST 2006

*Who uses biodiversity data and why? GBIF Response, Part 2*

To those readers who would prefer to read the four parts of this 
response as a single document, please see 

Regarding whether primary data on species localities are in fact used to 
make better global conservation policy and resource management choices, 
we would point out firstly that Matt Ball was making a prediction for 
the future (using the words "will be"), and secondly that there are 
several angles from which to view the question, of which we list four:

1.   Prior to the several biodiversity-related conventions, there has 
hardly been anything remotely resembling the possibility to make 
biodiversity policy choices at a truly global level. The Convention on 
Biological Diversity (CBD) itself is still less than 15 years old (b. 
1992). The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of 
Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has only been in force since 1975. The 
intial drafts of the Appendices to CITES (which are regularly updated) 
were derived from the opinions of committees of experts. This is as it 
should be, but we submit that the work of these experts can now benefit 
from the data resource provided by GBIF. The possibility for primary 
species locality data actually to be used in global biodiversity policy 
exists -- the users only need take advantage of it.

2.   Primary biodiversity data have not been easily and readily 
available via the Internet for use in conservation decisions (global or 
otherwise) of any sort for very long. Only since the GBIF prototype data 
portal came online (2004) has there been a single access point to 
species occurrence data that includes all living kingdoms for the whole 
globe. Admittedly, GBIF is still desperately in need of a vast increase 
in the amount of such data beyond the currently mediated 110+ million 
records. But, it should be remembered that the Web is young (b. 1994 or 
so), and GBIF even younger (b. 2001). It takes time for new data 
resources to enter the mainstream of analyses and reports for global 
consideration and thus create the vacuum that pulls more data into the 
system. GBIF welcomes the use of GBIF-mediated data by any and all of 
the consultants and NGOs that provide such reports to international 
biodiversity policy-making bodies. In anticipation that this will indeed 
occur, the potential value of the results of GBIF efforts has been 
explicitly recognized by the Conference of Parties (COP) to the CBD on 
several occasions (see 
to access final meeting reports for the 5th, 6th and 8th COPs).

3.   What is /global/ biodiversity conservation, anyway? In fact, isn't 
it the summation of local and regional conservation efforts? The nation 
of Mexico is one of the 17 acknowledged "megadiverse" countries; as the 
13th largest country in the world in terms of land area at 1,972,550 sq. 
km, it is much bigger alone than the several countries in the 
international region of Central America taken together. Thus, it serves 
well as an example of a region that yearly makes hundreds of 
conservation decisions based on biodiversity data of precisely the type 
that GBIF makes available for the whole world. These decisions protect 
both the genetic integrity of its native, wild relatives of crop plants 
from genetically modified organisms (we argue that this is definitely a 
form of conservation of biodiversity), as well as the very existence of 
a wild but economically important crop that is valued at approximatley 
USD 200M per year. See 
for a PPT by Jorge Soberón in which he shows how this is done. Again, 
the GBIF data coverage for the rest of the world is not as thorough as 
that which Mexico possesses (and is on the brink of making globally 
available via GBIF). However, that such data /could/ be used on a global 
basis is well-supported by Mexico's experience.

4.   Even more directly speaking to the potential for global 
decision-making having to do with conservation, see: Soberón et al. 
2002. Future projections for Mexican faunas under global climate change 
scenarios. Nature 416: 626-629 
The analytical techniques used in that paper could be applied on a 
global basis /if/ there were sufficient species occurrence data readily 
available, i.e. via GBIF.

These potential uses of species occurrence data will be realized if 
those data are shared /globally/ by very many /local/ data owners.  GBIF 
strives not only to encourage digitization, but participates and 
cooperates with other entitites in building the Internet-based 
information infrastructure to enable such sharing.

-- /Meredith A. Lane/, PhD
/*mlane at gbif.org <mailto:mlane at gbif.org>*/
Public & Scientific Liaison
Global Biodiversity Information Facility
GBIF Secretariat
tel: +45 3532 1470
direct: +45 3532 1484
mobile: +45 2875 1484
fax: +45 3532 1480

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