[Taxacom] Global biodiversity databases

Tony.Rees at csiro.au Tony.Rees at csiro.au
Tue Aug 7 15:41:40 CDT 2012

Dear Rich, Rob, all,

quoting Rob:
> We've been working on a project
> called Map of Life (http://mappinglife.org), that is meant to aggregate
> just point occurrence records but also range maps, area inventories,
> ecoregion checklists, etc. globally and for all taxa.

Along similar lines are a range of other data integration/mapping projects such as GBIF, OBIS, EOL, AquaMaps, LifeMapper, UK National Biodiversity Network, Atlas of Living Australia...

However I see these more as clients of the system that is being discussed than creators of it; and maybe I have clouded the waters myself by saying that I wish for some of these "species attributes" to be available via the "master biodiversity database" - I still do, so obviously clarifying the boundaries of "who holds what" will become important.

The one thing that projects such as the above all have in common is a need for a "taxonomic backbone" i.e. curated master taxonomy (or taxonomies) such that the work of assembling one does not have to be repeated every time. I believe this is the "enabling" product (or service) which is at the heart of this thread and which currently does not exist from any single source. It is the space in which the Catalogue of Life aspires to operate once complete (hopefully including fossil as well as extant taxa). So one could re-cast the questions around (a) is the CoL still the best model or vehicle to supply such a service, (b) what are the prospects for completion of the CoL (and when), plus mechanisms for keeping the same updated with minimum latency, (c) are the data fields, present structures, and services presently offered by CoL adequate for user needs, or if not, why not, and (d) how will the CoL (or other service in this space) both benefit from, and contribute to developments in the GN area.

I say this not because of any desire to criticise the CoL, but because it does have a good critical mass and substantial footprint to date (some gaps acknowledged) and does offer a very successful model of current inter-database collaboration, and by its own admission aspires to be the global standard and data/service provider  in this area; also because if it did not exist, we would have to invent it (and others have already saved us that work).

So maybe (without going into discussions of the type "I looked at the data for species X and it was wrong") we can look at questions such as the above at the more conceptual level and say, what's currently missing from the CoL that users need, and how do we get from where we are today to where we would like to be in the future.

(If the answer to this is a resounding silence I will presume either that all present users are 100% happy, or wisely they are too polite to criticise another's project in a public forum such as this one).

Regards - Tony

From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Richard Pyle [deepreef at bishopmuseum.org]
Sent: Wednesday, 8 August 2012 3:21 AM
To: 'Robert Guralnick'
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Global biodiversity databases

>   Rich et al. --- I am just not comfortable with the question: "Do you
expect a
> comprehensive and reliable GBD to exist in the foreseeable future (or do
> think that one or more already exist)?"

Neither am I.  I didn't write the questions; I only took a shot at the
answers (something I feel like I am going to regret.....)

> We've been working on a project
> called Map of Life (http://mappinglife.org), that is meant to aggregate
> just point occurrence records but also range maps, area inventories,
> ecoregion checklists, etc. globally and for all taxa.

This is exactly the sort of effort I meant when I said that the emphasis
should be on integration, not building more databases.

>  There is no GBD.  There won't be.  Thank goodness.

It depends on how you define it.  My contention is that there already is a
GBD (with the "D" sensu lato).  We just need to be better about tying all
the pieces together.


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