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Open-source species location data supports global biodiversity analyses

31 / 07 / 2017, Mongabaycom News

How many species are living on Earth at this moment in time? Ask a few different scientists and you may get drastically different answers.  Most estimates range from 3-10 million distinct species of multicellular organisms; however, when microbial diversity is factored in, the upper bound jumps to nearly a trillion. Having a clear understanding of what species are present on Earth, where they are, and to what extent they are threatened is essential to making informed conservation decisions at both a local and global scale. A hawk moth in Uganda, one of more than 1,400 hawk moth species. Photo credit: George Powell In 2001, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) was established through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by participating countries with the goal of providing the infrastructure to store biodiversity datasets in a standardized format that is accessible to everyone.  The overall vision of GBIF is to have “A world in which biodiversity information is freely and universally available for science, society and a sustainable future”. GBIF has now grown into the largest biodiversity database in the world with records of hundreds of millions of occurrences of over 1.7 million species, ranging from bacteria to blue whales.  It contains data collected over the past three centuries from biological surveys as well as digitized records  of museum and herbarium collections. Institutions from over 50 countries have contributed datasets to GBIF. Distribution of the GBIF’s 710 million geo-referenced species occurrence locations. Image credit: GBIF How it works Participating countries…

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