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Article 2 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines biodiversity as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including,  inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems."

Biodiversity data are generally collected locally by many different organizations (such as research, administrative, management, private and public) for multiple initial purposes (such as science, monitoring, environmental impact, management,  recreation). As such, the data are diverse, incomplete, and patchy. GBIF has shown that we can use these data for many additional analyses beyond the initial intent of the collector, however, the recent Millennium Ecosystem Assessment demonstrated that there are gaps in both coverage and content which make our understanding of
global, regional, and local processes imperfect

Within New Zealand Biodiversity data are collected by a wide range of groups including CRIs (in particular Landcare, Department of Conservation and NIWA), Universities, State and Regional Authorities, and NGOs.


The purpose of this project is to develop understanding and capability in the Open Geospatial Standards that may be relevant to the exchange of Biodiversity Observation Data and to provide examples of the ways in which existing biodiversity data concepts map onto the Observations and Measurements Abstract Model. Note that we are focusing here on Biodiversity Observation Data as opposed to other biodiversity data such as biodiversity collection data.

There are a number of data interoperability protocols and formats being developed. OGC SOS is one that we feel is gaining traction and has the capacity to share data across domains rather than exclusively within the domain of biodiversity. In other words it has a very general data model. As a result of this generality it is necessary to identify a mapping between domain specific concepts, terms and vocabularies to the information formats. (A profile). In order to develop such a profile we take an interative approach by first creating a 'straw man' mapping of an existing information format to OM and then make this available for further discussion.

Global Perspectives

GEO Group on Earth Observations
The Group on Earth Observations is coordinating efforts to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems, or GEOSS.

GEO was launched in response to calls for action by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and by the G8 (Group of Eight) leading industrialized countries. These high-level meetings recognized that international collaboration is essential for exploiting the growing potential of Earth observations to support decision making in an increasingly complex and environmentally stressed world.

In the realm of Bio-diversity.
Before 2015, GEO aims to:

Establish, in conjunction with a comprehensive ecosystem monitoring capability, a worldwide biodiversity observation network to collect, manage, share and analyze observations of the status and trends of the world's biodiversity, and enable decision-making in support of the conservation and improved management of natural resources.

This will be achieved through:

Working with all parties interested in biodiversity observations, and notably the United Nations Convention on Bio-Diversity (UNCBD), as well as:
Utilizing the resources and experience of GEO Members and Participating Organizations, non-governmental organizations, data providers and aggregators, tool developers and operators, and other types of practitioners, in order to establish the biodiversity observation network (GEO BON), which will:

  • promote standards for data collection and data management;
  • continue the development of a network of worldwide biodiversity observations;
  • institute an ongoing process to identify gaps in implementation that need to be filled;
  • implement reporting on biodiversity (ecosystems, species, genes) status, trends, services, risks, and conservation to all stakeholders;
  • develop and implement a service to respond to requests for new products or services.

This will be demonstrated by:

  • Increased routine collection of long term in-situ and remotely sensed biodiversity observations.
  • Access through GEOSS to a large panel of biodiversity observations, including satellite, aerial and in-situ.
  • Increased information sharing on biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity resources.
  • Implementation of a mechanism that enables users to interact with the development of biodiversity observations systems and request services.
  • Increased availability of biodiversity information necessary to respond to and support related topics (ecosystems, health, climate, etc.).
  • Increased information to reduce the cost and support the management of biodiversity issues.

GEOSS Standards Registry Managed by IEEE. part of the GEOSS
This site contains a useful registry of Standards that are or may be used by the GEOSS system these includes links to the well known OGC Standards for WMS/WFS etc. OAI-PMH (harvesting), IEEE standards for sensors. Web standards (HTTP, FTP), ISO191xxx GML etc. DarwinCore, LSID, SPARQL, RDF, OWL, NetCDF and many more.

GEO BON - Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network

  • Main Website
  • Overview document (ttp://
    GEO BON is a specific example of a “community of practice”, within the Global Earth 
    Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).  It  is the main implementation platform of the 
    Biodiversity “Societal Benefit Area”.

GEO BON aims to create a global network from multilateral collaborative efforts in the realm of biodiversity by linking and supporting individual efforts within an overarching scientific framework. It is proposed that GEO BON will allow the combination of top-down measures of ecosystem integrity from satellite observations (for example) with bottom-up measures of ecosystem processes, population trends of key organisms and genetic measures of biodiversity from field-based and molecular survey methods. The proposed role of GEO BON will be to guide data collection, standardisation, and information exchange. All participating organizations will retain their mandates and data ownership, but agree to collaborate in making part of their information accessible to others.

GEO BON will build upon existing systems such as GBIF. Currently their overview documents do not mention OM. However as these protocols are referenced by the GEOSS of which GEO BON forms a part.

OGC - Open Geospatial Consortium

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is an international industry consortium of 458 companies, government agencies and universities participating in a consensus process to develop publicly available interface standards. [OGC® Standards|] support interoperable solutions that "geo-enable" the Web, wireless and location-based services and mainstream IT. The standards empower technology developers to make complex spatial information and services accessible and useful with all kinds of applications.
The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is an international industry consortium of 458 companies, government agencies and universities participating in a consensus process to develop publicly available interface standards. [OGC® Standards|] support interoperable solutions that "geo-enable" the Web, wireless and location-based services and mainstream IT. The standards empower technology developers to make complex spatial information and services accessible and useful with all kinds of applications.

The Observation and Measurements (OM) specification provides a standard model for representing and exchanging observation results. OM is primarily a conceptual model describing the relationship between different aspects of the data-capture process to one another. According to OM an observation is an event which occurs at a certain point in time and that generates a value for the observed phenomenon. Besides the time and value of a measurement, OM is capable of describing other measurement properties, e.g. the process used to generate the measurement value as well as the location and quality of the measurement. OM considers a measurement value to be an approximation of an attribute of the observed feature of interest (FOI), additional information is regarded as metadata for further analysis and interpretation of the data. Thus, an observation serves as a property-value-provider for a feature of interest. The OM schemata not only enable the definition of observations but also of phenomena. Based upon these definitions dictionaries can be designed which defines the phenomena used in a certain application domain. Such a dictionary forms the basis for a general understanding of sensor data.

In short to create interoperability between Biodiversity systems we need to define how these various elements will be mapped onto existing elements found in current biodiversity systems and data models.  In the process we generate a share vocabulary of terms and conventions that allow data from different sources to be compared.

Why Spatial?

We need to make the justification for why biodiversity observation information should be represented primarily in models and languages developed to represent geospatial concepts. It may seem obvious that all biodiversity observations take place in the 'real world' and therefore at some geospatial location, and are therefore related in some way to a feature of interest. But we might equally build a conceptual model based around the idea not of individual organisms, but around the category dimension of taxonomic concept (or species). In this world view the feature might be for example the Class Anthozoa (corals). This concept is not directly geographically located - although various coral genera may have spatial extents in their distribution. Several large existing systems such as the Encyclopedia of Life and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) ||, and locally the New Zealand Organisms Register - NZOR. Hold and exchange information associated with a taxonomic name or concept. These information systems may hold spatial information - such as the distribution of a species, and may even record the location of individual samples of the species without recourse to geospatial standards beyond the coordinates of the sample.

The field of taxonomic classification, of describing the attributes and members of a class, family, genus or species etc. Is a significant area of study, but one that must ultimately be based on the direct observations of organism characteristics in the field, ocean, or laboratory. This is the realm of Biodiversity information and hence one that - with the addition of a strong concept of taxonomy, can be represented using the ideas and tools developed in the Geospatial domain.

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