University of South Florida

USF College of Marine Science


Researchers propose a global observatory to monitor Earth’s biodiversity

Biodiversity fish reef

Biodiversity is key for Earth’s ecosystems — on land and in the oceans. Credit: Daryl Duda/NOAA  

This article has been adapted from an announcement by the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network at McGill University.

At a time of nature crisis driven by unparalleled rates of biodiversity loss, a new interconnected system to monitor biodiversity around the world is urgently needed to direct and focus conservation action.

Frank E. Muller-Karger

Frank E. Muller-Karger

“Many areas of our economy, from tourism and fishing to water quality, and even important cultural symbols are tied to marine life,” said Frank Müller-Karger, professor at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science and a co-author of an article in Nature Ecology & Evolution that details a Global Biodiversity Observing System (GBiOS). “GBiOS is a way to organize the efforts that already exist to better monitor marine life and organize information. This is a small investment that can have huge returns for our own health and economy.”

Operating much like the existing global network of weather stations that monitor climate change and its impacts, the GBiOS is a proposal developed by scientists from the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) at McGill University and its partners, that will combine technology, data, and knowledge from around the world to foster collaboration and data sharing among countries, and to provide the data urgently needed to monitor biodiversity change and target action.  

“The lethal combination of habitat loss, the exploitation of natural populations, pollution, and climate change is causing species extinction rates not seen since the last mass extinction 65 million years ago,” said Andrew Gonzalez, co-Chair of GEO BON, professor, and Liber Ero Chair in conservation biology at McGill University. “We lack the means to monitor these impacts fast enough across most areas of the planet.”

GBiOS can galvanize collaboration on the critical issue of biodiversity data access, sharing, and equitable use. 

“It can provide the information we need at the pace we need it to support countries as they make progress towards their biodiversity goals”, said Alice Hughes, associate professor at The University of Hong Kong, and one of the dozens of scientists who collaborated to develop the proposal for GBiOS. 

GBiOS is a missing piece of the science-policy puzzle needed to support the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework agreed upon at the COP-15 conference in Montreal last year, contributing to a representative and inclusive understanding of biodiversity change and supporting effective implementation of policies that are designed to reverse biodiversity loss and achieve the global goals for nature in the coming decades.

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