Puneet Varma (Editor)

Ocean Biogeographic Information System

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The Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) is a web-based access point to information about the distribution and abundance of living species in the ocean.



It originated in an idea and prototype system developed at Rutgers University by a team led by Dr. J. Frederick Grassle that included Yunqing (Phoebe) Zhang, Karen Stocks, and Carolyn Flanders. Later, it was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and other sources to become the information management component of the Census of Marine Life. According to the official OBIS web site, the OBIS Portal "accesses data content, information infrastructure, and informatics tools - maps, visualizations, and models – to provide a dynamic, global facility in four dimensions (the three dimensions of space plus time). Potential uses are to reveal new spatial/temporal patterns; to generate new hypotheses about the global marine ecosystem; and to guide future field expeditions."

The initial OBIS Portal at Rutgers University has been online since 2002, with accessible data growing from about 500,000 observations and data points when first launched, to over 10 million as at mid-2006, from a growing network of over 140 data providers in more than 50 countries worldwide. As of August 2010, OBIS contains 30 million observation from over 120,000 species. Available data cover all groups of organisms that have any association with marine or estuarine habitats, also including shorelines and the atmosphere above the ocean, such as marine vertebrates (fishes, marine mammals, turtles, seabirds, etc.); marine invertebrates (including zooplankton); marine bacteria; and marine plants (e.g. phytoplankton, seaweeds, mangroves).

OBIS portal

The OBIS Portal also hosts, or provides links to, a variety of software tools that can operate on OBIS data to provide mapping, analysis, or data modelling services, including the KGS Mapper, the c-squares mapper, and the ACON mapper, and this number is expected to grow significantly in scope and capabilities through time.

OBIS released a new version of its portal on 27 September with several new web-based features that allow for more detailed searches of observations.

Regional OBIS nodes

Over the period 2004–present, an international network of Regional OBIS Nodes has also been established, that are facilitating the connection of data sources in their region to the master OBIS data network and also increasingly provide specialised services or views of OBIS data to users in their particular region.

  • Antarctic OBIS
  • Hosted by Belgian Biodiversity Platform, Brussels and by Flanders Marine Institute, Oostende. Managed by Bruno Danis
  • Argentina
  • Hosted by Centro Nacional Patagonico - (CENPAT) - CONICET. Managed by Mirtha Lewis
  • Australia
  • Hosted by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - Marine and Atmospheric Research. Managed by Tony Rees
  • Canada
  • Hosted by Centre of Marine Biodiversity and Bedford Institute of Oceanography. Managed by Bob Branton
  • China
  • Hosted by Institute of Oceanology. Managed by Sun Xiaoxia
  • Europe
  • Hosted by Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee. Managed by Ward Appeltans
  • Indian Ocean
  • Hosted by National Chemical Laboratory and National Institute of Oceanography. Managed by Baba Ingole
  • Japan
  • Hosted by National Institute for Environmental Studies. Managed by Junko Shimura
  • New Zealand / South West Pacific
  • Hosted by National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research. Managed by Don Robertson
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Hosted by Southern African Data Centre for Oceanography. Managed by Marten Grundlingh
  • Tropical and Subtropical Eastern South Pacific
  • Hosted by University of Concepcion. Managed by Ruben Escribando
  • Tropical and Subtropical Western South Atlantic
  • Hosted by University of Sao Paulo (USP) and Reference Center on Environmental Information (CRIA. Managed by Fabio Lang Da Silvera
  • United States of America
  • Hosted by United States Geological Survey (USGS). Managed by Mark Fornwall

    Selected publications about OBIS

  • Grassle, J.F. and Stocks, K.I., 1999. A Global Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) for the Census of Marine Life. Oceanography, 12(3), pp. 12-14.
  • Grassle, J.F. 2000. The Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS): an on-line, worldwide atlas for accessing, modeling and mapping marine biological data in a multidimensional geographic context. Oceanography. 13(3), pp. 5-7.
  • Zhang, Y. and Grassle, J.F. 2003. A portal for the Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Oceanologica Acta. 25(5), pp. 193-197.
  • Mark J. Costello, J. Frederick Grassle, Yunqing Zhang, Karen Stocks, and Edward Vanden Berghe 2005. Where is what and what is where? Online mapping of marine species. MarBEF Newsletter. Spring 2005, pp. 20–22.
  • Costello M.J., Stocks K., Zhang Y., Grassle J.F., Fautin D.G. (2007). About the Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2292/5236
  • Costello M.J., Vanhoorne B., Appeltans W. 2015. Progressing conservation of biodiversity through taxonomy, data publication and collaborative infrastructures. Conservation Biology 29 (4), 1094–1099.
  • Wood J.B., Zhang, P.Y., Costello, M.J. and Grassle, J.F. 2006. An introduction to OBIS, www.iobis.org. In: Miloslavich P. and Klein E. (eds), Caribbean marine biodiversity: the known and the unknown. DEStech Publications Inc., Lancaster Pennsylvania USA, pp. 253–254.
  • References

    Ocean Biogeographic Information System Wikipedia