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Call to Contribute to Global Harmful Algal Bloom Status Reporting

16 HAB experts from 13 countries were trained in OBIS data entry at the UNESCO-IOC headquarters in Belgium. Based on this training, the effort of compiling and increasing data sets is being intensified in order to provide a substantial part of the basis for a first Global HAB Status Report. This report series will provide the scientific community as well as decision makers with a reference on HAB occurrence and impacts on ecosystem services.

November 03, 2017 - Hallegraeff et al.HAB training

OBIS Training course Kuala Terrenganu, Malaysia, 22-26 October 2017

16 researchers from 8 countries in S-E Asia were trained in OBIS at UNESCO-IOC's OceanTeacher Regional Training Centre in Malaysia. This is one of eight OBIS training courses in 2017, making use of IOC's OceanTeacher Global Academy learning platform. New training material was developed (including many R scripts) and is available online.

October 30, 2017 - Ward AppeltansOBIS training Malaysia

Harmful Algal Bloom data training course, Belgium, 25-28 September 2017

16 harmful Algae experts from 13 countries are trained in data entry into the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) and the Harmful Algae Event Database (HAEDAT). The data will be used for the Global HAB Status Report.

September 27, 2017 - OBISOBIS training HAB

OBIS Training course Dakar, Senegal, 17-20 July 2017

OBIS training course in Senegal completed successfully. This is one of eight OBIS training courses on marine biodiversity data management that will be organized in 2017, making use of IOC's Ocean Teacher Global Academy learning platform.

September 12, 2017 - Ismaïla NdourOBIS training Senegal

6th OBIS Steering Group report published

The meeting report of the 6th session of the OBIS Steering Group is online. 38 decisions and recommendations were adopted.

August 17, 2017 - OBISsteering group community

New OBIS Data Science Officer

Dr Samuel Bosch recently joined the OBIS secretariat, as our Data Science Officer.

August 17, 2017 - iOBISOBIS secretariat staff data science officer

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Use cases

Plant feeding promotes diversity in the Crustacea

species diversity Biological evolution OBIS data

The question of why some groups of animals and plants flourish while others do not has puzzled biologists for centuries. One way to address the question is to look for special features or abilities shared by the successful groups. We know that smaller organisms like insects or bacteria are more diverse than larger organisms (birds, mammals), and that the warmer habitats of the tropics generate more animal and plant diversity than temperate areas.

The ability to eat new foods also helps explain the incredible number of species among the herbivorous insects. Just like insects on land, many crustaceans – the 70,000 species of crabs, lobsters and their relatives – eat plants and seaweeds in the kelp forests and coral reefs in the sea, and in streams and lakes around the world. Some crabs even climb mangrove trees to feed on leaves, and others eat seedlings from the rainforest floor.

Poore et al. (2017) showed that the ability to eat seaweeds and plants promotes diversity among crustaceans, just as it does among herbivorous insects. To do this, they examined the evolutionary tree of crustaceans and found animals eating plants in at least 31 different lineages. Then, to test whether plant-feeding promotes diversity, they compared the number of species in each plant-feeding group with their nearest relatives. These sister comparisons showed that the herbivores had, on average, 21 times more species than their nearest relatives - crustaceans eating live animals, microbes or decaying organic material. The geographic distributions of plant-feeding and sister taxa were analysed to examine whether shifts to plant feeding have facilitated increases in range size and to test the likelihood of contrasts in richness being confounded by possible regional differences in richness (latitude, biogeographic regions). The records from OBIS for each clade were analysed to estimate range size, latitudinal range and the occurrence in the biogeographic realms of Spalding et al. (2007). These analyses detected that plant-feeding clades did, on average, have larger range sizes, and that the increases in their richness could not be explained by disproportionate sampling in the tropics or in certain biogeographic regions.


  • Poore, AGB, ST Ahyong, JK Lowry and EE Sotka. 2017. Plant feeding is associated with high species richness in the Crustacea. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. 114: 8829–8834. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1706399114
  • Spalding MD et al. (2007) Marine ecoregions of the world: A bioregionalization of coastal and shelf areas. Bioscience 57: 573–583.

Analysis of OBIS maps distinct biogeographic realms in the world ocean

species distributions OBIS data

Early explorers classified the land into “biogeographic” realms based on their distinctive fauna and flora. On land the contrast was obvious – kiwi in New Zealand and kangaroos in Australia, for example – but the ocean realm was different. Experts doubted whether distinct biogeographic boundaries existed in the oceans, partly because for species like whales, birds, and large fish, the whole ocean is their habitat. Before OBIS existed it was too difficult and expensive to collate the tens of thousands of species distribution records from many thousands of publications, specimen collections’, and unpublished sources to test this. Now, using cluster analysis of species distributions in OBIS, 30 distinct realms have been identified, of which two are largely freshwater (Baltic and Black Seas).Two-thirds of all realms were coastal, because the coastal environment is less stable and more variable. Because the offshore and deep-sea areas offer similar environmental conditions over much larger areas the species there have larger geographic ranges; thus offshore realms are larger than coastal. The most widespread species in the ocean were the smallest and largest; the microscopic plankton that drift until they find suitable conditions for growth, and the whales, birds, turtles, and large fish “megafauna” that travel across the oceans. In addition to improved understanding of ocean biogeography, these new maps will have practical use for conservation planning (each realm should have a network of Marine Reserves), and reporting on ocean trends (by definition each realm is unique and so needs separate surveillance).

Full reference:

  • Costello, M.J.; Tsai, P.; Wong, P.S.; Cheung, A.K.L.; Basher, Z.; Chaudhary, C. (2017). Marine biogeographic realms and species endemicity. Nature Comm. 8(1): 1057. https://hdl.handle.net/10.1038/s41467-017-01121-2

Highest marine species richness is found in tropical coastal areas

species distribution OBIS data

Costello & Chaudhary (2017) used data from OBIS to show that marine species richness is higher in the coastal tropics and decreases with depth. The paper reviews what factors have led to species diversification, and how this knowledge informs conservation priorities.

Two representations of species richness were compared to sea surface temperature and productivity. To minimise sampling effort bias, Estimated Species richness (ES50) was calculated as the number of species in 50 random samples from each 5 degree latitude-longitude cell derived from a dataset of 65,000 species distributions from OBIS in 2009 and equal area hexagons from 51,670 species from OBIS in 2015.

Four measures of species richness calculated from the above hexagons, and sea temperature, were plotted with depth. Species richness, calculated for 32,328 species with known depth of occurrence, for 50,000 km2 hexagrids in the depth range 0 – 500 m (interval of 100) and 500 – 9,000 m (interval of 500).

For environmental data see http://gmed.auckland.ac.nz/.

Details in: Costello MJ, Chaudhary C. 2017. Marine biodiversity, biogeography, deep-sea gradients, and conservation. Current Biology 27, R511–R527. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.060

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