Explore OBIS

Taxon search

Common name search

Dataset search

Institute search

Country statistics

ABNJ statistics

Marine World Heritage Sites

EBSA statistics


Call for applications - Training course in Marine Species Distribution Modelling, 12-16 March 2018, Belgium

The OceanTeacher Global Academy, in collaboration with OBIS, the Federation of European Phycological Societies (FEPS) and the Spanish phycological society (SEF), will organize a week-long training session on Marine Species Distribution Modelling, 12-16 March 2018, in Oostende, Belgium. The call for applications is open until 14 January 2018.

December 12, 2017 - Ward AppeltansOBIS training Belgium

OBIS Nodes Training course, Oostende, Belgium, 27 Nov - 1 Dec 2017

22 OBIS nodes data managers from 17 countries were trained in the application of ratified Darwin Core terms, using the new OBIS-ENV-DATA standard, which combines sampling events and species occurrences with abiotic/biotic measurements as well as sampling facts. In addition, the new OBIS data access and QC tools (based on OBIS R packages and WoRMS/LifeWatch tools) were thaught. The training course was funded through the IOC's OceanTeacher Global Academy and all the training material is available online.

December 11, 2017 - Ward AppeltansOBIS training Belgium

New data loaded, 30 November 2017

On November 30, 230 new datasets, 9,699,997 new records, and 1,869 new marine species were added to OBIS. The current version of the OBIS database now has 58 million occurrences of 117,901 species. The database report with a full dataset overview is available here.

November 30, 2017 - OBISnew data load

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

More news...

Subscribe to our mailing list

Tweets by OBIS

Use cases

Illuminating the Twilight Zone - expert panel maps the world's mesopelagic zone

Biogeography OBIS data

The mesopelagic, or “twilight” zone (open ocean waters between 200 – 1000 m depth), is the world’s second-largest cumulative ecosystem, trailing only the bathypelagic zone (waters > 1000 m depth). In this zone there is not enough sunlight to support photosynthesis (i.e., less than 1% of surface irradiance), but enough light that animals can detect the difference between night and day. The importance of deep-pelagic ecosystems in global ecosystem functioning, such as carbon cycling, is widely acknowledged, but poorly understood. To date less than 1% of this habitat has been sampled, hampering statistical approaches to map its inhabitants on a global scale. A recent paper provides a synthesis of what is known about the distribution of life in the Twilight Zone. Experts integrated available biological data with physical oceanographic spatial modelling to present a biogeographic classification of this massive ecosystem. Thirty-three global ecoregions were identified, of which 20 were truly oceanic, while 13 were ‘distant neritic.’ Each ecoregion harbors a characteristic combination of organisms, with ‘boundaries’ between ecoregions being more like gradients than sharp discontinuities. Each ecoregion is driven by a complex of driving factors, but some of the most important are phytoplankton production in the overlying waters, the presence or absence of oxygen minimum strata, upwelling, and water column stratification. Much work needs to be done to produce a truly dynamic mesopelagic biogeography – huge sections of the World Ocean are still unsampled, and seasonal sampling is rare in all but a few locations. As resource extraction from the deep increases, so too does the need for baseline information to assess human impacts. The proposed mesopelagic classification addresses a standing data gap in global ocean management and conservation efforts.

Full reference:

  • Sutton, T.T., M.R. Clark, D.C. Dunn, P.N. Halpin, A.D. Rogers, J. Guinotte, S.J. Bograd, M.V. Angel, J.A.A. Perez, K. Wishner, R.L. Haedrich, D.J. Lindsay, J.C. Drazen, A. Vereshchaka, U. Piatkowski, T. Morato, K. Błachowiak-Samołyk, B.H. Robison, K.M. Gjerde, A. Pierrot-Bults, P. Bernal, G. Reygondeau. and M. Heino (2017) A global biogeographic classification of the mesopelagic zone. Deep Sea Research I 126: 85-102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr.2017.05.006

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

More use cases...