About OBIS Australia

OBIS, the Ocean Biogeographic Information System, was created in 2000 as the information management arm of the Census of Marine Life (CoML), and has as its mission the provision of a unified gateway to global marine species distribution data maintained by a wide range of custodians, to facilitate the exploration of patterns of distribution of marine life in relation to geographical and ecological factors.

OBIS Australia is the Regional OBIS Node for the Australian region and part of an expanding community of regional or thematic nodes. Its main functions is to foster the online provision of marine species data from the Australian region into the OBIS international data network. These data can also be forwarded to GBIF and ALA on a case by case basis - for details see Contributing Data to the OBIS Network.

Some guidance on the nature of the data in OBIS

OBIS is in some ways comparable to a scientific journal that makes data freely available on the internet. Thus the geographic and taxonomic scope, and quantity of data provided depend on the scientists and organisations that provide data. However, in contrast to data in a journal, the 'reader' can select and combine data in OBIS from a variety of sources.

OBIS Australia is providing the principal local data access point for marine species distribution data for the Australian region and adjacent seas. There is a South Western Pacfic OBIS Regional Node, hosted by NIWA, which will have an overlapping area of interest in the Tasman Sea and the Southern Ocean. The Australia Antarctic Data Centre AADC manages data from the Australian Antarctic Program which covers the Southern Ocean from 30 deg east to 155 deg east and from Hobart to the continent. Their data is directly sent to OBIS via the biodiversity.aq domain. Additional species distribution data, both marine and terrestrial, may also be accessible via GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility especially if it has been sourced from non-Australian data providers.
Quality assurance
Only data from authoritative scientists and science organizations approved by OBIS are served. At present, no independent peer-review of the data is conducted. OBIS relies on user feedback to identify technical, geographic, and taxonomic errors in data served. However, although errors will exist in OBIS data, OBIS is confident that the data are the best available in electronic form.
Data ownership
Data providers retain ownership of the data provided. OBIS does not own or control or limit the use of any data or products accessible through its website. Accordingly, it does not take responsibility for the quality of such data or products, or the use that people may make of them.
Data use
Appropriate caution is necessary in the interpretation of results derived from OBIS. Users must recognize that the analysis and interpretation of data require background knowledge and expertise about marine biodiversity (including ecosystems and taxonomy). Users should be aware of possible errors, including in the use of species names, georeferencing, data handling, and mapping. They should cross-check their results for possible errors, and qualify their interpretation of any results accordingly.
Data gaps
Major gaps in data and knowledge about the oceans are reflected in OBIS' data coverage
  1. Most of the planet is more than 1 km under water: this deep sea is the least surveyed part of our world.
  2. Coastal areas have been adequately sampled only for the distribution of most birds, mammals, and reptiles, and some of the larger fish species.
  3. The oceans have been better sampled in the northern than the southern hemisphere, as reflected in the distribution of data in OBIS.
  4. Most marine species have not yet been recognized or named. A major effort is required to describe marine species, especially invertebrates and all deep-sea organisms.
  5. Of the marine species that have been described, some have been discovered to be several species, and others combined into single species. Thus, there are changes in the application of species names over time. The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) is the current standard catalogue that OBIS uses to identify marine species and the capability to validate and track changes in names.
  6. Some species distribution data are not available in any form, as they have not been published nor made available for databases.
  7. Only some of the recently collected, and less of the older published, data have been entered into databases. Thus, databases are very incomplete.
  8. Of existing databases, many are not connected to OBIS.

You can help address these data gaps by (a) recognizing and encouraging scientists and organizations to make their data available online so they are accessible to OBIS, and/or (b) advocating for and carrying out field surveys and taxonomic studies designed to fill geographic and taxonomic gaps in knowledge.

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