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GOOS BioEco Portal: the place to go for information on ocean biological and ecosystem observations

Date: 25 July 2022

“We now have for the first time a resource in GOOS that allows us to know who is measuring what, where, how and why for marine biodiversity. This is a fundamental starting point to coordinate and enhance observations, including filling the gaps, ” says Ward Appeltans, marine biodiversity expert and manager of the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS), who developed the Portal together with the GOOS Expert Panel on Biology and Ecosystems (BioEco). OBIS and GOOS are sister programmes implemented under the auspices of the United Nations, via UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

Ocean life is an important source of food and livelihoods, and our societies depend on it for economic, cultural, social and environmental wellbeing. However, unsustainable use of marine resources coupled with climate change impacts is causing massive changes in the ocean, and many of the benefits that humans derive from marine biodiversity are being jeopardised. Improved management of human activities that impact ocean life is crucial, and to achieve this we must understand how marine biodiversity is distributed, where and how rapidly decline is happening, and what is causing this decline.

There is an increasing need for systems that can enable data from sustained biological and ecological ocean observations to be shared globally, with established standardisation of methods and data processing. To address this need, OBIS and the GOOS BioEco Panel have developed the GOOS BioEco Portal - a tool that the ocean observing community can use to discover information on marine biological and ecosystem observations and the sustained programmes that collect them.

This initial version of the BioEco Portal has been built on the work undertaken by the BioEco Panel in surveying biological and ecosystem ocean observing programmes that are collecting sustained observations of the 13 BioEco Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) - key measurements that provide information about the health of marine life, including plankton, fish, marine mammals, seagrass, and others. These BioEco EOVs address the information needs of many international conventions and multilateral agreements, and more details about the survey can be found in Frontiers in Marine Science.

A ‘one of a kind’ resource 

Serving as a unique online tool for information on programmes that collect observations of the BioEco EOVs the new Portal is the result of collaboration and co-design between three of the key IOC-UNESCO programmes - OBIS, the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE), GOOS, via its BioEco Panel - and the data centre of the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ).

“This is a one of a kind resource for marine life researchers globally. It will help the BioEco Panel find gaps and support targeted action in areas where sustained ocean observing is needed, and where we know ocean stressors are at work”, says Anya Waite, Co-Chair of GOOS and Director of the Ocean Frontiers Institute.

The BioEco Panel recognises that there is still some way to go in connecting with all the sustained monitoring initiatives for BioEco EOVs and collecting the complete relevant information for all programmes. The launch of the GOOS BioEco Portal is a call to programme managers and metadata providers to contribute to this resource and expand its utility to their region. “We also encourage visitors of the Portal and registered users to call upon their networks and colleagues to contribute, regardless of the scale or developmental stage of their ocean observing programme,” says Serita van der Wal, the data manager of the Portal. 

One of the future goals of the BioEco Portal is to create an automated flow of data and metadata from ocean observing programmes to the Portal and data management systems such as OBIS. “By 2025, we are aiming for 90% of active BioEco monitoring programmes having up-to-date entries in the BioEco Portal and 80% having established continuous data flow to OBIS. By 2025, the BioEco Portal will also have a live connection with the GOOS monitoring facility hosted by OceanOPS in Brest,” says Ward Appeltans.

bioeco portal


How to use and contribute to the Portal?

The Portal provides an interactive map that delivers a global picture of the biological and ecosystem observations collected by contributing programmes, which can be selected or filtered by the programme name. The information about each programme includes the variables observed, the state of development of the programme, the standardisations and specifications used to collect observations, and the programme’s observing capability (or readiness level). This information is known as the program ‘metadata’. The actual data collected by each programme can be found in data systems such as the OBIS, and links to them can be added in the Portal.

All metadata and information available in the Portal is uploaded through the backend platform, the GOOS BioEco GeoNode, to ensure a user/data provider driven approach. In GeoNode, registered users can upload, edit and manage contributed monitoring programme details and the associated metadata themselves. 

This makes contributing a new programme to the Portal quick and straightforward. It can be done independently, using the Portal and GeoNode documentation available to all users and visitors. This documentation contains step-by-step instructions and guidelines on how to upload, edit or manage the metadata, supported by videos and examples. 

Newly contributed programmes and updated programme metadata will automatically be incorporated into the GOOS BioEco Portal, where users can then observe, compare and connect with programmes, researchers and institutions of interest.

“We strived to develop a portal for the user, by the user. This means that we encourage communication and feedback from our users and program providers regarding all aspects of using the portal and GeoNode,” says Serita van der Wal of OBIS.


The development of the Portal has been made possible through financial support from the project "Defining the observing system for the world's oceans - from microbes to whales", funded under the PEGASuS 2 call on Ocean Sustainability, sponsored by Future Earth and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). The Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) has also provided funds to further develop and improve the content of the Portal in 2021-2022.

Explore the GOOS BioEco Portal here.



The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) promotes international cooperation in marine sciences to improve management of the ocean, coasts and marine resources. The IOC enables its 150 Member States to work together by coordinating programmes in capacity development, ocean observations and services, ocean science and tsunami warning. The work of the IOC contributes to the mission of UNESCO to promote the advancement of science and its applications to develop knowledge and capacity, key to economic and social progress, the basis of peace and sustainable development.

About GOOS

GOOS is the global home of ocean observing expertise. We lead and support a community of international, regional and national ocean observing programmes, governments, UN agencies, research organizations and individual scientists. Our Core Team of expert panels, networks, alliances and projects supported by a GOOS Office is in touch with ocean observing and forecasting around the world. We are an Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) led programme with UN and science co-sponsors: World Meteorological Organization (WMO), UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the International Science Council (ISC).

About OBIS

The Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) is one of the IOC-UNESCO flagship data systems. OBIS is a global data platform that integrates, quality-controls and provides access to over 100 million occurrence records of 160,000 different marine species and that number is growing by millions every year. OBIS is built by the contribution of thousands of scientists who collaborate with data managers to make scientific data available for research, management and public awareness. Every year, OBIS is used in over 100 scientific papers. The UN World Ocean Assessment and the assessments as part of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services all use OBIS to report on the state of our ocean.