Standards & Protocols

GBIF approved Data Standards

What is a Standard:
A standard is a document approved by a recognized body that provides for common and repeated use, rules and guidelines for products or related processes and production methods.

Within the Biodiversity Informatics sector, standards exist that can affect biodiversity informatics activities, including the design of collections databases and information management systems.

Data Exchange Standards:
These standards, also known as transfer or transport protocols, are used to organise and format information so that it can be exchanged or combined regardless of source. The most commonly known data exchange standards for collections data are the Access to Biological Collections Data (ABCD) and the Darwin Core (DwC). Exchange standards give the headings, fields, tags, or elements with which to organise your data.

Standard Bodies:
These are organizations that develop and maintain standards. The organization predominantly involved in the development of biodiversity standards is the Taxonomic Working Group, now known as Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) Other standard bodies include the OpenGIS Consortium (OGC): and numerous other bodies exist.

Why do we need Standards:
Standards provide the medium, rules and protocols to share information. The use of standards will enable interoperability of your system and information with other systems and data.

Integrating data is not an easy process, however when a standard is applied beforehand, it makes it that much simpler to share data, and be a part of a more global community. Thus we need to know what types of standards are available.

Darwin Core:

The Darwin Core is a standard designed to facilitate the exchange of information about the geographic occurrence of species and the existence of specimens in collections. The Darwin Core is especially relevant to museum communities and natural history collections, and was designed to exchange and share data about specimens such as herbarium vouchers or bottled collections. It is commonly used for primary species occurrence data and the basic unit is the record.

The Darwin Core is body of standards. It includes a glossary of terms (in other contexts these might be called properties, elements, fields, columns, attributes, or concepts) intended to facilitate the sharing of information about biological diversity by providing reference definitions, examples, and commentaries. The Darwin Core is primarily based on taxa, their occurrence in nature as documented by observations, specimens, and samples, and related information. Included are documents describing how these terms are managed, how the set of terms can be extended for new purposes, and how the terms can be used. Please Click here to View the Fields of the Schema.

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Access to Biological Collections Data (ABCD):

The Access to Biological Collections Data (ABCD) Schema was developed within the BIOCASE project, which is the Biological Collections Access Service for Europe. It is an evolving comprehensive standard for access to and exchange of data about specimens and observations. This includes living and preserved specimens.

When collecting observation data, voucher specimens are not produced. This standard is especially relevant to complex/detailed primary biodiversity data collection that does not support voucher specimens.

ABCD is much more complex than Darwin Core and is considered the next level or evolution of Darwin Core, containing approximately 1200 elements/fields. This schema was designed to ensure that both the observation community and the collection community can use one schema to share data. ABCD and Darwin Core aims to be compatible. It is possible to map the ABCD element to Darwin Core elements in order for data to be shared between systems.

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Taxon Concept Schema (TCS):

The name of an organism is at the core of biodiversity/natural history. In order to exchange data between biodiversity databases there was a need to formalize the naming conventions or the taxonomic components of biodiversity data. Thus TCS was developed to provide a standard for taxon names and taxon concepts in the exchange and integration of biodiversity and natural history data. This schema only relates to the sharing of taxon names and synonyms and taxon concepts.

What is the difference between Taxon name and Taxon concept:
The name is defined by the rules of the Biological Codes of Nomenclature. Thus a name would be a defined by the label given to a genus or species i.e. in the latter case Gorilla gorilla (Savage, 1847). This is the name and in brackets is the person that first described the species.

The rules of nomenclature or classification often cause changes to a species name. When referring to the name, with reference to the publication in which the species is described, this is called a taxon concept. One publication may cite the name of a species as follows Gorilla gorilla (Savage, 1847) and in another edition there are two species of Gorilla described as Gorilla gorilla (Savage, 1847) and Gorilla beringei (Matschie, 1903), these are therefore two distinct concepts about Gorilla gorilla.

Many databases contain taxonomic information, but minor differences in the way the fields or data is stored or structured makes data exchange difficult. Thus, using the TCS standard enables data to be exchanged in a structured format.

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For more details of information found on this page go to : the GBIF training manual: