23 Feb

Who are biodiversity data actors?


Data is crucial for successful commitments.

In December, at the Convention of Biological Diversity’s (CBD) COP15, nations agreed on a Global Biodiversity Framework, a Paris-style agreement for nature. The landmark negotiation includes twenty-three targets for 2030. This is the decade of action for the intertwined global challenges for climate and biodiversity. Although there are separate agreements and separate systems of measurement for each of the Rio Conventions, at OpenEarth Foundation, we know that these are interlinked systems that should not be treated in silos.

UNEP reported on some of the numbers within the Global Biodiversity Frameworks targets [read more].

The Paris Agreement was agreed upon in 2015.  The mechanism for the Global Stocktake—the process of measuring collective progress toward the Paris Agreement goals–  is just now being finalized. There are lessons from the UNFCCC Global Stocktake process that should be swiftly shared with the CBD Global Biodiversity Framework review process if we are to make and measure progress by 2030 on reversing biodiversity loss. At OpenEarth we are deeply focused on developing a digitally enabled independent Global Stocktake (DIGS) which. You can read more about the DIGS initiative in our lite paper here.

At CBD COP15 in Montreal in December, our team member Louisa Durkin was a part of the Capitals Coalition delegation observing the progress on data mechanisms for biodiversity monitoring.

Some key takeaways:

1. There is a proposed clearing house mechanism (Bioland - Clearing House Mechanism) for biodiversity. However many are not aware of it or how to use it. This clearinghouse is not analogous to Global Climate Action Portal, but rather is an open-source way for countries to describe their progress to store content.

2. Biodiversity primary data is very different from the primary data being measured in climate, and there is a lack of standardization and consistent monitoring.  

3. Building a mechanism to ensure that people can access and use the data appropriately is factored into many of the current biodiversity data mechanisms (GBIF for example), and should remain a key consideration for any platform emerging in the biodiversity MRV space.

4. There are currently loosely coordinated efforts that could stand to be (and aim to be) federated such as GeoBon for collecting biodiversity data and collating it into biodiversity variables.

Mapping the landscape of biodiversity actors

Through observation of many work sessions, roundtables, and negotiators discussing monitoring and measurement, we were able to get a better understanding of who is working on biodiversity monitoring and how the different actors are connected. By mapping the observed actors working to stocktake biodiversity impacts and their interconnectedness, we can begin to identify key gaps and redundancies and gain awareness of who is active in biodiversity monitoring in relation to the Global Biodiversity Framework.

FIGURE 1: Mapping the actors within the biodiversity data space related to stocktaking collective progress. The map also includes the connections between the different actors acknowledging the interconnectedness of the data stocktaking process. This is a preliminary depiction and we expect the number of actors and their connections to grow.

In Figure 1 we map the actors contributing to biodiversity stocktaking and their interconnections. To investigate these connections further please check out the kumu map. Through mapping influence, or how connected an element is to other well connected elements (kumu definition for  Eigenvector centrality), the most influential partner is Business for Nature.

Based on their interconnections, we can see that UNEP-WCMC, IUCN, Business for Nature, and SBTN are central actors working on biodiversity data, which we expect expands their impact. GEOBON and TNFD also have many partners and generally speaking, their partners are less interconnected with other biodiversity data actors, leading them to be bringing in key actors from other spaces. In Figure 1 we list the connections between entities, but aren’t able to necessarily describe the quality of these relationships. An example of how these relationships can be described is below in Figure 2.

FIGURE 2: Mapping Key Actors in Stocktaking. At one of the working groups, GBIF proposed this diagram for how IPBES, CBD, GBIF and GEOBON interact.

In the Global Biodiversity Framework, there will be a systematic review much like a stocktaking (the word stocktaking is not explicitly mentioned in the GBF). At COP15 there were discussions in some of the data workshops, that GBIF, IPBES, and GeoBON in particular have been building capacity to be able to facilitate this review (see Figure 2). What was very encouraging to see is the collaboration these networks have already been able to accomplish and the forward thinking they have done to envision a federated approach to biodiversity information stocktaking. Federated approaches for clearing house mechanisms was exactly what the review the National Academy of Sciences called for in 2022 for GHG systems, which provides an opportunity for the biodiversity stocktaking space to learn from. These approaches are essential to successful systems because they combat debilitating fragmentation. Lack of coordination between actors (as seen with the UNFCCC processes) can lead to redundant work, lack of information flow, and lack of trust in data systems.


Many of the key actors in biodiversity monitoring as well as key actors being monitored are not national parties to the CBD but rather “non-state actors'' (NSAs). NSAs consist of subnationals such as cities, provinces, and states; and also corporates, financial institutions, NGOs, and civil society. It is key that there is a place for these actors within the data process for measuring collective progress toward the Global Biodiversity Framework. One initiative that is working to track the contributions of NSAs is the Sharm El-Sheikh to Kunming and Montreal Action Agenda for Nature and People. A preliminary portal currently exists which captures NSA commitments towards biodiversity action [https://www.cbd.int/portals/action-agenda/]. Following the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework, a strengthened data platform will be established to track NSA actions and progress.

It is key that the mechanism for stocktaking collective progress toward the Global Biodiversity Framework proactively works toward preventing fragmentation, one of the root causes of inaction. We have listed a few ways we see that can be achieved:

“It’s important that each decision at every step, which has a level of uncertainty and embedded assumptions, is fed into the end decision. It leads to much better decisions.”  Dr. Alice C. Hughes, Associate Professor of School of Biological Sciences, University of Hong Kong and member of the Asia Pacific Biodiversity Observation Network (APBON)

1. Standards for geospatial data provenance

- On March 6th, 2023 a group of practitioners, funders, technologists will submit to the UNFCCC technical dialogues a set of preliminary guidelines for interoperability for data on nature-based solutions (NbS). OpenEarth and Nature4Climate supported a working group to gather inputs from over fifty actors working on NbS. These guidelines are formulated to address geospatial data provenance related to nature-based solutions and therefore span both the climate and biodiversity conversations. We expect these guidelines can contribute to the prevention of fragmentation within the biodiversity space, but much more work is needed to prevent the current fragmentation that we see in the climate data space. You can review the inputs and contribute on our miro board or by reaching out directly .

2. Developing a clearing house with the principles outlined in a recent National Academy of Sciences report

- The report suggests that a federated or coordinated repository/clearinghouse be developed to facilitate the interoperability of data used for GHG stocktaking. Some key pillars of such a repository are:

- Information be timely, transparent, and traceable

- In a standard data format with documentation

- Provide descriptive information about the models and data processes

- Includes uncertainty both qualitative (e.g., caveats and limitations) and quantitative (e.g., uncertainties, error characterization)

- Ensures that the data used is publicly (widely) available

- There is careful consideration of the coordinated governance mechanisms

- Educational and capacity building tools facilitate ease of use for a diverse set of stakeholders

- Continue to foster community with the relevant stakeholders

3. Ensuring that we are able to account for progress toward the Global Biodiversity Framework in a granular way

- One key approach to reporting that has been implemented in the UNFCCC process is nesting the contributions of relevant non-state actors that then feed into the country level information. The advantages of this approach are outlined here.

4. Propose a community for technologists, data scientists, and those working directly with the CBD to convene and continually bridge the legacy systems with the latest useful emerging technologies.

- The Climate Action Data 2.0 community was established through a declaration in November 2021 at UNFCCC COP26. It is a place for technologists working on data harmonization, digital infrastructure and use cases for climate data to exchange best practices and latest insights.

With these proactive measures, and a clear set of guidelines from the Global Biodiversity Framework, there can be clear and coherent dialogues that lead to a useful exchange of information to support the review of the GBF.

This is a preliminary assessment

The field of biodiversity monitoring, reporting, and verification is very dynamic and growing. We do not claim this to be a full list of actors but rather some key actors observed participating in CBD COP15 and being relevant to the stocktaking of the Global Biodiversity Framework. In an effort to ensure this is a living document, we've developed a form to suggest further inputs into this actor map. Please do consider contributing.

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