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Biodiversity Informatics standards

Biodiversity Informatics standards are essential to ensure interoperability between different types of data provided by different data publishers. Standards allow a variety of data to be ‘translated’ into the same ‘language’ so that all data can be accessible and shared on the same data portal. The use of international standards is crucial for an harmonised data publication across the world (and the upgrade of technical tools development). Biodiversity Informatics standards are in the public domain so that anyone can use them.

The Taxonomic Database Working Group (TDWGis the main organisation that creates standards for biodiversity data. The Belgian Biodiversity Platform uses the following standards developed by TDWG:


  • DarwinCore

DarwinCore is a body of Biodiversity Informatics standards developed by the TDWG. It includes a glossary of terms intended to facilitate the sharing of information about biological diversity.

For example, the field “countryCode” corresponds to the country in which the observed ‘Event’ occurs. To fill in this information, the DarwinCore requests the use of International Standard for country codes (ISO3166). As such, “Belgium” is defined as “BE” in DarwinCore occurrence. Similarly, the field “samplingProtocol” refers to the name of, reference to, or description of the method or protocol used during an ‘Event’ (e.g.: “UV light trap”, “mist net”, “bottom trawl”, “ad hoc observation”, etc.)

See an Example of a DarwinCore occurrence.

Because this standard is used by many, including GBIF and the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), one can easily understand a dataset observed in any country by any researcher.

The Belgian Biodiversity Platform helps scientists to fill in GBIF-DarwinCore requested information to describe a dataset. (e.g. by ‘translating’ an Excel file into DarwinCore format)


  • DarwinCore Archive

DarwinCore Archive (DwC-A) is an internationally recognised Biodiversity Informatics data standard that makes use of the DarwinCore terms and facilitates files to be easily identified (e.g. saving a file in a specific format, under a specific name).

Other formats exist (Tapir, DiGIR) but DarwinCore Archive is the most efficient one to publish data on GBIF network.

DarwinCore Archive is a format that can be generated by the Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT).

Other standards exist, such as ABCD and BioCase. However, the Belgian Biodiversity Platform recommends the use of DarwinCore and DarwinCore Archive as these standards are the most efficient.


Beyond the importance of facilitating data to be freely accessible by anyone, Biodiversity Informatics standards may serve the work of scientists by requesting some information that they would not normally note down while observing a phenomena. Indeed scientists may go on the field and record information that are related to their research topic only; while they could also record other types of information that would be useful to other scientists. This is facilitated by filling in the Biodiversity Informatics standards.


To get more information on standards or receive technical support from the IT experts of the Belgian Biodiversity Platform, please contact André Heughebaert.


last modified on 13 Dec 2012