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Europe’s seas and oceans are home to a staggering abundance and diversity of life, from large charismatic species such as seals, whales and dolphins, to the microscopic marine algae that form the base of the marine food chain. More than 36,000 known species of marine plants and animals are found in Europe, and understanding their geographic distribution, abundance and seasonal, annual or decadal variation is key to detecting changes in the marine ecosystem and for assessing ecosystem health of maritime basins. Unfortunately, measuring or observing marine life on a large scale is difficult. For the most part, data are collected over short time periods or in relation to specific species in target locations. Often data are collected by different organisations using different standards, technologies and conventions, making it challenging to combine information from different surveys or different databases.


EMODnet Biology aims to provide a single access point to European marine biodiversity data and products by assembling individual datasets from various sources and processing them into interoperable data products for assessing the environmental state of ecosystems and sea basins.

Key services provided by EMODnet Biology

EMODnet Biology provides three keys services and products to users, these services and products allow users to search and also to visualise data and related data products:

  1. Data Portal – The data portal allows users to search for datasets by theme (e.g. benthos, fish, algae, pigments) and by both scientific and common name. The selected taxon can be plotted in an integrated map viewer which includes administrative and environmental layers that can be toggled on and visualised simultaneously. The search results also display links to download the dataset, and to the specific taxon on the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS).  
  2. Data Catalogue – The data catalogue is the easiest way to access nearly 1000 datasets available through EMODnet Biology. Datasets can be filtered by multiple parameters via the advanced search from taxon, to institute, to geographic region. Each of the resulting datasets then links to a detailed fact sheet containing a link to original data provider, recommended citation, policy and other relevant information.
  3. Data Products -  EMODnet Biology combines different data from datasets with overlapping geographic scope and produces dynamic maps of selected species abundance.  The first products are already available and they focus on species whose data records are most complete and span for a longer term.


The project will use the data and metadata standards that have been used and developed under the ur-EMODnet prototype during EMODnet Phase I. To ensure interoperability, EMODnet Biology implements (and if necessary adapts) common standards defined by SeaDataNet, WoRMS (World Register of Marine Species), OBIS (Ocean Biogeographic Information System), INSPIRE, GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility) and the Lifewatch infrastructure.

Data sources

EMODnet Biology provides access to data from a wide range of sources and actively pursues inclusion of new and historical data sets to the inventory based on careful assessment of the ease of use and fitness for purpose of the data and associated databases. The databases feeding into EMODnet Biology contain data from all regional and subregional seas of Europe, as specified by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

EMODnet Biology data product development

A set of gridded map layers are being produced showing the average abundance of at least three species per species group for different time windows (seasonal, annual or multi-annual as appropriate) using geospatial modelling. The accuracy of the method will be quantified, as well as the precision of the specific results and data used to calculate the products. In addition, spatially distributed data products specifically relevant for Marine Strategy Framework Directive Descriptor 2 (non-indigenous species) are being created. This will rely on additional environmental information from other lots of EMODnet, e.g. on benthic habitat characteristics and water masses, to be used as co-factors in the gridding.

Improvements in the current development phase II (2013-2016)

  • Ability to extract data from more than one survey into a common data file
  • Inclusion of more remote databases
  • Assembling of data along the coastline
  • Data layers provided to support Marine Strategy Framework Directive

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Biology DataBox

Leading Partner


Total number of partners


Data available

  Gridded Abundance (DIVA)


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