GBIF data

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility ( GBIF) is an international open data infrastructure that allows anyone, anywhere to access data about all types of life on Earth, shared across national boundaries via the Internet. It offers free and open access to a tremendeous amount of biodiversity data. As of the date of writing, the GBIF provides access to 1,645,121,552 occurrence records from 55,482 datasets. The data is collected over three centuries of natural history exploration and including current observations from citizen scientists, researchers and automated monitoring programs. The data is widely used, with over 5000 peer-reviewed papers using the data.

There are various ways to import GBIF data, including directly from the website as comma delimited file (csv), using the GBIF API and for example using R or Python packages. On the GBIF website you’ll find long list of tools that work with GBIF data.

In this document a number of different ways to access GBIF data, using R, Python, GRASS GIS and QGIS will be provided. Note that this is work in progress. The first tutorial is an old one published earlier on Ecostudies. It shows how to use the gbif package in R to select and import GBIF data in a GRASS GIS database. Another short one is about using the GBIF Occurrences plugin for QGIS. See the navigation menu on the left (of, if on your mobile, click the menu button on the top.


One word on reproducibility. There are various handy tools to download GBIF data directly in QGIS, R, GRASS GIS etc. Although very convenient, a direct download from the GBIF website has one very important advantage. Any download automatically produces a Digital Object Identifier ( DOI), thus providing a persistent link to the data download from, including information about the search date and filters used. This will allow you to cite the exact data used when publishing or sharing the results.