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GEO 2017-2019 Work Programme


Geo Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON)

Activity ID: 128


The Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) is an initiative aimed at improving the availability of biodiversity change data to decision makers and scientists in support of policy. GEO BON initiates and coordinates efforts to design and implement interoperable national and regional biodiversity monitoring programs. Through its global network of organizations and experts, GEO BON supports the sharing and dissemination of information and technology for biodiversity observations.. GEO BON also supports the application of the most recent scientific knowledge to advance biodiversity observations collection, integration and interpretation.

GEO BON is focused on developing a network of observation systems that delivers enhanced and harmonised biodiversity information to facilitate better decision making from local to global scales. The GEO BON observation network is developed through the adoption and implementation of the Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) and related monitoring guidelines, through targeted capacity building efforts at the national and regional level, including the development of the “BON in a Box” toolkit, and the engagement of National, Regional and Thematic Biodiversity Observation Networks (BONs). GEO BON has developed a global social network and community of practice for biodiversity observations. This open network includes world-renowned leaders in biodiversity observations as well as major partner organisations working in biodiversity monitoring.

GEO BON has made remarkable progress since its inception in 2008 and has developed into an internationally recognised organization. It has now over 450 partners and members and is recognised by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) as a key organization for developing biodiversity monitoring globally.

Activities for the period

  • GEO BON Secretariat Operations. The GEO BON Secretariat, located at iDiv in Leipzig, Germany, provides the core organizational structure of GEO BON. It plans and schedules meetings and thematic workshops, maintains the GEO BON website and other communications, and in general provides the basic infrastructure that facilitates GEO BON development and operations. In particular, the Secretariat plays an important role in linking the development of Essential Biodiversity Variables by the working groups to the various Biodiversity Observation Networks;
  • GEO BON Website Enhancements. The new GEO BON website went live in 2015 and many additions are planned for 2017 with the broader implementation of BON in a Box and a prototype data portal for Essential Biodiversity Variables. The long-term goal for the GEO BON website is to become the main portal to access information on biodiversity observation networks, datasets and analyses globally;
  • Enhanced Communication Materials. In addition to existing materials such as a quarterly newsletter and GEO BON flyers, a variety of new materials are planned, such as a new GEO BON video. Most of these communication materials are developed together with the global GEO BON network, especially with the GEO BON working groups;
  • Task 1. Development of the “Essential Biodiversity Variables” (EBVs). Geographical scope: Global. Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) are the key measurements needed to understand biodiversity change. For EBVs that have reached implementation phase by 2017, we will engage the developers towards producing biodiversity change indicators that could feed into initiatives such as the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership. GEO BON is developing an online EBV dashboard as a capacity building activity to allow a wide and coordinated user engagement in EBV development. A first version should be online in 2017;
  • Task 2. Development of “BON in a Box“. Geographical scope: Global scope developed with national and regional partners.  BON in a Box is a capacity building and technology transfer mechanism, functioning as an online, continually updated toolkit that lowers the threshold for a country or region to develop or enhance a biodiversity observation system. Once fully operational, BON in a Box will allow users to access the latest biodiversity observation design tools, monitoring protocols, data standards and management systems and analysis and reporting tools to facilitate more integrated and interoperable biodiversity observations. A functional version will be ready in November 2016 and updates will be continually added starting in 2017. In 2016, GEO BON will start working with three sub-Saharan countries (Ghana, Uganda and Mozambique) as part of a larger WCMC led project funded by GEF to further develop BON in a Box, to ensure it directly supports African countries’ biodiversity observation and information needs;
  • Task 3. Facilitating development of national, regional and thematic Biodiversity Observation Networks (BONs). Geographical scope: Global scope with thematic partners, national or regional. Networks are: The Asia Pacific BON (AP BON); The Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP or Arctic BON); The GEO BON Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON); the French BON (Ecoscope), the Sino-Bon (China), and the GEO BON Global System of Ecosystem Observatories (GSEO). Some of these BONs are in their early stage of development, operating mostly social networks, and thus further operationalization for biodiversity data generation is required. The GEO BON Data Portal will provide access to the biodiversity data generated from these networks as they develop.

Policy mandate

GEO BON’s policy drivers come from a variety of sources, including:

  • National Governments. National governments are GEO BON’s key users . Governments need scientifically sound biodiversity data, information and knowledge to meet their national mandates (e.g. national biodiversity plans, recovering species at risk, sustaining ecosystem services) and fulfill their international obligations (e.g. the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on Migratory Species, etc.). GEO BON actively engages with governments to help develop national biodiversity monitoring schemes. France, Japan, Bolivia, South Korea, China, Colombia, Nepal and Madagascar have set up official connections with GEO BON as national BONs or are developing the framework for such a cooperation. GEO BON is intensifying this activity in the period 2017-2019, to be able to support more national governments in their biodiversity observation activities;
  • Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD). GEO BON has been repeatedly endorsed as a key partner for collaboration by the CBD since the 9th session of the Conference of the Parties held in May 2008 in Bonn, Germany. Also, GEO BON’s role in promoting coherent biodiversity observations with regards to data architecture, scales and standards, and observation network planning, is highlighted repeatedly by the CBD protocols and programs. In addition, the Environmental Affairs Officer of the CBD is an active member of the GEO BON Advisory Board guaranteeing a strong institutional connection. In decision XI/3 (paragraph 13), the CBD COP invited GEO BON to continue its work on the identification of Essential Biodiversity Variables and the development of associated data sets (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/15/INF/8). In decision XII/1, the CBD COP invited parties, indigenous and local communities and other relevant stakeholders to collaborate with GEO BON and other relevant organizations that contribute to building observing systems and to biodiversity monitoring, to address the priority needs identified by Parties related to biodiversity observations and monitoring. Furthermore, GEO BON regularly represents GEO as an accredited observer at CBD plenaries;
  • Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). GEO BON is recognised by IPBES as a key partner organisation. Many GEO BON members are or have been participating in the IPBES assessments at different capacities. Also, IPBES user needs are triggering the research agenda of many GEO BON partners, as IPBES needs knowledge, scientific data and information for its work. GEO BON is especially engaged in the “IPBES Task Force on Knowledge and Data”. GEO BON is mentioned as one of three key partners to provide observation data and knowledge for the IPBES Global Assessment. This assessment will be delivered in 2019 and GEO BON will focus its activities to serve this user demand. The Executive Secretary of IPBES is an active member of the GEO BON Advisory Board. Furthermore, GEO BON regularly represents GEO as an accredited observer at IPBES plenaries;
  • Ramsar Convention. GEO BON is an observer organisation to the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) of the Ramsar Convention. The GEO BON Freshwater Observation Network and the EU project SWOS contribute to the development of the Global Wetlands Observing System (GWOS), a key request from Ramsar. The GEO BON Freshwater Observation Network already closely cooperates with SWOS and will be happy to closely cooperate with the future GEO Wetland Initiative in this field.

User engagement

All GEO BON activities and products are user oriented and each new activity proposed in the network needs to provide a clear user assessment of planned products and deliverables. GEO BON considers three large groups of users to target GEO BON activities: national governments, international multilateral agreements and scientists.

GEO BON’s mission is to improve the acquisition, coordination and delivery of biodiversity observations and related services to users. The needs of GEO BON’s user community are hence key in GEO BON’s implementation plan and strategic decisions. Major users of GEO BON’s product, as CBD, IPBES, Ramsar and national governments, are those mentioned in the section about GEO BON’s Policy mandate above.


  • Development of and coordinating of national, regional and thematic Biodiversity Observation Networks (BONs);
  • Delivery of Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs);
  • Delivery of BON in a Box for harmonizing local, national, regional and global biodiversity observation methods, and capacity building.

Future plans

Transition plan to operational phase

Currently, GEO BON has a number of key operational components in development. These include the EBVs as a framework and structure for interoperable and scaled biodiversity observations from the local to global scales; template structures and processes for establishing interoperable biodiversity observation networks; global frameworks for key infrastructure for biodiversity observations (Remote Sensing for EBVs, Global System of Ecological Observatories, Global Wetland Observing System); BON in a Box toolkit for harmonizing local, national, regional and global biodiversity observation methods; and a developing biodiversity data portal for assembling data generated by the various formed and forming BONs and organized by classes of Essential Biodiversity Variables. In addition to this, GEO BON is developing, with partners, a series of global biodiversity change indicators which are modelled outputs of combined EBV datasets which, in most cases, can be scaled from 1km resolution to global, thereby facilitating and informing local to global policy and conservation management decisions.

Considering these purposeful developments, most of which were initiated in Phase 2 (2014 to 2016), GEO BON’s Phase 3 Implementation Plan (2017 to 2019) focuses on completing and expanding upon these key components towards the development of an operational system. For GEO BON, an operational system is one that is built of a number of independent but interoperable parts (e.g. biodiversity observing networks) operating at various scales (local, sub-national, national, regional and global) producing regular biodiversity observation change data that is directly fed into existing and new data structures (e.g. GBIF, GEO BON Data Portal, GCI).

GEO BON believes that its plan above for 2017-2019 puts together the key elements for building an operational system. While it will be by no means complete by 2019, the key elements will be in place (e.g. national and regional BONs, global observing systems, data portal, BON in a Box and modelled outputs). This operational frame will be continually improved and added to. This is achievable as GEO BON is purposely developing replicable structures that can be scaled and repeated. We thus expect an acceleration in the development of national and regional BONs as we make the act of designing and implementing a simpler BON through the application of BON templates and structures and BON in a Box.


The GEO BON Secretariat is hosted by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research Halle-Jena-Leipzig (iDiv) in Leipzig, Germany, which supports the GEO BON Secretariat with an annual budget of 150k€ for personnel costs and 50k€ running budget in 2017-2019.

Calculating in-kind contribution as well as projects dedicated to GEO BON by the many GEO BON partners is a challenge, as many partners do not specifically calculate their time spent for GEO BON activities. Therefore, only an estimate of the major activities carried out by the network partners as a contribution to GEO BON is possible. Altogether, more than 16M€ (including estimated in-kind contributions) will be invested in GEO BON activities annually in 2017-2019.



Members: Colombia, Germany, USA.

Participating Organizations: GBIF, IOC-UNESCO.

Others: ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), Map of Life (MOL), Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL).

Linkages across the Work Programme

Initiatives: AfriGEOSS; AmeriGEOSS; AOGEOSS; Earth Observations in Service of the 2030 Agenda For Sustainable Development. GEO Wetlands Initiative, GEO ECO.

Leadership & Contributors (this list is being populated)




Implementing Entity



Laetitia Navarro