November 14, 2016 - Ward Appeltansdeep sea community

The revival of the deep sea in OBIS

The first International OBIS-INDEEP training workshop was attended by 33 participants from 16 countries (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Jamaica, Mauritania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom and United States) and took place on 25-28 October 2016 at the UNESCO-IOC project office for IODE in Oostende (Belgium). The participants represented 20 different deep-sea programmes and data systems (see list below).

The meeting brought together deep-sea biologists and data managers and created the momentum to build an international alliance of young scientists with a common vision to provide open access to deep-sea biodiversity data and enhance our understanding of the deep-ocean ecosystem in order to better inform ocean governance and management.

Group picture, from left to right: Leen Vandepitte, Fabio De Leo, Ward Appeltans, Matt Dornback, Abbie Chapman, Timothy O’Hara, Amber Cobley, Greg Reed, Pieter Provoost, Ana Ramos, Jeroen Ingels, Catherine Borremans, Sidi Mohamed Mohamed Moctar, Christopher Olson, Maria Baker (and Tammy Horton on Skype), Daphnis De Pooter, Andrew Davies, Severine Martini, Doreen Mcveigh, Jill Bourque, Marina Cunha, Stefan Brager, Franziska Althaus, Andrea Polanco, Christopher (Nicolai) Roterman, Ascensão Ravara, Magdalena Blazewicz, Diva Amon, Torben Riehl, Etienne Rastoin, Meri Bilan, Nicholas Higgs, Thomas Dahlgren.

The group called for:

In order to ensure the highest quality of data, the group recommended that each dataset be reviewed by an expert before it is put in the public domain and published through OBIS. An automatically generated dataset report providing summary statistics on data quality could assist this process.

The participants were trained in OBIS data standards and best practices in quality assurance (e.g. WoRMS and LifeWatch tools) and data publishing as well as in data access and analytical and visualization tools using the R OBIS package and GIS software (see OBIS Manual). All the training material, including video presentations, are available on Ocean Teacher.

The further development of a deep-sea OBIS node and data portal is a shared responsibility of this group and the wider deep-sea scientific community. The success will depend on the dedication of a few people, backed with extra resources such as a full-time data manager. The sharing of new data will be encouraged through a biennial review paper on the status of deep-sea data in OBIS and all new data contributors will be invited to join this effort.

As a baseline this map shows all 158,000 unique positions with species occurrence records currently in OBIS between 500 and 10897m depth. Explore the interactive map online at

The participants represented the following data systems and programmes:

  1. Southern Tasmanian seamounts surveys and the Western Australian Voyages of Discovery in Australia (CSIRO)
  2. Abyssal fauna from the the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) via the ABYSSLINE (ABYSSal baseLINE) project
  3. Data from European Horizon 2020 projects such as SponGES and ATLAS
  4. Benthic invertebrates of Icelandic waters from the international BIOICE and IceAGE projects
  5. Nematode genera abundance from Portuguese canyons from HERMES and HERMIONE EU projects
  6. Deep-Sea Benthic Ecological Database managed by SISMER of IFREMER
  7. Benthic macrofaunal communities associated with cold-water coral and seep habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic from USGS DISCOVRE
  8. National Database of Deep-Sea Corals and Sponges of NOAA’s Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program
  9. Hydrothermal vent data from the sFDvent functional trait database and ChEssbase, including recent hydrothermal vent expeditions from the East Scotia Ridge.
  10. Deep-sea biodiversity data from the Atlantic and Mediterranean European margin, deposited in the Biological Research Collection of Universidade de Aveiro
  11. Ocean Networks Canada (ONC)’s NEPTUNE observatory.
  12. Data from MBARI’s video annotation and reference (VAR) system
  13. SYNDEEP and SeaMountsOnline from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  14. Deep-sea fishes from the Caribbean region (INVEMAR)
  15. Mega- and macrobenthos from Northwest Africa of the EcoAfrik database of the Instituto Espanol de Oceanografia
  16. Selection of deep-sea sponges and echinoderms from the Galapagos Islands. Charles Darwin Foundation and Ocean Exploration Trust 2015 joint expedition.
  17. Oceanographic and biological data from the Gulf of Mexico and Western Atlantic Margin Seep Connectivity (SEEP-C) Project and recent expedition in the North Atlantic Continental Margin off the coast of New England.
  18. Macrostylidae of the KuramBio and Vema-TRANSIT project at the Centre for Natural History, University of Hamburg
  19. Benthic biodiversity of the continental shelf and slope of Mauritania
  20. Deep-sea benthic biodiversity data from the modern Discovery Collections at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.