Biodiversity Research for the Future

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The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research to Fund Global Genome Biodiversity Network at the Botanic Garden Berlin

Ninety-nine partner institutions from thirty-three countries are set to make more than three million DNA and tissue samples from their biological collections digitally available. This is the latest achievement of the Global Genome Biodiversity Network (GGBN). The international network, which was founded in 2011, aims to strengthen biodiversity research and conservation by promoting the exchange of material and information across the globe. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research will financially support an upgrade of the GGBN’s digital infrastructure with 0.8 million euros. The five-year project will be led by the Botanic Garden Berlin at Freie Universität Berlin.

New Data Highways for Biodiversity Research

Genetic data are steadily gaining importance in research and development, as they reveal knowledge that helps us understand biodiversity as well as protect and make use of it sustainably. The Global Genome Biodiversity Network is planning to reinforce cooperation between molecular collections around the world and make high-quality DNA, tissue, and environmental samples digitally available via a common data portal. Aside from the three million DNA and tissue samples that are currently available, two million aggregated specimens can now be accessed in a standardized way. "By means of intelligent linking, a big data network is being created that represents the biological diversity of the world," says Professor Thomas Borsch, director of the Botanic Garden Berlin. "This enables us to open up opportunities for new approaches in research and development to fight biodiversity loss."

The Botanic Garden Berlin has hosted the network’s technical platform since GGBN’s foundation in 2011. The digital infrastructure is being developed by the scientists at the Center for Biodiversity Informatics and Collection Data Integration. The funds provided by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research will be used to scale up and stabilize the network for future demands. The success of the network so far implies that more partners will join and the amount of data will increase. An estimated 12 to 15 million samples reside in the collections of the current members alone.

Digitally Linking Biological Collections - Invaluable Sources of Knowledge

Biological collections have been essential resources in biological research for centuries, as they document a major part of global biodiversity over an extended period of time. Today, new molecular research methods allow researchers to gain information that provides insights into biodiversity and its origins, with applications in nature conservation, wildlife management, and the bioeconomy. Digital access to DNA and tissue samples from collections worldwide opens up fundamentally new opportunities.

Access to DNA and tissue samples is often limited. International regulations such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol regulate legal access to genetic resources and the fair sharing of benefits arising from their use. GGBN, with its code of conduct and newly developed data standards complies strictly with these regulations. In addition to its data portal, it provides a document library for publications, laboratory protocols, whitepapers, and much more information for the handling and use of biobanks. By engaging in all these activities, GGBN enhances its role as the leading open access body in international biodiversity research.

About the Global Genome Biodiversity Network

GGBN promotes cooperation between institutions across boarders and disciplines. In addition to natural history museums, botanical gardens, and herbaria, it represents zoological gardens, culture and environmental sample collections, as well as agricultural and forestry research institutions. The network has been coordinated by the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution ( https://naturalhistory.si.edu/ ) and the Botanic Garden Berlin since 2011. It currently has almost 100 members worldwide ( https://www.ggbn.org/ggbn_portal/members ).

GGBN at the Botanic Garden Berlin
Project Leads / Contacts for Interview Requests

  • Thomas Borsch, Director of the Botanic Garden Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838 50133, Email: sekretariat-direktor@bo.berlin
  • Anton Güntsch, Head of the Center for Biodiversity Informatics and Collection Data Integration, Tel.: +49 30 838 50166, Email: a.guentsch@bo.berlin
  • Gabi Dröge, Head of the GGBN Technical Secretariat; Tel.: +49 30 838 50139, Email: g.droege@bo.berlin

The Botanic Garden Berlin - An International Knowledge Hub for Botany

The Botanic Garden Berlin is an international knowledge hub for botany. It is a unique landmark that makes all factettes of botany truly tangible to visitors. With a variety of up to 20,000 plant species, the Botanic Garden Berlin is the largest of its kind in Germany and one of the most important botanic gardens in the world. Spread out across 43 hectares of open space and fifteen greenhouses, visitors to the garden gain fascinating insights into the world of botany. As a hub of international biodiversity research and a site of knowledge production and transfer, the Botanic Garden employs over 200 staff members. The Botanic Museum is Germany’s sole museum dedicated to the world of plants, its significance, and its representation in cultural and natural history. The institution has formed part of Freie Universität Berlin since 1995.


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