A window on the world’s marine and coastal biodiversity

A window on the world’s marine and coastal biodiversity

Visit the Ocean Data Viewer


Visit the website

Visit the list of datasets

Visit the Manual on marine and coastal datasets of biodiversity importance

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The Challenge

Oceans and seas make up over 70% of the Earth’s surface and 95% of its biosphere. Compared to what is known about terrestrial ecosystems, relatively little is understood about marine environments, and about marine biodiversity in particular. Marine environments are highly vulnerable to threats such as overfishing, climate change, pollution, maritime transportation, agricultural run-off and invasive species. We urgently need a better understanding of the health, vulnerability and resilience of the world’s oceans, and of the ecosystem services they provide.

In order to track their progress towards multilateral environmental agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, national governments need current and reliable data on their countries’ marine and coastal biodiversity.Scientists, non-governmental organizations and the private sector also depend on reliable data to inform their research, conservation and business activities. 

Our solution & impact

In 2010, the 10th Conference of the Parties of the CBD identified the need for better access to marine data to support decision-making for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the open ocean and deep seas. UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre was asked to develop tools that can support assessment activities, help identify ecologically or biologically significant areas, and promote a better understanding of specific and cumulative human impacts, including those of invasive species.

Through the Marine Programme, UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre:

  • convenes a network of partners engaged in marine and coastal biodiversity-related monitoring to build collaboration on data collection and standardization;
  • enhances the quality, integration and interoperability of data sets; and
  • increases access to these data through online data repositories, including the Ocean Data Viewer (ODV).

UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre launched the ODV website in 2011 as a simple tool which can be used to access a range of data that help inform marine conservation decisions. The site also includes extensive metadata descriptions to give users contextual information, as well as brief introductions to key international conventions and initiatives, including links to their websites and specific decisions and declarations. In November 2014, the ODV was re-launched to provide a more streamlined, user-friendly interface for viewing and accessing spatial data. 

Currently, the ODV presents global datasets on coastal and marine biodiversity (such as corals, mangroves and seagrasses). These datasets have been used and cited in high-profile scientific articles and in global, regional and national biodiversity assessments. Having been accessed in over 100 countries by academic and research institutes as well as governmental, non-governmental, and UN-associated organizations, the data are utilised for marine spatial planning, habitat mapping and biodiversity and ecosystem analyses. These data come from internationally respected scientific institutions and other organizations that have agreed to make their data available to the global community, with the hope that these data will support and encourage informed decision-making that sustains global biodiversity and ecosystem services.

ODV datasets are available in standard GIS formats, while a simple mapping interface enables users to explore individual datasets and overlay them with other data layers. The ODV aims to prioritize data sharing and accessibility, and users are encouraged to contribute. 

To complement the ODV, the Manual of marine and coastal datasets of biodiversity importance was created to provide an overview of more than 100 global marine and coastal datasets of biodiversity importance, with detailed metadata sheets for more than half of these resources and information on the various challenges, gaps and limitations that can be presented by coastal and marine data. 

Expertise & Team

The members of the ODV team at UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre are all marine specialists. Corinne Martin is a spatial ecologist with expertise in marine and coastal data and databases. Lauren Weatherdon specializes in the impacts of global environmental change on marine fisheries and coastal sectors, with a particular emphasis on indigenous and traditional communities. Hazel Thornton has expertise managing national and global data and databases and experience in the mapping and analysis of vulnerable marine habitats, such as seagrasses.  

Partners & Donors

The Proteus Partnership and UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre provide funding for the development and maintenance of the ODV.