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  • Writer's pictureAditya Agrawal

The Critical Role of Data Governance in Protecting Biodiversity

Updated: May 8, 2023

Biodiversity is vital for the health and well-being of our planet and its inhabitants. It provides us with essential ecosystem services that support human life and livelihoods, including food, clean air and water, and climate regulation. However, biodiversity is under threat from a range of human activities, including habitat destruction, pollution, over-exploitation, and climate change. To address these threats, we need effective policies and strategies for conserving biodiversity, and this requires accurate and reliable data.

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) was agreed to by 196 nations in December 2022 and aims to address biodiversity loss, restore ecosystems and protect indigenous rights. The GBF consists of 4 long-term goals to 2050, while a number of milestones to 2030 speak to progress particularly putting 30% of the planet and 30% of degraded ecosystems under protection.

National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) are the national-level mechanism for countries to articulate their actions for protecting biodiversity. Put into the context of the GBF, there will be many data requirements to adequately and efficiently monitor and assess against this reporting framework.

I was asked by UNEP to develop a guidance document for data management and governance for achieving the GBF. Working closely with Balakrishna Pisupati and other colleagues across UNEP, this work highlights the importance of data management and governance and principles for effectively collecting, managing, distributing and using biodiversity data across the data lifecycle as related to the NBSAPs and the achievement of the GBF.

A visual representation of the data value chain created by Open Data Watch for Data2X:

Data governance is critical to ensuring the accuracy and reliability of biodiversity data. Data governance refers to the management of the policies, processes, standards, and technologies used to manage data throughout its lifecycle. By implementing data governance frameworks, we can improve the quality and availability of biodiversity data, making it easier to develop effective conservation strategies and policies.

Components of a data governance framework

One of the key aspects of data governance for biodiversity protection is the ethical use of biodiversity data. Biodiversity data can be sensitive, and it is important to protect the privacy and confidentiality of individuals and communities affected by biodiversity conservation efforts. Data governance frameworks can ensure that biodiversity data is collected and used in a transparent and ethical manner, with appropriate consent and participation from stakeholders.

For example, data governance can help to ensure that biodiversity data is collected using participatory approaches that involve local communities and indigenous peoples in the data collection process. This can help to build trust and ownership among stakeholders, improving the quality and relevance of the data collected. In addition, data governance can help to ensure that biodiversity data is used in ways that are respectful of local cultures and traditional knowledge.

Another crucial aspect of data governance is the interoperability of data systems. Biodiversity data is often collected and managed by different organizations and systems, making it difficult to share and integrate data effectively. By implementing standardized data formats and open data principles, we can improve the interoperability of biodiversity data systems, making it easier to share and reuse data across different organizations and systems.

Open data principles can help to ensure that biodiversity data is made available to a wider range of stakeholders, including researchers, policymakers, and civil society organizations. This can help to increase the visibility and impact of biodiversity data and promote collaboration and innovation across different sectors.

In addition, data governance can help to ensure the accuracy and completeness of biodiversity data. Biodiversity data is often fragmented and inconsistent, making it difficult to develop effective policies and strategies for conservation. By implementing data governance frameworks that prioritize data quality and completeness, we can improve the reliability and relevance of biodiversity data and enable more informed decision-making.

As a result, data governance can help to ensure that biodiversity data is collected using standardized protocols and methods that are scientifically rigorous and reproducible. This can help to improve the accuracy and comparability of biodiversity data, making it easier to identify trends and patterns in biodiversity and develop effective conservation strategies.

Data governance is critical to protecting biodiversity. By ensuring the accuracy, completeness, and security of biodiversity data and promoting the ethical use and interoperability of data systems, we can develop effective policies and strategies for conserving biodiversity and mitigating the threats it faces. As a society, we must recognize the importance of data governance for protecting biodiversity and take action to implement robust frameworks that enable us to achieve our conservation goals.


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