Centre for the synthesis
and analysis of biodiversity

A centre created and developed by the FRB
The re-use of existing data is pivotal to the work of CESAB. To achieve this, data need to be assembled, organised, labelled, synthesised and analysed. This enables teams of scientists to achieve new insights from data that have often been under-utilised and un-correlated across disciplinary, geographical and organisational boundaries.  

To do this, groups need to construct organised databases of the characteristically heterogeneous data they gather, and systematically record the sources of their data, document terms used, and the management and handling of the data in their care. To assist groups in this we ask that they complete a ‘live’ data management plan so not only their plans but their practice are recorded. After their analyses are complete, we ask that their data are deposited for re-use by others: at present (2016) the threshold for this is the metadata of their compiled datasets, but increasingly it will be the data itself (with the essential metadata). These are long-term goals, but are consistent with practice around the world.les données de CESAB

In this world of open data, disciplinary experts are increasingly expected to publish their data. This requires learning new skills in data management and organisation about which programmers and ecologists rarely communicate, a major stumbling block in the world of digital data.
This is where the synthesis centre steps in: providing the needed informatics expertise in a responsive manner to the varied requirements and sophistication of the groups. The substantial contribution of synthesis centre staff around the world to thinking about and developing various aspects of data management is illustration of this commitment (e.g. Jones et al. 2006, Bowers et al. 2010, Vision and Cranston 2014, Specht et al. 2015).
A uniform, controlled vocabulary is required to allow web publication and automated discovery. This has led to support for the development of the CESAB Thesauform to facilitate capture of terminology and definitions used by ecologists in the description of their ecological observations.
Data delivered through CESAB
BETSI (Biological and ecological functional traits of soil invertebrates to link species assemblages to environmental factors) whose database can be viewed here.
Their main objectives were to:

• Promote the use of trait-based approaches in soil invertebrate ecology
• Give a reference structure to archive soil invertebrate trait data

This is shown spatially, inter alia, by species occurrence.


RAINBIO  (African biodiversity dynamics: interactions between ecological processes and conservation actions), whose database can be viewed here.

The RAINBIO mega database contains high quality georeferenced occurrences of vascular plants from sub-Saharan tropical Africa. It is a compilation of thirteen public and non-public databases made available under the RAINBIO project funded by CESAB.

It contains 610 117 georeferenced occurrences for 25 356 species of vascular plants and 29 659 taxa (comprising subpecies and varieties), 3 158 genera and 273 families.


Bowers S., Madin J.S., Schildhauer M.P. (2010) Owlifier: creating OWL-DL ontologies from simple spreadsheet-based knowledge. Ecological Informatics 5(1): 19-25.

Jones M.B., Schildauer M.P., Reichman O.J., Bowers, S. (2006) The new bioinformatics: integrating ecological data from the gene to the biosphere. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Sys. 37: 519-44.

Specht A., Guru S.M., Houghton L., Keniger L., Driver P., Ritchie E.G., Lai K., Treloar A. (2015) Data management challenges in analysis and synthesis in the ecosystem sciences. Science of the Total Environment 534:144-158.

Vision T.J., Cranston K. (2014) Open data for evolutionary synthesis: an introduction to the NESCENT collection. Scientific Data 1:140030.