German Barcode of Life Project


Geographical coverage

Geographical scale of the assessment National
Country or countries covered Germany
Any other necessary information or explanation for identifying the location of the assessment, including site or region name

Conceptual framework, methodology and scope

Assessment objectives

  • Building a DNA barcode library of organisms occurring in Germany with the corresponding voucher and DNA collections.

  • Collaboration of various taxonomists in a country-wide inventory effort.

  • Development of DNA barcode applications with substantial scientific, forensic, epidemiological and economic benefits (e.g. monitoring of freshwater fauna, parasites, pest species, analysis of the species composition in mixed environmental samples like soil and water).

Mandate for the assessment

The GBOL (German Barcode of Life) project is a large-scale DNA barcoding campaign capturing the genetic diversity of animals, fungi and plants in Germany. GBOL is the first national initiative funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) that contributes to the development of new technologies and databases for efficient biodiversity monitoring in Germany.

Conceptual framework and/or methodology used for the assessment

Other (please specify)

GBOL is a national network of 14 different research institutions which provide their professional taxonomic expertise and existing infrastructure (collections / biobanks, databases, bioinformatics platforms and laboratories) to comprehensively collect, catalog, describe, and sequence the eukaryotic species in Germany. GBOL involves two important steps: 1. Creation of a central DNA barcode reference library: GBOL establishes a DNA barcode database with all corresponding metadata (i.e. validated DNA barcodes, laboratory protocols, species lists, species distribution maps, and habitat and niche characteristics). This comprehensive genetic library of biodiversity represents the core element of a powerful expert system for rapid species identification in Germany. 2. Applications of the GBOL data: The open-access GBOL database offers an automated, fast, reliable and cost-effective tool for species identification and allows even non-experts various applications such as: * Biodiversity monitoring and environmental assessment * Rapid assessment opportunity for planning and monitoring of conservation programs * Species identification and species composition analyses of mixed environmental samples (e.g. soil, water, insect traps) * Detection and monitoring of endangered and invasive species, pests and disease vectors * Controlling illegal wildlife trade * DNA-based diet analysis of scat samples * Detection of food labeling fraud * Trace analysis in forensics and criminology * Discovery of new species * Identification of larval stages in species (i.e. larvae, eggs and spores) GBOL enables a real quantum leap in future biodiversity research!

URL or copy of conceptual framework developed or adapted

System(s) assessed

  • Marine
  • Coastal
  • Inland water
  • Forest and woodland
  • Cultivated/Agricultural land
  • Grassland
  • Mountain
  • Urban
  • All habitat types in Germany

Species groups assessed

All ~66.000 eukaryotic species in Germany (plants, animals, fungi)

Ecosystem services/functions assessed


  • Efficient biodiversity monitoring tool for IPBES


Supporting Services/Functions

Cultural Services

Scope of assessment includes

Drivers of change in systems and services


Impacts of change in services on human well-being


Options for responding/interventions to the trends observed


Explicit consideration of the role of biodiversity in the systems and services covered by the assessment


Timing of the assessment

Year assessment started


Year assessment finished


If ongoing, year assessment is anticipated to finish

Periodicity of assessment


Assessment outputs



Communication materials (e.g. brochure, presentations, posters, audio-visual media)

GBOL broschure

Journal publications

Publications (in preparation)

Training materials

Other documents/outputs

GBOL article in the ECBOL Newsletter

Tools and processes

Tools and approaches used in the assessment

  • The GBOL project involves collecting, processing, data sharing and deposition of samples in conventional and molecular collections in order to facilitate the compilation of an open, validated DNA barcode library of biodiversity. The genetic inventory of all eukaryotic organisms is based on their DNA barcodes (= genetic fingerprint). DNA barcoding has emerged as a global standard for fast and reliable genetic species identification of animals, plants and fungi.

Process used for stakeholder engagement in the assessment process and which component

Professional GBOL taxonomists depend on the enthusiastic and active support of qualified citizen scientists to establish a comprehensive library of biodiversity!
The active participation of non-professional taxon experts in GBOL offers the following benefits:

  1. Free access to sequences and metadata in the BOLD database.

  2. GBOL partners can use the analytical tools of BOLD to solve taxonomic questions.

  3. Comprehensive intraspecific sequence coverage (˃ 10 individuals per species) is available on request for species with an interesting taxonomy.

  4. Possibility of co-authorship in joint publications with GBOL members.

  5. Reliable and experienced citizen scientists will receive an expert certification as an official GBOL partner.

  6. GBOL supports their partners in obtaining collection permits.

  7. Visualization of citizen scientist´s contributions on the GBOL-website:

  8. Building DNA, voucher and tissue collections of local biodiversity.

  9. Payment of a standard allowance for usefully collected and identified material.

Key stakeholder groups engaged

Professional taxonomists and qualified citizen scientists (amateur taxonomists)

The number of people directly involved in the assessment process


Incorporation of scientific and other types of knowledge

  • Scientific information only
  • Resource experts (e.g. foresters etc)
  • Citizen science

Supporting documentation for specific approaches, methodology or criteria developed and/or used to integrate knowledge systems into the assessment

Crowd sourcing of species identification with scientific quality control

Assessment reports peer reviewed



Accessibility of data used in assessment

GBOL is an open-access database (coming soon):

Policy impact

Impacts the assessment has had on policy and/or decision making, as evidenced through policy references and actions

GBOL is the first larger project that contributes to the development of new technologies for biodiversity monitoring in Germany. IPBES needs efficient biodiversity monitoring and therefore GBOL is essential for environmental decision-making processes in Germany.

Independent or other review on policy impact of the assessment


Lessons learnt for future assessments from these reviews

Capacity building

Capacity building needs identified during the assessment

Actions taken by the assessment to build capacity

How have gaps in capacity been communicated to the different stakeholders

Knowledge generation

Gaps in knowledge identified from the assessment

The rapid progression of species extinction and climate change constitute a global demand for biodiversity conservation and make the establishment of a fast, reliable and cost-efficient species identification a world-wide need. A global biodiversity assessment is urgently required to implement appropriate measures for nature protection. The GBOL project (German Barcode of Life) realizes this global vision on a national level. GBOL is the first larger project that contributes to the development of new technologies, workflows and standards for efficient biodiversity monitoring in Germany.

How gaps in knowledge have been communicated to the different stakeholders

Today only a minority of experts so called taxonomists can reliably identify species using elaborate morphological methods. Additionally we currently face a widespread “taxonomy crisis”, where the taxonomic knowledge of species identification using morphological features is increasingly being be lost. This taxonomic impediment is a serious handicap for basic ecological research, nature conservation, veterinary medicine, pest management, fisheries, pharmaceutics, and forensics etc..

Currently it is not possible to answer pressing questions that can strongly influence the quality of life of future generations:

  • How many species are getting extinct every year, which factors are causing the fast deterioration of species diversity in our planet’s biosphere?

  • How is climate change and intensification of land use changing the composition of animal, plant and microbial communities?

  • Which species can survive in national parks and other protected habitats?

  • Are measures for nature conservation like the establishment of habitat corridors effective?

The establishment of a rapid, reliable and cost-effective tool for species identification to increase our knowledge of Earth´s remaining species is becoming a global need. The GBOL project realizes this global vision on a national level.