Correspondence | Published:

Flood warnings

Sir

Proffering the tantalizing nomenclature of zettabytes and yottabytes as though they were exotic new species, you warn of the tidal wave of data that threatens to engulf science1.

We read that, while the physics and remote-sensing communities are getting ready to ride the wave, “many biologists are still in denial”. This may be so, but visionary biologists support the inspiring concept of a Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)2 that has been developed by the Megascience Forum of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This distributed facility has been proposed in response to the challenges of the vast domain of biodiversity information. It aims to provide orderly and structured access to our knowledge of the millions of species, and is vital if we are to keep pace with, for example, our burgeoning knowledge of genomes.

Every deluge needs a Noah's Ark. How successfully biology survives the flood will depend upon recognizing that systematic biology underpins our ability to understand the living world3, whether it is represented by genome sequences or ecosystems. We must build and float the GBIF soon.

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