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Based on the poster presented at TDWG 2013, Firenze, Italy.


Plinian Core aims to be a standard for sharing information mainly at the species level. It was conceived as a way to publish species information and to make it interoperable. By “species information” we refer to all kinds of properties and traits related to taxa (of any rank), including descriptions, nomenclature, conservation status, management, natural history, etc. Thus, Plinian Core coverage goes beyond taxonomic descriptions.

The development of Plinian Core has been lead by the National Institute of Biodiversity (INBio, Costa Rica), the Spanish Node of GBIF (GBIF Spain), the University of Granada (UG, Spain), the Alexander von Humboldt Institute (IAvH , Colombia), the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (Conabio, Mexico) and the University of Sao Paulo (USP, Brazil). This group reviewed the existing data standards to reuse as many elements as possible and avoid redundancy.

Plinian Core design requirements included to be easy to use, self-contained, able to support data integration from multiple databases, and ability to handle different levels of granularity. The current version of Plinian Core specifically supports species pages publication reasonably well, it is structured in 18 classes (i.e. complex elements) and it is well-documented:

Plinian Core is currently used by the institutions mentioned above and the Chilean Ministry of Environment. Now we aim to make Plinian Core a truly global standard by bringing together teams and institutions from all over the world under the umbrella of TDWG.


Plinian Core started in 2004 as a dialog between Maria Mora (INBio, Costa Rica and Francisco Pando, GBIF-Spain) around the idea of developing a common system to gather, manage and publish "species-level information. The basis and use cases for these ideas where the INBIO's "species pages" (UBIS) and the “CD-ROM of Flora Iberica".

More concrete ideas were developed during the GBIF-organized meeting " Building SpeciesBanks: How Shall We Shape the Future? (Amsterdam, 2005).

In 2005-2006, an intense collaboration between INBio and GBIF.ES was maintained, from which the first version of the standard expressed as xsd is created, and receives its current name: Plinian Core.

2007-2009 University of Granada (Spain) andThe Humboldt Institute (Colombia) adheres to the initiative.

INBio develops the first "implementable" version of the PliC: that is dubbed "Flat Plinian".

A portal of "species and specimens" is developed on the architecture of the GBIF data portal (Tapir), by INBio, in the context of IABIN, and with the collaboration of GBIF.ES

2011 Collaboration with Encyclopedia of Life started. Strategic decision to separate a conceptual model (later called "Abstract Model) from implementations adopted. CONABIO (Mexico) becomes an active partner in the development of PliC

2012 Plinian Core activities start aligning with TDWG and procedures; globalization of the developments.

As a result of the process started in 2012, a new version, Plinian Core v3.1 was defined. This provides more flexibility to fully represent the information of a species in a variety of scenarios. New elements to deal with aspects such as IPR, related resources, referenced, etc. were introduced, and elements already included were better-defined and documented.

Other new features are the possibility to represent each element in unstructured or structured terms, and attach provenance, references, or license information to them.

Other standards

Plinian Core v3.1 incorporates a number of elements already defined within standards in use. This is an important consideration in advancing towards robust semantic web architecture for biodiversity information. The following table depicts the relationships between other standards and the elements used by Plinian Core v3.1:

Standard List of elements url
EML associatedParty, keywordSet, coverage, dataset
DWC taxonConceptID, Hierarchy, MeasurementOrFact, ResourceRelationShip.
GISIN origin, presence, persistence, distribution, harmful, modified, startValidDate, endValidDate, countryCode, stateProvince, county, localityName, county, language, citation, abundance...
TCS scientificName
EOL AncillaryData: DataObjectBase

Application Profiles

As the Plinian Core Abstract Model would be impractical to implement, a generic application Profile –intended for production implementations, including GBIF’s IPT-- was developed. Besides, species information gathered under previous versions of Plinian Core can be easily imported into the new application profile.

The use of controlled vocabularies is recommended in Plinian Core for many elements. Controlled vocabularies improve datasets interoperability and allow final users to search for detailed information from all structured fields.

Data Flow

Future directions

Species data is crucial for a large number of users, including decision makers worldwide. Therefore it is central to made data available in better-structured ways; thus, we aim to make Plinian Core the product of a wider and more diverse community, embedded in the processes of TDWG. This will definitely introduce some complexity in the decision-making processes, but we are also confident that the outcome will be more robust and usable for a wider community. We count on all interested parties in this new phase of Plinian Core.