Bio-ORACLE: a global environmental dataset for marine species distribution modelling


Lennert Tyberghein, Phycology Research Group, Biology Department, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281 (S8), 9000 Ghent, Belgium. E-mail:


Aim  The oceans harbour a great diversity of organisms whose distribution and ecological preferences are often poorly understood. Species distribution modelling (SDM) could improve our knowledge and inform marine ecosystem management and conservation. Although marine environmental data are available from various sources, there are currently no user-friendly, high-resolution global datasets designed for SDM applications. This study aims to fill this gap by assembling a comprehensive, uniform, high-resolution and readily usable package of global environmental rasters.

Location  Global, marine.

Methods  We compiled global coverage data, e.g. satellite-based and in situ measured data, representing various aspects of the marine environment relevant for species distributions. Rasters were assembled at a resolution of 5 arcmin (c. 9.2 km) and a uniform landmask was applied. The utility of the dataset was evaluated by maximum entropy SDM of the invasive seaweed Codium fragile ssp. fragile.

Results  We present Bio-ORACLE (ocean rasters for analysis of climate and environment), a global dataset consisting of 23 geophysical, biotic and climate rasters. This user-friendly data package for marine species distribution modelling is available for download at The high predictive power of the distribution model of C. fragile ssp. fragile clearly illustrates the potential of the data package for SDM of shallow-water marine organisms.

Main conclusions  The availability of this global environmental data package has the potential to stimulate marine SDM. The high predictive success of the presence-only model of a notorious invasive seaweed shows that the information contained in Bio-ORACLE can be informative about marine distributions and permits building highly accurate species distribution models.