01.11.2011 31.12.2023
Application Phase
Selection phase
Funding phase

German Barcode of Life (GBOL)

A genetic library of Germany’s flora and fauna

The GBOL project aims to create an inventory of every animal, plant, and fungus in Germany based on a species-specific DNA barcode. Professional taxonomists and molecular biologists from all over Germany collaborate to build up a reference library of life using state-of-the-art molecular methods. GBOL is thus creating a comprehensive inventory of all living organisms in Germany – using genetic fingerprints, tissue samples and voucher specimens. The sequenced DNA barcode of every recorded species is put into a public reference database.

GBOL is a network of various natural history museums and other research institutions around the country whose partners provide their taxonomic expertise and make existing infrastructure available. The GBOL taxonomy experts are supported by a large number of non-professional taxonomists from all over Germany to ensure the large-scale recording of animal and plant species (see https://www.bolgermany.de).

The digital availability of species-specific barcodes will make it possible to develop automated and cost-effective tools that can be used to identify animal and plant species more quickly and more reliably. This form of species identification is likely to push biodiversity research a significant step forward. The possible application areas for this innovative methodology are very diverse. They include biodiversity monitoring (assessment of conservation management measures, monitoring of invasive species, composite sample analysis), food inspection (detection of food labelling fraud) and customs control (identification of illegal organism imports), forensics (trace analysis), and the discovery of new species or identification of indeterminate life stages (i.e. larvae, eggs). The first such applications are already being tested in the current GBOL project.

The start of the GBOL project in 2011 marks Germany's taking the lead as a science nation in an international consortium of natural history museums, zoos, herbaria, botanical gardens, research organizations and government institutions (iBOL and CBOL). The joint goal is to establish a DNA barcode library of life. The project will create DNA barcodes for more than 20,000 of the 48,000 known animal species in Germany by the end of the current funding phase. These and some 300,000 voucher specimens from the network's collections will be available for reference. The database will also include the barcodes and specimens of nearly half of the higher plant species, numerous diatoms vital to the assessment of water quality and harmful fungi associated with agriculture. The BMBF is supporting the project with around 11.6 million euros.

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