A decade of the World Register of Marine Species - General insights and experiences from the Data Management Team: Where are we, what have we learned and how can we continue?

PLoS One. 2018 Apr 6;13(4):e0194599. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0194599. eCollection 2018.


The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017. WoRMS is a unique database: there is no comparable global database for marine species, which is driven by a large, global expert community, is supported by a Data Management Team and can rely on a permanent host institute, dedicated to keeping WoRMS online. Over the past ten years, the content of WoRMS has grown steadily, and the system currently contains more than 242,000 accepted marine species. WoRMS has not yet reached completeness: approximately 2,000 newly described species per year are added, and editors also enter the remaining missing older names-both accepted and unaccepted-an effort amounting to approximately 20,000 taxon name additions per year. WoRMS is used extensively, through different channels, indicating that it is recognized as a high-quality database on marine species information. It is updated on a daily basis by its Editorial Board, which currently consists of 490 taxonomic and thematic experts located around the world. Owing to its unique qualities, WoRMS has become a partner in many large-scale initiatives including OBIS, LifeWatch and the Catalogue of Life, where it is recognized as a high-quality and reliable source of information for marine taxonomy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aquatic Organisms* / classification
  • Biodiversity
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Publications
  • Registries
  • Web Browser

Grant support

The continuous work on WoRMS is currently made possible through LifeWatch Belgium, part of the E-Science European LifeWatch Infrastructure for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research. In addition, funding is available through the Flanders Marine Institute. Over the last 10 years, WoRMS and many of its sub-registers have been able to grow by funding received through several projects: MarBEF Network of Excellence ‘Marine Biodiversity Ecosystem Functioning’ (EU FP6, GOCE-CT-2003-505446; 2004-2009), Pan-European Species directories Infrastructure (PESI, EU-FP7, RI-223806; 2009-2011), EMODnet Biology I (MARE/2008/03 -Lot 4 Biology – Contract nr SI2.531562; 2009-2011), 4D4Life (INFRA-2008-1.2.2 – Scientific Data Infrastructures – Grant Agreement 238988; 2009-2012), EMODnet Biology II (MARE/2012/10 – Lot 5 Biology – Contract nr SI2.657705; 2012-2016), EMODnet Biology III (EASME/EMFF/2016/ – Lot 5/SI2/750022), AquaRES (BR/132/A6/AQUARES; 2014-2016) and LifeWatch (2012-2017). Next to structured project funding, a number of ad-hoc funds have also contributed to the further development of WoRMS: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (through the Census of Marine Life, Memorial University, Canada), the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO, Canada), the Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN, UK), and the CORONA project of the National Science Foundation (NSF, USA).