As the world’s biodiversity continues to shrink rapidly due to climate change, habitat destruction, and species exploitation, humanity is faced with the question of how this loss will affect the complex ecosystems that sustain life on the planet. For example, the Living Planet Index shows a 52% decline in the vertebrate population size during the past 40 years. And according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 20,000 species are near extinction with the rate of extinction 1000-fold greater than background because of human activity. Ecosystem collapse on a global scale is a very real possibility.
Today, due to powerful advances in genome sequencing and data science, we are at the threshold of a new beginning in understanding biodiversity and how it impacts the health of our planet. For the first time in human history, it is possible to sequence the genome of every known species on our planet, and to discover the remaining 80% that remain hidden from science. We propose that the time is right to bring the full power of biology and data science together to fully characterize the genetic blueprint of every extant species that has been identified on earth – and as many species as possible that have yet to be discovered. We term this endeavor the Earth BioGenome Project (EBP).http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6328/894