About EnvO

The Environment Ontology (EnvO) provides a controlled, structured vocabulary that is designed to support the annotation of any organism or biological sample with environment descriptors. EnvO contains terms for biomes, environmental features, and environmental material.

Examples of biome terms are: boreal moist forest biome, tropical rain forest biome, and oceanic pelagic zone biome
Examples of environmental feature terms are: mountain, pond, whale fall, and karst
Examples of environmental material terms are: sediment, soil, water, and air

These three sets of terms enable a concise, standardised, and comprehensive description of environment that is key to the integration, archiving and federated searching of environmental data.


As a tool for the life sciences, we see
EnvO bringing benefits similar to those of the Gene Ontology (GO). Through promoting consistent annotation grounded in an ontological framework, we hope to facilitate the semantic retrieval of any biological record anchored to EnvO. Records contained in sequence databases, 'omic data repositories, tissue banks and museum collections are prime candidates for EnvO annotation.However, EnvO is also suitable for the annotation of any record that has an environmental component. For example, you can use EnvO terms to provide information on the environment of remote sensing devices or simply to tag a picture that you took at the weekend. Further, the EnvO project is closely tied with GAZ, a first step towards an open source gazetteer constructed on ontological principles. GAZ describes places and place names as well as the relations between them and, when linked with EnvO descriptors, provides a basis to infer environment from place names.

We hope that the community will adopt EnvO and benefit from its potential to promote standardised data integration and access. As an open project, we welcome your use of and participation in this project. Please contact us should you like to learn more!