Development of the Biocomplexity Thesaurus began in 2002-2003 through a partnership between the NBII and ProQuest (formerly CSA), a worldwide information company with more than 30 years experience as a leading bibliographic database provider. The original Biocomplexity Thesaurus, first made available online in 2003, was a merger of five individual thesauri:
- the CSA Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Thesaurus
- the CSA Life Sciences Thesaurus
- the CSA Pollution Thesaurus
- the CSA Sociological Thesaurus
- the CERES/NBII Thesaurus
In 2004, the CSA Ecotourism Thesaurus was also merged into the Biocomplexity Thesaurus.
Merging and reconciliation of the terms in these thesauri was performed by Jessica Milstead, a leading expert in the development of scientific thesauri.
In 2007, the NBII assumed editorial management of the Biocomplexity Thesaurus, and now leads expansion of the thesaurus, addition or modification of terms, and development of tools and services to enable the use of the Thesaurus in both NBII and external applications.
In 2008, the NBII significantly expanded the Biocomplexity Thesaurus to include terminology that supports the fire ecology and management communities. More than 2,000 new concepts were added to the Thesaurus. This expansion was made possible by the very generous contributions of the following terminologies by their managing organizations:
- E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Thesaurus, Tall Timbers Research Station
- Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) Glossary
- Northwest and Alaska Fire Effects Clearinghouse Glossary
- National Wildfire Coordinating Group Glossary of Wildland Fire Terminology
- Encyclopedia of Southern Fire Science
- Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center Topics