The 4th annual meeting of the BioFresh project kicked off yesterday with biodiversity informatics and hot policy issues taking centre stage.
The first day of the annual meeting in the picturesque German village of Machern, just outside Leipzig marked the start of the final phase of the BioFresh project and provided a status update of all of the work from BioFresh team.
Opening session of the 4th Annual BioFresh Meeting
A central focus of the day was biodiversity informatics, an emerging area in which BioFresh is a strong contributor. The BioFresh project is not just concerned with the science of freshwater biodiversity. It’s also about creating a public information infrastructure on the abundance of life found in freshwaters that can be used by and added to by anyone to facilitate better science and inform policy.
The first of these information infrastructures is the BioFresh data portal. The aim of the data portal is to help scientists to advertise and publish their data and to create an open and freely accessible platform of freshwater biodiversity information. Aaike De Wever from Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences gave an overview of the work to improve and update the portal and it now contains a range of extended functions and extra options, as well as a redesign of the mapping interface. For a short walk-through introduction of the data portal click here.
Second, is the related metadatabase, a database of freshwater biodiversity datasets. It contains 154 freshwater-related datasets and BioFresh is working to enlarge the content. BioFresh, under the leadership of Astrid Schmidt-Kloiber from the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU), aims to get 300 datasets into the metadatabase by the end of the project. If you have any datasets you would like to share, please get in touch.
BioFresh Biodiversity Matrix (BioMatrix)The final piece of bioinformatics infrastructure that BioFresh is building is the , which is being developed in conjunction with BioFresh partner, the IUCN. The BioMatrix holds the distributions of freshwater species published on the IUCN Red List. It is a “living” repository for data that is actively updated and added to via current and future IUCN projects to ensure that knowledge on freshwater species available to the scientific community is ever-expanding. At the latest count, the BioMatrix contains over 11,000 species maps.
Conceptual overview of the BioMatrix database
The other key theme of the day was about important topics concerning freshwater biodiversity policy. The services that freshwater ecosystems provided by freshwaters such as rivers, floodplains and groundwaters has been identified as a key topic of focus. In fact, the BioFresh blog will be hosting a special feature on ecosystem services and EU policy in the coming weeks featuring a range of issues from a number of guest authors. The policy concept of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) was another topic that received attention during the 1st day of the BioFresh meeting. The KBA framework aims to identify areas of international importance in terms of biodiversity conservation and provides a powerful way forward for freshwater conservation. However, the potential of this approach is constrained by the lack of information about freshwater sites. Will Darwall from the IUCN stated that there is a strong need to identify key areas of freshwater biodiversity in order to inform policy for effective conservation planning, an area that BioFresh is working to improve. Another important policy issue is covered was Science-Policy Interfaces (SPI). Paul Jepson from the University of Oxford argues that the notion of SPI is gaining traction in part because of a failure of governments to meet key biodiversity targets set out under international conventions. It is vital that work continues to be done in this area in order to ensure that freshwater science can be mobilised for use in policy. On day 4 of the BioFresh meeting a full day SPI workshop will be held to discuss the potential of this approach further.