The Nordic countries now initiate collaboration to establish a joint Nordic LifeWatch project, to create a better access to biodiversity data in favour of environmental research.

– The Nordic countries have a great potential to create a joint highway for biodiversity informatics, enabling cutting edge research and models for a sustainable use of our natural resources, says Ulf Gärdenfors from the Swedish Species Information Centre and manager of Swedish LifeWatch.

The sustainable management of our planet’s biodiversity and ecosystem services is one of the greatest challenges of our time. By providing better access to biodiversity and environmental data, LifeWatch can help us towards a better understanding of ecosystem functions and to make predictions and simulations of e.g. species distribution and environmental interactions in a changing world. Thus, LifeWatch will not only serve to support the scientific research, but will also be an essential tool for local and global policy makers.

Sweden was the first country to start the construction of national research infrastructure for biodiversity within the LifeWatch initiative, an effort coordinated by the Swedish Species Information Centre (ArtDatabanken) at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and involving several major universities and institutions in Sweden. Similar initiatives are on their way in neighbouring countries.

A vast amount of public funded biodiversity data and environmental data are held by voluntary organizations, research institutions and environmental management institutions in the Nordic countries. Making such huge amounts of data freely available for the general public is today a global trend and also an essential strategy for improved scientific biodiversity and ecosystem research. By adding tools and workflows for analysis and modelling on top of interoperable databases, virtual laboratories can be created. This is exactly what LifeWatch is about: creating a European research infrastructure for biodiversity data.

The Nordic LifeWatch collaboration was formally initiated during a start-up meeting in Stockholm 8-9 November 2012. The scope of the Nordic LifeWatch project will be to identify the scientific potential of a common Nordic infrastructure based on inventories of user needs, existing data repositories, and challenges/constraints related to data sharing in general. Based on these findings, strategies and a proposal will be developed for funding of a Nordic LifeWatch Construction phase in close collaboration with stakeholders (research councils, ministries, and scientific communities), national LW Consortiums, the European LifeWatch Service Center and relevant parallel initiatives. The preparatory project is funded by NordForsk.

The LifeWatch concept has emerged as a European initiative under the framework of ESFRI, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures. LW Europe has identified six research priorities or areas of activity: Species Observations & Citizen Science; Sensors; Species traits; Biodiversity organizations; Ecosystem Services and Auxiliary Data (Earth Observations).

Efforts are now being made to establish a joint European LifeWatch consortium. Core components on ICT (Spain), Service Centre (Italy) and Virtual Laboratories (The Netherlands) is currently under development.

Ulf Gärdenfors, professor and manager of Swedish LifeWatch., tel: +46 18 672623

Anna Maria Wremp, communications officer Swedish LifeWatch., tel: +46 18 671394.