LifeWatch ERIC and eLTER RI: together to advance biodiversity research 

During the final stakeholder meeting of the Europa Biodiversity Observation Network on 27-28 May, LifeWatch ERIC CEO Christos Arvanitidis and the Chair of LTER-Europe and Coordinator of eLTER ESFRI process, Michael Mirtl, signed a Memorandum of Cooperation between LifeWatch ERIC and eLTER RI. This Memorandum aims to take the collaboration between the two organisations to the next level by combining the resources and expertise to advance ecosystem research and biodiversity conservation across Europe. LifeWatch ERIC and eLTER RI have collaborated on several flagship projects, such as ALTER-Net, ENVRI, ENVRIplus, and ENVRI FAIR.

A common mission

LifeWatch ERIC and eLTER RI are committed to addressing environmental challenges by conducting long-term, multidisciplinary research to understand and mitigate the impacts of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss on ecosystems. The common mission is to enable a better future through integrated research efforts and shared data resources, leading to a deeper understanding of our planet’s ecosystems and contributing to the conservation and sustainability of life on Earth.

Memorandum of Cooperation’s goals

The collaboration will combine the potential of both Research Infrastructures, drawing on their respective areas of expertise. While LifeWatch ERIC aims to use advanced digital technologies to support biodiversity and ecosystems by facilitating data creation, access, quality control, management and dissemination, eLTER’s support of extensive documentation and integrated access to multidisciplinary data will provide access to a seamless and robust data services ecosystem.

The collaboration will also focus on aligning catalogues of resources, standardising data infrastructure and ensuring interoperable data and metadata standards to create a unified ‘data lake’ for researchers to access. In addition, creating virtual laboratories will facilitate the analysis of biodiversity data using LifeWatch ERIC’s advanced ICT technology and eLTER’s in-situ environmental data.

To achieve these goals, the Memorandum of Cooperation outlines several joint activities, spanning from the development and implementation of common tools and service-oriented architectures to enhance data interoperability, such as the Tesseract and NaaVRE technical composability layer and LifeBlock blockchain technology, to the organisation of joint dissemination, engagement and training activities addressed to their stakeholders, including EU and national decision-makers, funders, and the broader scientific community.

Do you know what biodiversity is? Listen to our podcast series and find more!

As humanity advances in technology, it’s critical to recognise our ongoing dependence on ecosystems for essential services such as water, food, medicines, energy, etc. This Biodiversity Day 2024, we want to stress the vital importance of biodiversity for our survival and well-being. Our responsibility to respect, protect, and restore our biodiversity is paramount to ensuring a sustainable future for the next generations. 

During our podcast series, our Service Centre Director, Prof. Alberto Basset, highlights what biodiversity entails, how it is maintained, why it needs protection, and its implications for climate change. Prof. Basset underscores that biological diversity, which encompasses the variety of species, genetic differences, and ecosystem variations, is severely threatened by human activities. He explains that ecosystems and their communities are products of natural selection and co-evolution, interactions that ensure stability over time. Human activities, however, have disrupted these natural processes.

Excessive resource consumption and pollution degrade ecosystems, lowering the quality of life for countless species. Large-scale habitat fragmentation and deforestation have significantly altered landscapes, often introducing alien species that further destabilise native ecosystems. This transformation harms the biodiversity that evolved over millions of years and the essential ecosystem services it provides.

Moreover, climate change exacerbates these issues. Species migrate to northern latitudes as temperature rises, disrupting food webs and altering key ecosystem processes. Changes in species’ niches and life cycles, driven by global warming, impact individual metabolisms and primary productivity. 

Let’s dedicate this Biodiversity Day 2024 to our dedicated podcast series:

  1. What is Biodiversity?:
  2. How is Biodiversity organised and maintained:
  3. The need to conserve and manage biodiversity:
  4. The intersections between biodiversity responses, human well-being and climate change:

ESFRI Landmark Monitoring: LifeWatch ERIC undergoes its first five-year assessment

Monitoring of ESFRI Landmarks

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) Landmarks were introduced in the ESFRI Roadmap 2016 as reference Research Infrastructures (RIs) and are pillars in the European Research Area (ERA) landscape, offering not only services to academic research but also supporting development and innovation. Guaranteeing the excellence of the Landmark label, ESFRI shoulders responsibility for monitoring the quality of the RIs listed in the ESFRI roadmap as Landmarks. Therefore, it has started the evaluation process of all active ERICs subdividing them in three batches, in 2022. 

LifeWatch ERIC had entered the ESFRI Roadmap back in 2006, while it was attributed the status of Landmark in 2016 and has then formally established as a European Research Infrastructure Consortium on 17 March of the following year. 

“This spring it was time for LifeWatch ERIC, together with the other RIs of the third batch, to undergo its first five-year monitoring assessment which will be carried out by a dedicated Monitoring Panel” says Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC CEO. “The report submitted by LifeWatch ERIC provides a picture of the advancements and results achieved in the last first years of its activity, as well as of the challenges ahead of us. I want to thank all LifeWatch ERIC and National Distributed Centres colleagues, who contributed to the submission of this report, as well as the members of our Scientific and Technical Advisory Board (STAB) and General Assembly”.

The Monitoring should further enable regular exchange between ESFRI and Landmarks on their long-term development, assess the quality of each individual Landmark, identify possible problems and support the Landmarks to take appropriate actions. It shall also provide information on the performance, outputs and impacts of the Landmarks. 

The results of the 3rd batch evaluation are expected by December 2024.

To know more about the ESFRI Landmark Monitoring, please refer to:

LifeWatch ERIC and CREA to accelerate the farming system transition

On 28 and 29 May, LifeWatch ERIC and CREA will organise a meeting in the context of the Horizon Europe project “European partnership on accelerating farming systems transition—agroecology living labs and research infrastructures (AGROECOLOGY)“. The meeting will take place at the Council for Agricultural Research and Economics in Rome, Italy. 

Our José Manuel Ávila-Castuera, Agroecology team Coordinator, Iria Soto Embodas, Agroecology Project Manager and Ana Mellado García, Project Executive Coordinator, will participate in the meeting representing LifeWatch ERIC. 

The meeting will focus on the project’s tasks, following a participative approach of all partners involved in the Working Package 5 (Data and Monitoring Agroecology Transition). During the sessions, the participants will provide an overview of all the active tasks. The input during the discussions will be instrumental in advancing the different activities, such as the development of the data and monitoring plan and the co-design of the conceptual framework to monitor the agroecology transition.

The project spans 26 countries and responds to the urgent need for a sustainable, resilient, and environmentally conscious agriculture sector. Specifically, the project leverages natural, biological interactions alongside cutting-edge science, technology, and innovation. Living labs serve as real-life testing grounds, expediting the transition towards sustainable, resilient agriculture. 

Research infrastructures contribute to disseminating agroecological knowledge. This project on agroecology transition aims to facilitate high-level research and generate technologies aligned with the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda.

To stay updated on this project, please follow the official page on LinkedIn:

Bridging science, policy, and innovation at the last Thematic Service Workshop in Portugal

LifeWatch Portugal, in collaboration with all LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities and National Distributed Centres, organised the sixth and final Thematic Service Workshop at the University of Aveiro in Portugal on May 3. The workshop, entitled “Habitat Mapping: From Science and Policy Needs to Solutions”, aimed to explore the intersection of science, policy and innovative solutions in habitat mapping. It attracted a wide range of participants working in environmental conservation and data-driven decision-making.

The workshop had 14 online and 17 face-to-face participants. Alberto Basset from the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre presented the LifeWatch Thematic Core Service (TCS) and explored habitat mapping initiatives. Julien Radoux, representing LifeWatch Belgium remotely, provided insights into habitat mapping practices in the Belgian context. Tiago Múrias of LifeWatch Portugal further enriched the discourse with his presentation, followed by a Q&A session.

During the World Café session, moderated by Ana Lillebø, Bruna Oliveira and Daniel Crespo, participants were divided into groups to discuss various topics. These included services inside and outside the LifeWatch ERIC, identifying community needs and requirements, and developing strategies for further integration into the infrastructure. This interactive session facilitated collaborative dialogue and led to the development of actionable strategies to advance habitat mapping efforts.

In the final session, participants discussed how the TCS could work with the broader community. Alberto Basset and Ana Lillebø concluded the day’s proceedings by emphasising the importance of the discussions and the commitment of all participants to contribute to the advancement of habitat mapping initiatives. The workshop allowed stakeholders to come together and exchange ideas, share their best practices and make connections that could lead to significant progress. 

To learn more about our Thematic Service Workshop Series, please visit the dedicated minisite:

Advancing Earth Sciences: Highlights from the 2024 EGU General Assembly

From April 14 to 19, the 2024 General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) – a non-profit international union of scientists focused on planetary and space science research in Europe – occurred in Vienna, Austria. With around 19,500 members worldwide, the EGU24 General Assembly counted 20,979 registered attendees, with 18,388 present in Vienna from 116 countries and 2,591 people joining online from 109 countries.

In a session with ICOS-ERIC and the EGI Foundation, LifeWatch-ERIC presented how to use the NaaVRE Virtual Research Environment (VRE), focusing on teaching participants the essential technologies for notebook containerisation, workflow composition and cloud automation in a Jupyter notebook-based VRE. Bringing together environmental researchers, data developers, scientists and engineers, the session aimed to deepen participants’ understanding of data integration, VREs, web services and their central role in environmental science. The session focused on discovering data and tools in a cloud-based environment to promote open and fair data management and research results. During this training session, speakers discussed the difficulties of dealing with complex and time-consuming processes when customising and executing data workflows in the cloud using Jupyter Notebooks. It also provided tips and techniques for research using Jupyter notebooks and Virtual Research Environments (VREs) workflows.

LifeWatch ERIC also hosted a scientific session at the EGU24 General Assembly, during which use cases were presented on the successful use of Research Infrastructure in scientific research, and a Town Hall meeting about Open Science, Open Data, and Open Access.

Why does it matter

Environmental science requires expertise in data integration, virtual research environments, web services and open science practices. Researchers face complex challenges and must collaborate with scientists and developers to solve them. Interdisciplinary collaborations extend beyond scientific domains, and improving machine-to-machine interactions is crucial. By enabling findability and interoperability of data and services across different technologies and environmental scientific domains, researchers can stay ahead in the rapidly evolving landscape of data science and technology. To learn more about NaaVRE, please visit this page:

Three new artificial nests in Bulgaria to protect European Green Belt biodiversity

In March 2024, Green Balkans – one of the oldest non-governmental organisation in Bulgaria dedicated to conserving natural habitats and a partner of LifeWatch Bulgaria, the national node of LifeWatch ERIC – installed three artificial nests for the Imperial Eagle within the European Green Belt. This ecological corridor is crucial for protecting biodiversity and stretches from the Baltic shores to the Black and Ionian Seas, passing through the central areas of Germany. Running along the historic Iron Curtain, which once split Europe into East and West, the European Green Belt is a natural sanctuary where wildlife has thrived amidst the remnants of decades-long political tensions.

Green Balkans staff and volunteers worked with teams from the Black Vulture Nest Foundation, Tonido91, the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna and the Sakar Nature Park Society. By the end of March, this collaborative effort had built the three nests. Watch this video to see the process of identifying suitable areas and constructing these artificial nests:

In the two decades since Green Balkans installed its first artificial nest, the technique has successfully promoted the settlement and reproduction of the Imperial Eagle. There are currently around 40 nesting pairs in Bulgaria, 15 of which use the artificial nests provided by Green Balkans and its partners Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds. This nesting practice has benefited not only the Imperial Eagle but also several other species of birds of prey, thus contributing to bird conservation in general. In addition to Green Balkans, the Turkish organisation Back to Nature and the German foundation EuroNatur contributed to installing artificial nests.

This activity is part of the EU-funded BESTbelt project, which supports conservation and sustainable development initiatives and provides education and management training to conserve the biodiversity of Europe’s Green Belt. For further details about Green Balkans and this project, please visit this page:–or-how-to-create-a-new-home-for-majestic-birds–3-8459.

Cover photo belongs to Gradimir Gradev / GREEN BALKANS

Inmaculada Figueroa opens the 1st RICH Europe Symposium on Research Infrastructures

The Institute of Health Carlos III hosted the first RICH Europe Symposium on Research Infrastructures in Madrid, Spain, on May 7th. The symposium focused on integrating and developing open science within European research infrastructures (RIs) through a series of presentations and discussions held in three sessions. It also showcased relevant funded projects and promoted a global dialogue on research infrastructures.

Inmaculada Figueroa, Vice Director General for Internationalization of Science and Innovation, General Secretariat for Research, member of the EOSC Steering Board, and Spanish Ministry delegate to the LifeWatch ERIC ERIC General Assembly, opened the first session. Participants discussed how research infrastructures can benefit from EOSC to implement Open Science. The governance and strategic development of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) also was discussed, as well as specific Horizon Europe projects that have contributed to this development, such as AI4EOSC and Skills4EOSC.

The second session of the RICH Europe Symposium shifted the discussion towards practical applications of open science practices within research infrastructure frameworks, including challenges in creating a digitally skilled workforce and fostering a web of FAIR data. The third and final session explored the role of research infrastructures in supporting Europe’s green and digital transition, detailing specific EU projects and their contributions to sustainability, broader access, and advanced research capabilities. Each session included a time for questions, answers, and debates, encouraging interactive participation from attendees.

To learn more about the Symposium, please visit this page: