Catalogue of Life turns 20

Catalogue of Life

The Catalogue of Life (COL) is the result of international collaboration, providing researchers, policymakers, environmental managers, and the wider public with a consistent and up-to-date index of the names of all the world’s known species. COL originated in 2001 as a partnership between the organisations Species 2000 and the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), and is now curated by an international community of 165 taxonomic data sources. In 2021, the COL turned 20, and with the release of the 2021 Annual Checklist (Bánki et al. 2021, July, 2021), has reached just over 2 million accepted species names.

Over the past years LifeWatch Belgium, as part of the COL governance, has been overhauling its digital infrastructure. The new infrastructure, powered by GBIF, functions more efficiently, is on the path to better facilitate the work of the taxonomic community, and provides a more sustainable service for users at all scales. It consists of a public portal, a ChecklistBank, and a new API. Another of its new features is that it provides stable taxon name identifiers. The intent is to create more opportunities to address taxonomic and scientific name gaps associated with the COL Checklist, which will enable the transformation of the COL Checklist to serve as the GBIF Backbone Taxonomy in the future. In the next few years, together with the taxonomic community at large, COL would like to address the apparent taxonomic gaps that still exist in the Checklist. 

COL is a wonderful example of a cost effective, functional research infrastructure that was brought to life by true international collaboration, focus, and persistence of dedicated people offering their time to make it work. COL invites everyone who has an interest to become part of the effort!

The full article can be found on the LifeWatch Belgium website.

European Tracking Network for fish reaches 500 million detections

ETN

In recent years, fish tracking technology has revolutionised our knowledge on fish migration and behaviour. The LifeWatch initiative, the European Tracking Network (ETN), integrates the European efforts of hundreds of users, dealing with thousands of tagged fish from a multitude of species. It is powered by LifeWatch Belgium through VLIZ and INBO, and supported by numerous partners throughout Europe. These combined efforts have culminated in a striking milestone: 500 million detections have been reached, imparting invaluable information on fish species such as the Atlantic bluefin tuna, European seabass and sturgeon.

There is a large and growing number of researchers using biotelemetry to study aquatic animals, such as fish, and answer management-related questions (stock management, impact of climate change, etc.). Large scale nationally and regionally managed fish tagging initiatives were implemented around the globe in recent years. The ETN aims at encouraging collaboration in the field of aquatic animal tracking in Europe and ensuring a transition from a loosely-coordinated set of existing regional telemetry initiatives to an open, sustainable, efficient, and integrated pan-European biotelemetry network embedded in the international context. In animal tracking research, electronic tags are attached to the animal, allowing us to track its movements. On land, GPS technology can be used, but in the aquatic environment we have to rely on other technologies, one of the most commonly applied techniques being acoustic telemetry. This technology uses tags that emit a sound signal that is recognised by receivers placed at strategic locations.

ETN is celebrating over 500 million detections, with 8710 tags applied to 81 species. Biotelemetry has proven its value in species research, often with a scope on pressing scientific as well as policy-driven questions. For vulnerable species such as the Atlantic Bluefin tuna for instance, biotelemetry enables researchers to fine-tune their long-distance migration patterns in support of protective management plans. In the case of critically endangered species such as the European sturgeon, tagging is a crucial element in reintroduction programmes. And for several species, including the European seabass, biotelemetry facilitates the study of a species’ migration and population structure beyond the individual stock level.

The full article, including information on individual species, is available on the LifeWatch Belgium website.

Source Image: © Exeter University

WoRMS endorsed as ‘Project Action’ for the Ocean Decade

Ocean Decade Project Action

The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) aims to provide an authoritative and comprehensive list of names of marine organisms, including information on synonymy. This register, which is hosted by VLIZ, a member of LifeWatch Belgium, has received endorsement by the Ocean Decade as a ‘Project Action’. In early October 2021, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (‘Ocean Decade’), endorsed 94 new Decade Actions across all ocean basins, all of them contributing in some way to the central vision of “the science we need for the ocean we want”.

Earlier in 2021, the WoRMS Steering Committee and the WoRMS Data Management Team submitted a proposal under the first Call for Actions, entitled “Above and Beyond – Completing the World Register of Marine Species (ABC WoRMS)”, which has been recently accepted, together with 93 other Actions. These actions all build on the global momentum for ocean knowledge-based solutions ahead of major upcoming global summits on climate and biodiversity. In total, there are now 335 endorsed Decade Actions.

As an Ocean Decade Project, WoRMS is being linked to the earlier endorsed Action Programme Marine Life 2030: A Global Integrated Marine Biodiversity Information Management and Forecasting System for Sustainable Development and Conservation. The Data Management Team has recently initiated conversation with the coordinators of the Marine Life 2030 Programme, to discuss the optimal ways to connect WoRMS to their goals.

During the full span of the Ocean Decade, WoRMS will continue its endeavors to provide a full taxonomic overview of all marine life, not only supporting scientists, but everyone who makes use of species names, including policymakers, industry and the public at large. Although already fairly complete, taxonomic gaps still need to be addressed, in terms of both space and time. New challenges in the field of taxonomy – such as temporary names – need to be explored, thereby looking for the best suitable solution for all WoRMS users. The documentation of species traits which are of critical importance for ecological marine research will be encouraged, as will there be increased efforts to link these with other global databases, infrastructures and initiatives such as the LifeWatch Species Information BackboneOBISGOOSCOLBoLD & GenBank.

The full article is available on the LifeWatch Belgium website.

Keeping up with LifeWatch Belgium

LifeWatch Belgium News

There’s been a lot going on at LifeWatch Belgium recently, so please flick through some of our favourite news stories from the LifeWatch Belgium website, where you can find the full versions of these featured articles. Source images: CATREIN, PBARN & Alvesgaspar.

 

PhD research reveals wild boar behaviour

Jolien Wevers successfully defended her PhD research on wild boar and roe deer ecology in a human-dominated landscape at Hasselt University

Jolien used the LifeWatch camera trap infrastructure (CATREIN) to investigate how wild boar and roe deer cope with human disturbance in a strongly urbanised environment at different temporal and geographical scales, and at different levels of intensity of human disturbance. 40 cameras registered wildlife presence and behaviour in the National Park Hoge Kempen in a collaborative effort between Hasselt UniversityINBO and LifeWatch Flanders. 4 years and millions of images later, the PhD research is finished.

The findings of the doctoral thesis implicate that at large scales the space use of both wild boar and roe deer is mainly driven by environmental variables (such as forest availability) rather than being driven by human activities. At smaller scales and high anthropogenic disturbance levels, wild boar display clever and opportunistic behaviour and avoid human contact by adapting their time use. At sunset, they are active in quiet areas without disturbance. Areas with many hiking trails or where hunting is allowed are only visited in the middle of the night. Roe deer on the other hand, do not actively avoid areas with human disturbance, but they do adjust their activity pattern. Instead of being very active at dawn and dusk, they are more active at night.

Publications:

Contact persons:

UHasselt : Natalie.Beenaerts@uhasselt.be
INBO : jim.casaer@inbo.be 

 

Big Five conservation measures for diadromous fish

Five years of fish tracking research using the LifeWatch fish acoustic receiver network has generated key insights into how to save diadromous fish species from historic decline 

Population numbers of diadromous fish species have reached an all-time low. Diadromous fish migrate between the sea and rivers to complete their lifecycle, such as salmon, which spawn in rivers, but grow at sea. Or eels, which do the exact opposite. However, due to water regulating obstacles in rivers like dams and hydropower stations, their migration is blocked. On top of that, many rivers have been degraded substantially by human activities, leading to the disappearance of essential spawning and growing habitats.

Researchers from Ghent University (UGent), Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO) have come up with five actions (the ‘Big Five’) to restore diadromous fish populations:

  1. Check the functionality of a migration barrier and whether it can be removed
  2. Adjust the barrier to allow for the passage of fish, both upstream and downstream
  3. Restore spawning and growing habitats to a good state to permit species recolonisation
  4. Restock juvenile fish from nearby populations in the event of the complete eradication of source populations
  5. Ensure sustainable fishing is carried out on relevant species only once their populations are fully restored

You can read the whole article here.

For more information on the difficult migration of the eel, a diadromous species:

 

First Detections of Culiseta longiareolata (Diptera: Culicidae) in Belgium and the Netherlands 

Between 2017 and 2020, Culiseta longiareolata specimens were found at distinct locations in Belgium and the Netherlands­ – a potential vector of bird pathogens

Collected mosquitoes were morphologically identified and the identification was then validated by LifeWatch BopCo using COI DNA barcoding. These are the first records for this species, which might be a potential vector of bird pathogens (e.g., West Nile virus), in Belgium and the Netherlands. More information on the mosquito monitoring project, during which the Cs. longiareolata specimens were collected, can be found on the MEMO project page

The Barcoding Facility for Organisms and Tissues of Policy Concern (BopCo) is financed by the Belgian Science Policy Office (Belspo) as Belgian federal in-kind contribution to LifeWatch ERIC.

Publication:

Keeping up with LifeWatch Belgium

Keeping up with LifeWatch Belgium: a hand displaying Wormsina specimens, a still from a MarineRegions map, and the cover of the UN's World Oceans Assessment.

LifeWatch Belgium has been busy over the last few months, so enjoy a round-up of some of their best stories. You can read more news from LifeWatch Belgium, including the full versions of these featured articles, on their websiteSource images: Alice Schumacher (Natural History Museum Vienna), MarineRegions.org & UN.org.

 

WoRMS honoured with new genus

The World Register of Marine Species, better known as WoRMS, is hosted by VLIZ, which is a member of LifeWatch Belgium. For the first time, in recognition of the platform’s contribution to taxonomy research, a genus has been named after the Register: Wormsina. Harzhauser & Landau established the genus for a Miocene Paratethyan Mitridae, noting: “We all are frequently using and consulting WoRMS and this is [our] contribution to make this important platform even more visible.”
The full paper is available on ZooTaxa & ZooBank. Be sure to check out the Wormsina monograph on page 49! You can view the genus on WoRMS and MolluscaBase. Click here for the original article.

 

MarineRegions’ Exclusive Economic Zones featured on MarineTraffic.com

An important dataset from MarineRegions, (funded partly by LifeWatch Belgium) has now been featured as a map on MarineTraffic.com, helping to improve the experience of millions of users. Since 31 March 2021, vessel locations can be plotted against the global Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), a dataset provided by MarineRegions. EEZ was originally published in 2006 and shows the ocean and seas belonging to coastal states. The EEZ dataset and its derived products are increasingly being adopted by a wide range of users, from industry over researchers to journalists.
Read the full article here.    

 

VLIZ research data infrastructures played key role in UN Ocean report

On 21 April 2021, the United Nations launched the Second World Ocean Assessment (WOA II) on the state of the ocean, covering environmental, economic and social aspects. Staff from the data centre of VLIZ, a member of LifeWatch Belgium, were among the 300 selected from a pool of 780 experts around the world who contributed to this landmark document. The first cycle (WOA I) focused on establishing baselines, whereas WOA II, which ran from 2016 until 2020, extended the scope to evaluating trends and identifying gaps.
The contributions of VLIZ to WOA II were made possible through the support received from the Research Foundation – Flanders as part of the Belgian contribution to LifeWatch. Click here to learn more about the details of these contributions.

VLIZ recruiting marine researcher

Gloved researcher handling fish at VLIZ Marine Observation Centre

The Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) is looking to hire a researcher to join its Marine Observation Centre with immediate start.

The ideal candidate would have a PhD in marine sciences (or equivalent) to further LifeWatch Belgium‘s work in fish tracking research.

Valued qualities also include being able to work both independently and in a team, as well as strong organisational skills and an enthusiasm for collaborative international research, particularly offshore fieldwork. Applications for this two-year contract will be accepted up to and including 7 May 2021.

For more information on this vacancy, please click here.

LifeWatch Flanders ready for the next level

Flemish LifeWatch Consortium

The Flemish LifeWatch Consortium kicked off a new project phase on 1 January 2021, secure that additional funding had been approved to provide continuing support to biodiversity data systems and observation infrastructure. Confirmation of success in its bid for the 2020 International Research Infrastructure funding, organised by the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO) and financed by the Flemish Department of Economy, Science and Innovation (EWI) was announced on 16 December 2020. A virtual meeting on 5 January 2021 of the Flemish LifeWatch partners, the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), was attended by 35 enthusiastic team members in a clear demonstration that the infrastructure is ready to move to the next level. The two-hour conference included presentations from Working Groups on:  

  • The LifeWatch Species Information Backbone
  • Marine terrestrial and freshwater observatories
  • ICT Infrastructure and system integration
  • Virtual labs and Open Science, and
  • Outreach, valorisation and user support

Built up in the period 2012-2020, these facilities generate open data through automated and innovative pipelines, serving users from science, industry, policy and civil society. The next phase of the project will optimise and enhance the research infrastructure, delivering significant outcomes for Flanders, Europe and beyond. The project will apply a novel approach based on the quadruple helix framework, closely engaging with citizens, industrial players, policy makers and scientists in the data collection, analysis and decision making of the project, to promote the use of the Flemish LifeWatch infrastructure.

World Conference on Marine Biodiversity 2020

The World Conference on Marine Biodiversity 2020 was successfully presented online between Sunday 13 – Wednesday 15 December 2020, by the University of Auckland, New Zealand. A state-of-the-art virtual conference platform, that facilitated interactive plenary sessions, live panel discussions, filmed presentations, e-posters, a meeting hub and virtual exhibition areas, attracted over 400 participants.  

LifeWatch ERIC was privileged to be able to support the international event as platinum sponsor. Chief Executive Officer Christos Arvanitidis, in a pre-recorded video message broadcast at the start of proceedings, warmly welcomed the participants, wishing them good luck and a great remote conference, inviting them to support the United Nations decade of ocean science for sustainable development and to become part of the LifeWatch ERIC global community.

The CEO’s emphasis on open access data, reproducible analytics and mobilised communities was reinforced by a dedicated webpage offering details of those LifeWatch ERIC products of greatest interest to marine biologists, with the Metadata Catalogue in prime position. National Nodes contributed materials on Micro-CTvLab, RvLab and MedOBIS (Greece), the LifeWatch Species Information Backbone, the Marine Observatory and three Antarctic services (Belgium), and EcoPortal (Italy).

LifeWatch ERIC staff from these member countries were also on hand at the virtual stand during the coffee breaks to maximise human interaction, in spite of the 12-hour time zone difference. The booth created considerable interest, with over 200 visitors overall and 85 downloads of brochures and other links. 

LifeWatch Belgium 3rd Users & Stakeholders Meeting

biodiversity research

LifeWatch Belgium: a highly innovative infrastructure for biodiversity research.

Interaction at the third edition of the LifeWatch.be Users & Stakeholders Meeting, 15-16 October 2020, took place entirely online, because of the Covid-19 pandemic. LifeWatch Belgium is a high-technology virtual laboratory for biodiversity research, and the Belgian LifeWatch community meet every year to showcase progress made. Open to all users and stakeholders of the infrastructure, the event this year attracted 100 registrations from a multitude of Belgian research institutes, universities and policy bodies, who were pleased to find the proceedings interesting and insightful.

After an introduction from Klaas Deneudt of the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), Day One featured users’ stories from Belgian LifeWatch partners:

  • The World Ocean Assessment, a global exercise supported by the LifeWatch Species Information Backbone (Leen Vandepitte, VLIZ)
  • Downstream migration through a shipping canal: challenges on the road (Jenna Vergeynst, UGent)
  • Comparison of methods to model species habitat networks for decision-making in nature conservation: the case of the wildcat in southern Belgium (Axel Bourdouxhe, LifeWatch-WB)
  • Biodiversity.aq and POLAAAR portal use case: DNA metabarcoding of the prey and microbiome of museum specimens of Antarctic fishes (Henrik Christiansen, Biodiversity.aq)
  • The need for accurate and comprehensive DNA sequence databases to reliably identify species of policy concern (Kenny Meganck and Sophie Gombeer, BopCo).

The second day, 16 October, was the turn of the Belgian LifeWatch partners to demonstrate specific aspects of the infrastructure:

  • LifeWatch data R package (Lennert Schepers, VLIZ)
  • Agouti: A platform for managing wildlife camera-trapping projects (Tanja Milotic, INBO)
  • Exploring the landscape via the ecotopes with GIS softwares (Julien Radoux, LifeWatch-WB)
  • POLA3R (Maxime Sweetlove, Biodiversity.aq)
  • The process of DNA-based species identification: bushmeat as a case story (Ann Vanderheyden, BopCo).

The event clearly demonstrated that the Belgian LifeWatch community is an involved and active one. The multitude of interesting and impressive user stories highlighted the individual projects that are going on and the immense progress that LifeWatch Belgium is making. Click here for the program, including links to the presentations and demonstration videos.

The demonstration videos that were shown during the second day of the Users & Stakeholders Meeting are now available here on the  LifeWatch.be website