RESTORE4Cs, a freshly started project led by the University of Aveiro, will address management and restoration actions to maintain and promote the mitigation and adaptation capacity of European wetlands to climate change, while focusing on coastal wetlands and providing innovative tools and methodologies for decision making and restoration planning and actions.
What is the potential of wetlands? How can multiple challenges such as climate mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity conservation, disaster risk reduction and other threats to ecosystem services be tackled to foster mutually reinforcing actions and enhance co-benefits from wetland restoration?
All major European Union (EU) policies recognise the key role of wetlands to achieve the EU objectives regarding climate neutrality, biodiversity protection, zero-pollution, flood protection, and circular economy. Therefore, assessing the current extent and state of European wetlands, their current and potential greenhouse gases (GHG) profile and their medium to long-term mitigation capacity through restoration, or other measures, are key priorities of the European Union to tackle climate change. Led by the University of Aveiro, the recently awarded Horizon project RESTORE4Cs (Modelling RESTORation of wEtlands for Carbon pathways, Climate Change mitigation and adaptation, ecosystem services, and biodiversity, Co-benefits)willassess the role of restoration action on wetlands capacity in terms of climate change mitigation and a wide range of ecosystem services using an integrative socio-ecological systems approach.
The kick-off meeting, held in Aveiro from 16 to 19 January, has officially marked the start of the project consortium’s activities, gathering representatives of 15 partners from 9 European countries, including universities, research institutes and infrastructures, small and medium enterprises, intergovernmental organisations and NGOs, bringing together a well-structured and multi-disciplinary team, holding all the essential expertise to be at the forefront of the research/policy interface. The meeting agenda covers all aspects of the project implementation, spanning from administrative issues, overview of the state of the art, coordination, communication and organisation of the work. Case pilot sites have been presented by the related local teams and a first visit in the field has been organised in the area pertaining to Ria de Aveiro.
Focusing on coastal wetlands across Europe, RESTORE4Cs will deliver standardised methodologies and approaches for the prioritisation of restoration, promoting carbon-storage and GHG emissions abatement, while improving the ecological status and the provision of additional ecosystem services, such as flood regulation and coastal erosion protection. More in detail, the project will provide online, user-friendly and integrated tools as unique entry points for wetland practitioners and decision makers regarding the prioritisation of conservation and restoration actions, in relation with their GHG performance as well as impacts on biodiversity and a wide range of ecosystem services while addressing in parallel three spatial scales (local, national, regional/pan-European) combined with the three targeted habitats (wetlands, floodplans and peatlands).
LifeWatch ERIC has a strong historic collaboration with the Junta de Andalucía, one such synergy being with the AGAPA on the ERDF SmartFood project, for which a nanosatellite equipped with a very high resolution multispectral camera will be launched in October this year from a Space X base in the United States. The aim of the SmartFood project is to monitor the impact of agriculture, livestock and fishing on the sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems – LifeWatch ERIC has the technological lead here, and is creating the nanosatellite mission control centre “eBRIC” (eBiodiversity Research & Innovation International Centre) in the Doñana National Park, in partnership with the University of Huelva. Among other things, the centre will focus on interconnected sensorisation at the terrestrial, atmospheric (observation stations, drones) and spatial level (satellites); the study of invasive species; aquifer conservation; native flora and fauna protection; and virtual laboratories for scientific research in the Cloud, using ICT such as Big Data, Artificial-Deep Intelligence “Deep Learning”, and especially Blockchain, through the LifeWatch ERIC LifeBlock tool. The infrastructure conceives the e-BRIC as an international reference centre for Europe, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean, aligned with the United Nations through the UNOOSA Office for Biodiversity and Climate Change.
Crespo also congratulated the infrastructure on being chosen to play a key technological role in the AELLRI EU Partnership initiative proposed by the European Commission, as part of the Horizon Europe topic provisionally entitled “Accelerating farming systems transition: agroecology living labs and research infrastructures”, to pioneer the EU’s agricultural transition towards sustainable agroecological models. She highlighted “the importance of the research work carried out by Lifewatch ERIC, offering important data that allows better decisions to be made in the pursuit of sustainable agriculture and preserving biodiversity”, citing how these technological innovations will support Andalusia in reaching and maintaining EU ecological agricultural objectives, both on land and at sea.
CTO Juan Miguel González-Aranda underlined the importance of the agricultural, fishing and livestock sector within the green and blue development paradigms, in coordination with the Green Deal and Blue Growth policies of the EU, and expressed his gratitude for the institutional support, especially from the Ministry of Agriculture, pointing out that “biodiversity cannot turn its back on the primary sector, which is so important for the Autonomous Community of Andalusia”.
FAIR-IMPACT, a Horizon Europe project in which LifeWatch ERIC partners, has announced the opening of its call for EOSC FAIR Champions, a group of 12 experts that will be actively engaged in analysing and shaping FAIR data policies and practices in their field who will be on board to act as ambassadors for FAIR, engage their community, and advocate for adoption of the project results.
The candidate Champions will be engaged in identifying research data gaps and needs within their communities, to create broader engagement with FAIR, and to shape and disseminate the outcomes of the FAIR-IMPACT project, for instance by facilitating national roadshows in their country, and contributing to the development of FAIR implementation stories.
FAIR-IMPACT is looking for Champions who have broad expertise in FAIR policy and/or practice, bring strong research data advocacy experience and excellent communications skills, are driven to help mobilise others to generate more FAIR data on policy and/or practice level, and are keen to share best practices. Gender diversity, a balanced geographical and stakeholder representation, and broad interdisciplinary expertise across FAIR policy and practice will be ensured in the evaluation of the profiles.
On 19 December 2022, the kick-off meeting of ITINERIS, the Italian Integrated Environmental Research Infrastructures System, was held in Rome. The project, funded with €155 million from the PNRR and coordinated by the CNR (the Italian National Research Centre), involves 22 European research infrastructures.
Gelsomina Pappalardo, CNR researcher and Italian delegate at the ESFRI Forum, who chaired the event, highlighted that: “this is a unique project of its kind, even if it has a formal duration of 30 months, it will change the future of Research Infrastructures in Italy with an impact on research for at least the next ten years”. The project aims to establish an Italian hub for accessing data, services and facilities for interdisciplinary study in the four environmental domains: atmosphere, marine, terrestrial biosphere and geosphere.
Work Package 2 of the project, presented by Carmela Cornacchia (CNR-IMAA Potenza) in collaboration with Ilaria Rosati (CNR-IRET Lecce and LifeWatch Italy) is in fact dedicated to “access”. Access to research infrastructures refers to the regulated use of research infrastructures, and to the services offered by them, be it physical, remote, or virtual access – as in the case of data and digital services. With WP2, ITINERIS aims to ensure the FAIRness of the access as well (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reproducible). The challenge is to coordinate the 22 infrastructures towards alignment with the requirements set by the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).
WP3, coordinated by Alberto Basset, Director of the LifeWatch ERIC Service Centre and Manager of the LifeWatch Italy Joint Research Unit (JRU), will take care of training internal staff and future users of the infrastructures. More than 60 training courses are foreseen for the next 30 months.
After the presentation of WP4, 5, 6 and 7 dedicated to the four domains, each with the development of specific case studies, Antonello Provenzale, CNR-IGG and Coordinator of the LifeWatch Italy JRU, presented WP8. This WP will develop the Virtual Research Environments for data analysis and modelling of future scenarios in ITINERIS’ domains of interest. “Having a central hub that functions as a gateway for users to the infrastructures” said Provenzale, “will make us an example at a European level”.
The AI for Science Workshop was held from 12–16 December in Rabat, Morocco, organised by NASSMA, MASCIR, and the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University. Artificial Intelligence offers the promise of revolutionising the way scientific discoveries are done, and tremendously accelerate their pace. However, major challenges still remain in this nascent field of AI for Science, and the goal of this workshop was to address and discuss challenges such as novel methods for AI for Science, tackling the right set of scientific problems, enabling scientific discoveries with AI, and the journey from scientific discovery to a practical application.
LifeWatch ERIC was represented at the event by its Data Science & Artificial Intelligence Assistant, Yassir Benhammou, who exhibited the ERDF-funded SmartEcoMountains project, which combines interdisciplinary perspectives to obtain and integrate data on how global change affects mountain ecosystems. He displayed a poster on the project “Satellite RGB images and Time Series datasets for automatic Global Land Use/Cover mapping using Deep Learning”, presenting two Smart Global datasets, TimeSpec4LULC* and Sentinel2GlobalLULC**, to train Machine Learning models to perform land use/cover mapping. These two datasets are published in two renowned journals: Earth System Science Data (IF-2021=11,81) and Scientific Data (IF-2021=8,5). On the final day of the event, it won the “best poster prize”. LifeWatch ERIC is delighted and honoured by the recognition afforded by the panel, which featured representatives of pioneers in AI such as UM6P, DeepMind, University of Cambridge, the Morrocan Foundation for Advanced Science, Innovation and Research and Google.
For more information on projects in which the infrastructure is involved, please see our related projects page.
Following the successful ALL-Ready regional workshop held in its ICT-Core premises in Seville at the start of the month, LifeWatch ERIC played an active part in the project’s 3rd Pilot Network Meeting. The meeting took place in Budapest (Hungary) from 21 – 23 November 2022, organised by the Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi). ALL-Ready is a European Commission-funded HORIZON2020 project addressing the multiple challenges that agricultural systems are facing today, including climate change, biodiversity loss, dwindling resources, and degradation of soil and water quality.
During the meeting, LifeWatch ERIC presented the Agroecology Virtual Lab for Living Labs and Research Infrastructure as a key e-tool to boost the acceleration of the Agroecology transition in the EU, by promoting networking and interaction among the Agroecology community. A training session was also given to the pilot members of the network to test the performance of the first version of the application.
LifeWatch ERIC Agroecology Virtual Lab provides seamless access to all services that the Agroecology community might need (e.g., data collection, sharing and visualisation) to collaborate and co-create new knowledge. These different functionalities will not only allow the community to work with data in a more efficient way, but boost innovative collaboration pathways between Agroecology stakeholders (Living Labs, Research Infrastructures, end-users, policy-makers, citizens, etc.).
To learn more about different projects in which LifeWatch ERIC is involved, please visit the Related Projects page.
LifeWatch ERIC is hosting a hybrid regional workshop on 2 November for the ALL-Ready Project, at its ICT-Core office in Seville, located in the Cartuja Science and Technology Park. It will be attended by the project partners and more than 50 experts from Spain, Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria and Italy, of which 50% of the attendees are members of the Andalusian agricultural and agri-food sectors. Presenting will be Consolación Vera, General Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock and Food of the Junta de Andalucía, and José Carlos Álvarez, Managing Director of AGAPA, the Andalusian Agricultural and Fisheries Management Agency, alongside representatives of workshop organisers LifeWatch ERIC (Juan Miguel González-Aranda, CTO) and INRAE (Heather McKhann, Muriel Mambrini-Doudet). The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development of the Junta de Andalucía and its organic farming working group are also collaborating in the organisation of the event, to involve the Andalusian community of farmers (through the SmartFood project). They will present as a success story their experience promoting and stimulating the creation of Living Labs in Agroecology to enhance the presence of Andalusian farmers in the European Association. More information on the workshop and attendees here.
The important news from this Horizon2020 project is that the European Commission, through Horizon Europe, is designing the European Association to Accelerate the Transition of Agricultural Systems through Living Labs (collaborative workspaces) and Research Infrastructures in Agroecology, formed of the ALL-Ready project consortium and the experts in attendance at the workshop. The aim is over the next seven years to mobilise more than 500 million euros in order to bring the green and digital revolution to fruition in the agricultural sector, in line with the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy, the European Biodiversity Strategy 2030, the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the UN SDGs. At the workshop, the participants will work together to propose the focus, maturity and financing of their initiatives, taking into account the practices and values of ALL-Ready, to define their respective roles in the network. Another goal is to boost the participation of local agents from Southern Europe in the initiatives that will be organised by the Association.
For its part, LifeWatch ERIC has been designated by the European Commission as the Reference Research Infrastructure for the management of knowledge, data and infrastructure of Information Technology Association, and to help contribute to a green and digital revolution across Europe. To this end, the infrastructure is developing an innovative Virtual Research Environment based on its Tesseract and LifeBlock (which uses Blockchain) platforms, which will support the tokenisation of ecosystem services to enable ecosystem monitoring and tracking and CAP schemes based on agroecological practices and low-carbon agriculture. These developments carried out from Andalusia through its AstarteWatch network will be duly federated at a pan-European level through the LifeWatch ERIC e-Infrastructure.
In the two days following the regional workshop on 2 November, the ALL-Ready Annual Meeting morning will take place between the 13 entities of the project consortium, hosted by LifeWatch ERIC. Together, they will analyse the achievements made in the first phases of the project, define and plan the next steps, organise the growing involvement of all sectors linked to agroecology and model the training courses that contribute to systematising the legacy of this project and its continuity.
To learn more about the projects in which LifeWatch ERIC is involved, please see the Related Projects page.
The Horizon 2020 – funded Project BiCIKL, in which LifeWatch ERIC is a partner, has reached its halfway stage. The partners gathered in Plovdiv(Bulgaria) from 22 – 25 October for the Second General Assembly, brilliantly organised by Pensoft Publishers.
The BiCIKL project will launch a new European community of key research infrastructures, researchers, citizen scientists and other stakeholders in the biodiversity and life sciences based on open science practices through access to data, tools and services. BiCIKL’s goal is to create a centralised place to connect all key biodiversity data by interlinking 15 research infrastructures and their databases. The 3-year European Commission-supported initiative kicked off in 2021 and involves 14 key natural history institutions from 10 European countries.
BiCIKL is keeping pace as expected (16 out of 48 deliverables have been submitted, 9 are in progress/under review and due in a few days, 21 out of 48 milestones have been achieved).
The hybrid format of the meeting enabled a wider range of participants, which resulted in robust discussions on the next steps of the project, such as the implementation of additional technical features of the FAIR Data Place (FAIR being an abbreviation for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable). This online platform – the key and final product of the partnership and the BiCIKL initiative – is meant to provide scientists with all types of biodiversity data “at their fingertips”.
This data includes information, such as detailed images, DNA, physiology and past studies concerning a specific species and its ‘relatives’, to name a few. Currently, the issue is that all those types of biodiversity data have so far been scattered across various databases, which in turn have been missing meaningful and efficient interconnectedness.
Additionally, the FAIR Data Place, developed within the BiCIKL project, is to give researchers access to plenty of training modules to guide them through the different services.
Halfway through the duration of BiCIKL, the project is at a turning point, where crucial discussions between the partners are playing a central role in the refinement of the FAIR Data Place design. Most importantly, they are tasked with ensuring that their technologies work efficiently with each other, in order to seamlessly exchange, update and share the biodiversity data every one of them is collecting and taking care of.
By Year 3 of the BiCIKL project, the partners agree, when those infrastructures and databases become efficiently interconnected to each other, scientists studying the Earth’s biodiversity across the world will be in a much better position to build on existing research and improve the way and the pace at which nature is being explored and understood. At the end of the day, knowledge is the stepping stone for the preservation of biodiversity and humankind itself.
“Needless to say, it’s an honour and a pleasure to be the coordinator of such an amazing team spanning as many as 14 partnering natural history and biodiversity research institutions from across Europe, but also involving many global long-year collaborators and their infrastructures, such as Wikidata, GBIF, TDWG, Catalogue of Life to name a few. I see our meeting in Plovdiv as a practical demonstration of our eagerness and commitment to tackle the long-standing and technically complex challenge of breaking down the silos in the biodiversity data domain. It is time to start building freeways between all biodiversity data, across (digital) space, time and data types. After the last three days that we spent together in inspirational and productive discussions, I am as confident as ever that we are close to providing scientists with much more straightforward routes to not only generate more biodiversity data, but also build on the already existing knowledge to form new hypotheses and information ready to use by decision- and policy-makers. One cannot stress enough how important the role of biodiversity data is in preserving life on Earth. These data are indeed the groundwork for all that we know about the natural world” – said BiCIKL’s project coordinator Prof. Lyubomir Penev, CEO and founder of Pensoft, a scholarly publisher and technology provider company.
“The point is: do we want an integrated structure or do we prefer federated structures?” – says Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC – “What are the pros and cons of the two options? It’s essential to keep the community united and allied because we can’t afford any information loss and the stakeholders should feel at home with the Project and the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub.”
“We are a brand new community, and we are in the middle of the growth process” – says Joe Miller, GBIF– “We would like to already have answers, but it’s good to have this kind of robust discussion to build on a good basis. We must find the best solution to have linkages between infrastructures and be able to maintain them in the future because the BKH is the location to gather the community around best practices, data and guidelines on how to use the BiCIKL services… In order to engage even more partners to fill the eventual gaps in our knowledge.”
“BiCIKL is leading data infrastructure communities through some exciting and important developments”, says Guy Cochrane, EMBL-EBI. “In an era of biodiversity change and loss, leveraging scientific data fully will allow the world to catalogue what we have now, to track and understand how things are changing and to build the tools that we will use to conserve or remediate. The challenge is that the data come from many streams – molecular biology, taxonomy, natural history collections, biodiversity observation – that need to be connected and intersected to allow scientists and others to ask real questions about the data. In its first year, BiCIKL has made some key advances to rise to this challenge.”
“As a partner, we, at Biodiversity Information Standards – TDWG, are very enthusiastic that our standards are implemented in BiCIKL and serve to link biodiversity data. We know that joining forces and working together is crucial to building efficient infrastructures and sharing knowledge”, says Deborah Paul, chair of the Biodiversity Information Standards-TDWG.
The project will go on with the first Round Table of experts in December and the publications of the projects who participated in the Open Call and will be founded (https://bicikl-project.eu/open-call-projects) at the beginning of the next year.
To learn more about projects in which LifeWatch ERIC is involved, please visit our Related Projects page.
IBERGRID 2022, the 11th Iberian Grid Conference, took place 10–13 October at the University of Algarve in Faro, Portugal. IBERGRID stands for the Iberian Grid Structure, federating computing and data resources across the Iberian area to support research and innovation. The theme of the conference was “Delivering Innovative Computing and Data Services for Research”, and LifeWatch ERIC had a strong presence at the event, with a presentation “EOSC Activities in the Environmental Sciences” from ICT-Core e-Infrastructure Operations Coordinator Antonio José Sáenz on behalf of CEO Christos Arvanitidis and CTO Juan Miguel González-Aranda, as part of the EOSC tripartite event which took place on day 1, and a two-part workshop on “IBERLifeWatch” – focusing on a good practices approach for scientific, technology and innovation communities and on funding opportunities for Spanish-Portuguese cooperation on day 2 and day 4.
LifeWatch ERIC would like to thank event organisers University of Algarve, LIP, INCD and CSIC. The Iberian Peninsula is a biodiversity hotspot and it is key that synergistic initiatives and projects such as those mentioned during the meeting are maintained and expanded, and IBERGRID 2022 provided the perfect opportunity to acknowledge and reinforce cross-border collaboration.
To see photos from the event, please see our gallery.
Presentations from the IBERLifeWatch workshop are available below:
MARBEFES (MARine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning leading to Ecosystem Services) is the latest of LifeWatch ERIC’s related projects to launch, with the kick-off meeting taking place from 4–6 October in Sopot, Poland. The ambitious Horizon Europe project aims to evaluate and characterise the links between marine biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services and the resulting societal goods and benefits in coastal communities. The results will be captured in easy-to-use tools to help practitioners and policy to maximise the ecological value and optimise a sustainable socio-economic use of the marine system for current and future generations.
Representatives from all the MARBEFES project partners gathered in Sopot for a three-day kick-off meeting, involving general presentations of the project goals and expected results, including an overview of all the project Work Packages (WPs). On the first day of the meeting, as part of the general presentation of the project, LifeWatch ERIC CEO Christos Arvanitidis and International Initiatives & Projects Manager Cristina Huertas-Olivares illustrated LifeWatch ERIC’s leading role in in WP5 “Integration & Scenario”. The KOM also involved working group sessions to detail project partners’ involvement and interrelations between WPs to smooth further activities.