LifeWatch Netherlands in ambitious new project LTER–LIFE


The planet is changing rapidly; to understand and forecast how ecosystems are affected by global change, ecology should become a predictive science. LifeWatch Netherlands is an integral part of ambitious new project LTER–LIFE, starting summer 2023, in which it will contribute virtual laboratories to answer fundamental questions on the functioning and resilience of ecosystems. LTER-LIFE is a Large-Scale Research Infrastructure in the making, one of the nine projects awarded within the Dutch national roadmap for large-scale reseach infrastructre. It will provide a state-of-the-art e-infrastructure to study and predict how changes in climate and other human-induced pressures affect ecosystems and biodiversity, capitalising on recent advances in Big Data science. This will enable ecologists to link scattered long-term data on plants, animals, and the environment; share methods for data analysis, modelling, and simulation; and build digital replicas of entire ecosystems (“Digital Twins”), transforming our ability to understand how ecosystems will respond under different scenarios and mitigation measures.

In addition to fostering crucial scientific breakthroughs, the LTER LIFE infrastructure will also enable research on societal questions, such as how biodiversity will benefit from specific interventions to reduce nitrogen deposition in the Veluwe area, or how mitigation measures will impact the species composition, and thereby ecosystem functioning, in the Wadden Sea. Hence, LTER-LIFE will fit seamlessly into the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 and its new EU Nature Restoration Plan, and into Dutch initiatives such as the Deltaplan Biodiversiteitsherstel. By extending the instrument to other ecosystems and their services, LTER-LIFE will also contribute to the European initiative “Destination Earth”, demonstrating technological capabilities in simulation, modelling, data science, artificial intelligence and high-performance computing in the context of biodiversity and ecosystems. Thus, the benefits of LTER-LIFE will be widely felt by scientists in the field of biodiversity, ecology and environmental sciences, as well as a broad range of societal organisations.

Together with LifeWatch Netherlands, which develops virtual laboratories to answer fundamental questions on the functioning and resilience of ecosystems, LTER-LIFE is built on:

  • Long-Term Ecosystem Research Netherlands (LTER-NL): carries out and connects time series on long-term ecosystem monitoring within so called LTER sites, and makes these data available for research. LTER-NL is part of LTER-Europe, which is on the European ESFRI road map for large infrastructure.
  • National Environmental Monitoring Network (NemNet): runs a national scheme of abiotic monitoring of soils, water and air.

For more information, please read this article from the Dutch Research Council.

LifeWatch Belgium User Story: There’s no plaice like an offshore wind farm

offshore wind farm

Offshore wind farms are built at a high rate in European waters as part of the green transition, taking up marine space that is often not available anymore to other users such as the fisheries sector. However, knowledge on the ecological effects of wind farms on commercial flatfish was lacking. Understanding the ecological impacts of an offshore wind farm on a fish species requires knowledge on its movements within and its association to the wind farm area. Therefore, a tagging study making use of an acoustic receiver network was carried out in the Belwind wind farm (Belgium), by PhD student at the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO) and Ghent University, Jolien Buyse. This study aimed at detecting the presence of plaice Pleuronectes platessa, an important commercial flatfish species, and to study its small-scale movements around the turbine foundations.

Acoustic telemetry was chosen as a method to study their residency, site fidelity and small-scale movements around the hard substrates in order to gain insight into their behaviour within an offshore wind farm. The residency of a fish, calculated from the presences of the fish over a certain period, represents its level of association to the study area. A high residency would thereby indicate that the fish rarely leaves the wind farm, which increases the protective capacity of the area. Further, the authors were interested whether the fish returned to the wind farm area after their spawning migrations during the winter months. They studied their presence within the wind farm area over the period of an entire year. Lastly, to determine whether and when plaice preferred the hard substrate or the soft sediment, fish positions around certain turbines were calculated based on the detections. Patterns in distances to the hard substrate in relation to the time of day were analysed to detect habitat preferences that were potentially linked to feeding behaviour.

A temporal network of acoustic receivers was deployed in the Belwind wind farm over a period of one year in collaboration with the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), focal point for LifeWatch Belgium, and Wageningen Marine Research (WMR). In addition, the permanent fish acoustic receiver network of the Belgian LifeWatch Observatory was also used to detect plaice presence in the Belgian part of the North Sea.

Plaice individuals were caught by divers or using hook-and-line fishery. The authors opted for an external attachment of the transmitters to the fish, as the small body cavity of flatfish makes surgical implantation less suitable. If a plaice equipped with a transmitter swam in the vicinity of a receiver, the unique ID-code of the transmitter was stored on the receiver together with a time stamp. As such, the authors could reveal if fish were present within the wind farm area and whether a fish remained there for a prolonged period of time. Further, they also deployed multiple receivers very close to particular turbines to study the small-scale movements of plaice around the hard substrates. If the transmitter signal is picked up by at least three receivers, the position of the fish can be calculated using triangulation. Such position information reveals something about the habitat preferences of the fish related to the presence of the wind turbines.

The data of both temporary and permanent acoustic receiver networks are stored in the European Tracking Network (ETN) data portal. This data portal was developed in the framework of LifeWatch Belgium and allows the access and sharing of aquatic telemetry data. The data analysis was performed using the LifeWatch RStudio server, which offers high computing power and immediate access to the ETN portal.

The knowledge obtained from this study can be further used to inform management decisions on marine spatial planning and future wind farm developments.

This news is an adapted version of the full user story on the LifeWatch Belgium website.

The European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency inaugurated in Seville

European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency

The 18 April 2023 saw the inauguration of the European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency, ECAT. Like LifeWatch ERIC, it is headquartered in Seville, where the inauguration took place. ECAT is part of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission – its in-house science and knowledge service – and works in close cooperation with the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT). Its objectives are to systematise ethics in the use of digital technologies, and to generate and disseminate FAIR data – in line with the mission of LifeWatch ERIC.

ECAT will provide the Commission with in-house technical and scientific expertise to ensure that algorithmic systems used by the Very Large Online Platforms and Very Large Online Search Engines comply with the risk management, mitigation and transparency requirements in the DSA. This includes, amongst other tasks, the performance of technical analyses and evaluations of algorithms. An interdisciplinary team of data scientists, AI experts, social scientists and legal experts will combine their expertise to assess their functioning and propose best practices to mitigate their impact. This will be crucial to ensure the thorough analysis of the transparency reports and risk self-assessment submitted by the designated companies, and to carry out inspections to their systems whenever required by the Commission.

This mission could not be attained without proper research and foresight capacity, which are also inherent to ECAT’s approach. JRC researchers will build on and further advance their longstanding expertise in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which has already been instrumental in the preparation of other milestone pieces of regulation like the AI Act, the Coordinated Plan on AI and its 2021 review. ECAT researchers will not only focus on identifying and addressing systemic risks stemming from Very Large Online Platforms and Very Large Online Search Engines, but also investigate the long-term societal impact of algorithms.

Scientists and experts working at the ECAT will cooperate with industry representatives, academia, and civil society organisations to improve our understanding of how algorithms work; they will analyse transparency, assess risks, and propose new transparent approaches and best practices.

As Stephen Quest, Director-General of the JRC, has said, “algorithms are being used in various domains of our lives, from social media & e-commerce to healthcare & justice systems. It is essential to ensure that these algorithms are transparent, accountable, and ethical”.

LifeWatch ERIC was represented at the inauguration by its Chief Technology Officer, Juan Miguel González-Aranda. Alongside the JRC, LifeWatch ERIC is also part of the #eCitySevilla project, an initiative to develop an open, digital, decarbonised and sustainable city model ecosystem on Seville’s Isla de la Cartuja by 2025.

With this link you can access the full recording of the act, in which numerous experts and authorities presented.

LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities Meet to Discuss Strategic Working Plan

LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities

LifeWatch ERIC is a distributed European Research Infrastructure Consortium, currently composed of three Common Facilities and eight National Nodes. From 12–14 April, the personnel of LifeWatch ERIC Common Facilities from Spain, Italy and The Netherlands gathered in Alghero (Italy) at the premises of the University of Sassari.

ICT developers, scientists, training and communication experts, under the guidance of LifeWatch ERIC CEO, CTO and the Directors of Service Centre and the vLab and Innovations Centre joined together for a technical meeting focusing on the ongoing activities and advancements foreseen by the LifeWatch ERIC strategic working plan for the period 2022–2026.

Many were the issues under discussion, spanning from LifeWatch ERIC e-services, new generation Virtual Research Environments, remote sensing technology development and integration, on which the various members of the team contributed, bringing in their specific competences and expertise.

“LifeWatch ERIC’s most essential ingredient is its people” said CEO Christos Arvanitidis, “these three days have been a great opportunity to further foster collaboration and align the efforts made by the different components of the infrastructure. LifeWatch ERIC is at work to offer a new personalised way to access and use LifeWatch ERIC services and VREs, combining at the same time what’s provided by our infrastructure with each user’s data and needs”.

Agreement between LifeWatch ERIC, IICA and COOP to develop the ‘Cooperative Technological Competence Center’ in the Americas

Cooperative Technological Competence Center

LifeWatch ERIC, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and Cooperatives of the Americas (COOP) have signed an important general technical cooperation agreement. Its objectives include developing the Cooperative Technological Competence Center and promoting digitalisation processes in agriculture across the Americas, through its cooperatives. This within the context of the green and digital transition, which represents an opportunity to build and consolidate national and international alliances and generate a broad social, environmental and economic impact.

The agreement, signed by Christos Arvanitidis, LifeWatch ERIC CEO; Manuel Otero, General Director of IICA; Graciela Fernández, COOP President; and Danilo Salerno, COOP Regional Director, structure the common vision that these institutions have on the importance and urgency of a green transition, for which it is crucial that there be a harmonious digital transition, creating unified, open, secure, reliable and agile management data spaces to make data a key factor in alliances, management processes and decision-making.

IICA is an organisation with 80 years of experience, whose mission is to stimulate, promote and support the efforts of its 34 member states to achieve their agricultural development and rural well-being through international technical cooperation of excellence focused on the needs of their agri-food systems. The International Cooperative Alliance, founded in 1895, is an organisation that unites, represents and serves cooperatives worldwide, establishing in 1990 its Regional Office for the Americas in San José (Costa Rica), called Cooperatives of the Americas (COOP). Its aim is to promote the repositioning of the cooperative model in the modern economic, political, social and commercial environment.

COOP and the IICA on Agriculture have been developing a ‘Joint Cooperation Program’ since 2019 for the modernisation and digitisation of cooperative services for family farming in the Americas, making family production systems more diversified, respectful of the environment and natural resources, ensuring development, generation after generation, not only of agriculture, production and the economic livelihood of people, but also their own family life. The aim of the programme is that such production systems generate income and genuine employment, while protecting biodiversity and fragile agroecological systems.

The agreement with LifeWatch ERIC reinforces the ‘Joint Cooperation Program’ and connects it with the Common European Agricultural Data Space. It promotes the cooperative model as a key player in local development, as well as an associative solution for access to markets and economies of scale in the agri-food value chain, with favourable environmental management.

LifeWatch ERIC Explores Synergies with the Mediterranean SOLE Energy Efficiency Project 

SOLE Project

Last week, the LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core & FEDERTech office, located in the Cartuja Science and Technology Park in Seville, hosted partners from seven Mediterranean countries composing the backbone of the SOLE Project. It focuses on energy efficiency in public buildings, framed within the ENI CBC MED programme, and involves regional corporations, municipalities, public agencies and research centres from Italy, Egypt, Greece, Tunisia, Jordan, Spain and Lebanon. The ICT-Core & FEDERTech technological and project management team held an extensive working meeting with the 17 SOLE delegates, exploring how to model future collaborations to better face the challenges of climate change.

SOLE, “High Energy Efficiency for the public stock buildings in Mediterranean”, aims to develop joint strategies that support profitable and innovative energy rehabilitation of public buildings. The energy situation in the building sector in Mediterranean countries is critical due to the age of most buildings. A lack of renovations over time has led to high energy use in both summer and winter, increasing annual energy consumption and CO2 emissions. On a more positive note, the Mediterranean region is characterised by similar construction methods, and what’s more, thanks to its geographical position, there is a strong potential in the use of renewable energy sources.

In SOLE, the cross-border exchange of know-how will inform the Pilot Actions in selected public buildings. As explained by the coordinator of the SOLE Project, Valentina Bucchi from ANCI Toscana, and meeting coordinator Joaquín Villar from the Andalusian Energy Agency, the SOLE pilot projects are: a public nursery in Italy; the laboratories of the School of Architecture in Athens (Greece); the headquarters of the Andalusian Energy Agency in Seville; the Faculty of Engineering of Alexandria University (Egypt); a public school in Jordan; the headquarters of the municipality of Mnihla in Tunisia, and a public sports complex in Lebanon.

LifeWatch ERIC CTO, Juan Miguel González-Aranda, and LifeWatch ERIC Artificial Intelligence researcher, Rohaifa Khaldi, explained cooperation initiatives in e-biodiversity that LifeWatch ERIC is already promoting in the Mediterranean, such as support for the Arab States Research and Education Network (ASREN) in the preservation of Arab ecosystems. They also spoke about potential synergies, such as in relation to concentrated solar power generation, a technology developed by EU-Solaris ERIC.

SOLE members: Associazione Nazionale Comuni Italiani Toscana – ANCI Toscana (Italy), Agenzia Regionale Recupero Risorse (Italy), National Technical University of Athens (Greece), Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce  – Alexandria Chamber (Egypt), Confederation of Egyptian European Business Associations (Egypt), Royal Scientific Society/National Energy Research Centre (Jordan), Municipality of Jounieh (Lebanon), Andalusian Energy Agency (Spain), Fédération Nationale des Villes Tunisiennes (Tunisia) and Municipalité de Mnihla (Tunisia).

Collaboration with Endesa to preserve biodiversity and ecosystems and promote sustainable development


Rafael Sánchez Durán, General Manager of Endesa for the regions of Andalusia, Extremadura, Ceuta and Melilla, and Juan Miguel González-Aranda, LifeWatch ERIC Chief Technology Officer and director of the ICT-Core Common Facilities in Spain, have begun holding working meetings to explore collaboration in innovation initiatives fostering sustainable development and the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems. One such example is the ‘Bosque Endesa Doñana’: the restoration of more than 40 hectares of forest in the Doñana Natural Area that were affected by a fire in 2017, using exclusively native species. Another example is ‘eCitySevilla’, a pioneering public-private collaboration project to transform the Cartuja Scientific and Technological Park (home of the LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core) into a decarbonised urban district, producing and sharing 100% renewable energy, and making it a complete reality in the year 2025: 25 years ahead of the United Nations Energy and Climate objectives.

Endesa’s initiatives for the conservation of the natural environment have earned it the Andalusian Environment Award from the Andalusian government (Junta de Andalucía): the first energy company to receive this award in the Conservation, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development category. It received this award in acknowledgement of its efforts to protect birdlife by installing nests for the osprey population in the provinces of Cádiz and Huelva; to restore lesser kestrel populations in Malaga through their breeding and subsequent release; and in the LIFE Eurokite project, which focused on the reintroduction of the red kite in the province of Huelva, through the release of species brought over from England.

This award also recognised Endesa’s commitment to reduce its carbon footprint and produce emission-free energy, through shared ecosystems between the primary sector and solar plants. This is the case of the Las Corchas solar plant, located in the Sevillian municipality of Carmona, which is a true model of sustainability, where bees and sheep live in harmony between solar panels.

LifeWatch ERIC at Transfiere 2023: session on green and blue growth

Transfiere 2023

As with all years, LifeWatch ERIC can be found at the 2023 edition of Transfiere, the European Forum for Science, Technology and Innovation. The Forum is held from Wednesday 15 February until Friday 17 February at the Malaga Trade Fair and Conference Centre (FYCMA).

Not only will the infrastructure be present with a booth, but the LifeWatch ERIC ICT-Core management team, together with coordinators of projects already underway at a global, European and regional levels, are developing an extensive programme of meetings to establish synergies for cooperation in the use of advanced digital tools for those interested in improving knowledge and eco-sustainable actions on biodiversity, and on the valuation of ecosystem services. LifeWatch ERIC promotes open access to data and resources in order to facilitate analysis efficiency and improve decision-making from public administrations, companies and citizens on climate change and for the preservation of biodiversity across the planet.

On the first day, Wednesday 15, within the Transfiere programme, LifeWatch ERIC will hold a session from 5pm–7pm, open to all participants, on ‘Green and Blue Growth through Technology Transfer, Digitisation and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’. Moderated by Juan Miguel González-Aranda, LifeWatch ERIC CTO, it entails the participation of five speakers on five interconnected themes:

Teófila Martínez, President of the Port of Cádiz and President of RETE, International Association of Port Cities and Ports. Her presentation will focus on the strategic vision of the blue economy.

Esperanza Caro, General Director of the Corporation of Municipal Companies of Seville (CEMS), and, from the Seville City Council, is the Spanish representative in the Ariane Cities Network for cooperation in the aerospace industry. In her presentation, she will present the SDGs in local economic development projects.

Rocío Moreno, Deputy Mayor of La Palma del Condado (Huelva) and Treasurer of the Andalusian Fund of Municipalities for International Solidarity Association (FAMSI). In her presentation, she will speak about Agroecology as a motor of development and cooperation.

María Ángeles Real, Deputy Vice-Rector for Scientific Infrastructure at the University of Malaga, where she is Professor of Cellular Biology. She will focus her presentation on publicising sustainable international projects in teaching.

Rohaifa Khaldi, Coordinator of the LifeWatch ERIC Artificial Intelligence Team and Researcher at the Andalusian Interuniversity Institute of Data Science and Computational Intelligence (DaSCI). She will dedicate her presentation to explaining the application of Artificial Intelligence in ecosystem services.

After the round of presentations, the second hour of the session will be dedicated to the debate on this entire thematic area, including participation and questions from the attendees.

The Transfiere 2023 programme includes more than 80 thematic panels, in which more than 400 experts will speak. More than 190 entities, companies and public administrations will be represented in the exhibition area. In the Research Centre space, more than 40 prototypes from research groups, technology centers and public companies will be displayed. In addition, in this event, more than 70 startups and spin-offs have been selected for relationships with international investment funds. The three days of Transfiere will see professionals representing more than 500 companies and entities from 39 countries.

LifeWatch ERIC presents its endeavours in remote sensing and support for indigenous knowledge at UNOOSA meeting


This week has seen the participation of LifeWatch ERIC in the UNOOSA COPUOS STSC 60th Session 2023, which is taking place at the Vienna International Centre in Austria from 6–17 February 2023.

COPUOS is the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, set up by UNOOSA, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, to govern the exploration and use of space for the benefit of all humanity. It reviews international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, studying space-related activities that could be undertaken by the United Nations, encouraging space research programmes, and studying legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space. STSC stands for the Scientific and Technical Subcomittees, which are holding plenary and technical sessions, in which LifeWatch ERIC is taking part:

On Wednesday 8 February, Jaime Lobo Domínguez-Roqueta, LifeWatch ERIC Satellite & HAPS Operations Manager, participated in the SCTC Plenary Session, presenting LifeWatch ERIC’s close collaboration with CANEUS International as well as the infrastructure’s efforts in the Remote Sensing field, using the example of the launch of AGAPA-1 nanosatellite for the SmartFood project in October 2023 and related mission operations.

In the STSC Technical Session the following day, Milind Pimprikar, Chairman of CANEUS, and Jaime Lobo Domínguez-Roqueta held a presentation entitled “Indigenous Knowledge Research Infrastructure (IKRI) and Remote Sensing for Sustainability Applications”, co-prepared with LifeWatch ERIC CTO and Director of the ICT-Core Common Facility, Dr. Juan Miguel González-Aranda. IKRI is a Global Research and Knowledge Repository initiativerun with the participation of LifeWatch ERIC, CANUS, FILAC, UNOOSA and AERAP Science, which aims to develop a global collaborative infrastructure using Public-Private-Partnership. It does this by seeking to leverage the power of Earth observation and AI to capture, process, analyse, and present indigenous knowledge from multiple sources, to achieve implementation of UN SDGs and 2030 Agenda targets and action items. Watch here from 1:22:00.

LifeWatch ERIC and Andalusian Government Announce Details on SmartFood Nanosatellite Launch

SmartFood nanosatellite launch

The Councillor for Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development of the Junta de Andalucía, Carmen Crespo, was welcomed to LifeWatch ERIC’s ICT-Core office in Seville yesterday, accompanied by the director of the Andalusian Agricultural and Fisheries Management Agency (AGAPA), José Carlos Álvarez, to discuss trailblazing agroecology initiatives which will have wide-ranging impacts. 2023 is an exciting year for LifeWatch ERIC, as it gains traction in the EU research and innovation sector.

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”.