Biodiversity of Freshwater Ecosystems: Status, Trends, Pressures, and Conservation Priorities
FORSCHUNGSVERBUND BERLIN EV
Rudower Chaussee 17
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
€ 1 718 086,01
Carla Pinho (Ms.)
Sort by EU Contribution
INSTITUT ROYAL DES SCIENCES NATURELLES DE BELGIQUE
€ 859 359,20
UNIVERSITAET FUER BODENKULTUR WIEN
€ 547 000
INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR LIVING AQUATIC RESOURCES
€ 190 998,49
INSTITUT DE RECHERCHE POUR LE DEVELOPPEMENT
€ 281 372,60
€ 303 360
UNION INTERNATIONALE POUR LA CONSERVATION DE LA NATURE ET DE SES RESSOURCES
€ 402 389,60
THE CHANCELLOR, MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
€ 437 263,70
UNIVERSITAT DE BARCELONA
€ 178 662
HELMHOLTZ-ZENTRUM FUR UMWELTFORSCHUNG GMBH - UFZ
€ 309 984
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON
€ 227 273,60
EIDGENOESSISCHE ANSTALT FUER WASSERVERSORGUNG ABWASSERREINIGUNG UND GEWAESSERSCHUTZ
UNIVERSITE LYON 1 CLAUDE BERNARD
€ 179 971,20
UNIVERSITE PAUL SABATIER TOULOUSE III
€ 190 629,25
ECOLOGIC INSTITUT gemeinnützige GmbH
€ 161 789,25
JRC -JOINT RESEARCH CENTRE- EUROPEAN COMMISSION
€ 186 640
€ 80 040
€ 99 744,20
CENTER ZA KARTOGRAFIJO FAVNE IN FLORE ZAVOD
FISHBASE INFORMATION & RESEARCH GROUP INC
€ 110 843
Grant agreement ID: 226874
1 November 2009
30 April 2014
€ 8 122 680,75
€ 6 465 406,10
FORSCHUNGSVERBUND BERLIN EV
Save our freshwater species
Grant agreement ID: 226874
1 November 2009
30 April 2014
€ 8 122 680,75
€ 6 465 406,10
FORSCHUNGSVERBUND BERLIN EV
Final Report Summary - BIOFRESH (Biodiversity of Freshwater Ecosystems: Status, Trends, Pressures, and Conservation Priorities)
BioFresh – the network for global freshwater biodiversity –provides data, scientific knowledge, and models to develop policy and management recommendations for freshwater conservation strategies.
BioFresh has successfully built up an on-line, open-access global data platform on the distribution, status, and trends of freshwater biodiversity, and to make the vast amount of information on freshwater biodiversity currently scattered among a wide range of databases publically available. In this respect, BioFresh supports scientists, NGOs, policy makers, businesses, and the public in improving and strengthening the conservation of freshwaters and their unique biodiversity. The project’s multifaceted approach has enabled significant progress in filling data gaps and advancing the knowledge and understanding of freshwater biodiversity, guiding policy debate and action, and increasing the public awareness and the engagement, by producing accessible and relevant scientific information. Using the data to quantify past and present impacts of multiple stressors, single and in concert, the project has significantly improved our ability to forecast future responses of freshwater biodiversity and its related services to climate and socioeconomic pressures. The responses were investigated at global, continental, and local scales. A major focus was, however, on European biodiversity.
Ultimately, BioFresh provides a coherent scientific foundation to better incorporate freshwater biodiversity into water policy and international environmental agreements (i.e. Ramsar Convention, Convention on Biological Diversity) in general and EU directives such as Natura 2000 and the Water Framework Directive in particular. The project’s findings and outputs have been disseminated widely in order to strengthen public awareness on the status and the importance of freshwater biodiversity for environmental and human well-being.
Project Context and Objectives:
The patterns of freshwater biodiversity and the underlying processes that create and maintain this diversity at the global and the European scale remain poorly understood for most taxonomic groups. Incomplete knowledge, compared to the information about terrestrial and marine diversity, poses a severe handicap for effective conservation planning of freshwater biodiversity as well as for maintaining the human-related services that depend on it. Major efforts are needed to evaluate, complement, integrate, and analyse the widely dispersed quantitative data on freshwater biodiversity; and to understand and forecast how freshwater biodiversity will respond to multiple environmental pressures at global, European, and local scales.
The overall objective of the project BioFresh was to improve the capacity to protect and manage freshwater biodiversity in the face of rapid global environmental and socioeconomics changes.
Specifically, the following objectives have been targeted during the project:
• to build up a web-based science portal providing universal access to information on freshwater biodiversity, integrated into a distributed network of interoperable databases (WP1-3),
• to compile clear and readily accessible information for analysing the status and trends of freshwater biodiversity, including the human-related services that depend on it (WP4-6),
• to develop and evaluate spatially-explicit models and tools and to quantify how present and future environmental pressures will impact freshwater biodiversity (WP4-6),
• to identify key hot spots of freshwater biodiversity, as well as their vulnerabilities, and to propose innovative strategies for conservation (WP5+7),
• to increase the public awareness on the importance of freshwater biodiversity and the services that depend upon it (WP8),
• to support governments and international environmental agreements (e.g. European Nature Directive, Water Framework Directive, Ramsar Convention, Convention on Biological Diversity) by strengthening targets for conservation and restoration actions through the identification of priority pressures, areas, ecosystem types, and species (WP7+8),
• to identify new freshwater biodiversity research directions and to develop novel approaches to manage freshwaters and the related biodiversity facing rapid environmental change(WP4-8).
Selected major achievements and products of BioFresh include:
• BioFresh Information Platform and Data Portal: The data portal offers information on more than 250 datasets (metadata), species and species occurrences. The Platform provides the unique opportunity to advertise and publish freshwater biodiversity data. A dedicated journal to publish freshwater-related information, the “Freshwater Metadata Journal” (FMJ), was established.
• Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas: The Atlas presents spatially-explicit information on freshwater biodiversity, and its underlying drivers. Therefore, it allows stakeholders, policy-makers, scientists, and the general public to explore a wide range of maps (currently about 25) about life in freshwaters across the globe.
• Climatic Vulnerability Index (CVI): The Climate Vulnerability index was derived for 18783 freshwater catchments across Europe based on climate-induced exposure to hydrological and temperature regime changes, sensitivity to altered environmental conditions of 1685 freshwater species of plants, fishes, molluscs, amphibians, crayfish and turtles, and the resilience potential conferred by features within and between catchments, such as topology and connectivity.
• Biodiversity Matrix: The Biodiversity Matrix includes contemporary distributions of freshwater biodiversity, largely drawn from species distribution range maps, a set of environmental variables, species trait data, and IUCN Red List TM species assessments. It enables spatial analyses within and among regions across the globe as it provides all the data in a common spatial framework (HydroBasin framework).
• Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs): A network of globally important sites of freshwater biodiversity for Europe was identified. Important sites in Europe (KBAs) were specifically assessed for their level of protection within the European network of protected areas, such as the Natura 2000.
• Nucleus for new research initiatives: The BioFresh project stimulated new, emerging research activities. For example, the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) is building up global databases on biological field stations and on future hydropower dams, both supported through BioFresh. Further complementary research projects have been successfully initiated by BioFresh partners in collaboration with the wider research community.
• BioFresh Blog: Information videos and training courses and other resources, along with the Water Lives conference in Brussels, supported, among other products, the transfer of knowledge to policy makers and the general public, thereby increasing the awareness about the critical state of freshwater systems. The blog was transferred to the MARS project (renamed as Freshwater blog) thereby assuring future forms of value creation from BioFresh investments in this communication asset.
• Sustainability beyond the project: Several partners of the BioFresh consortium have pooled their resources to maintain the data portal, the metadatabase, the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas and the blog well beyond the official termination of the project.
These key achievements and products of BioFresh are brought together and presented in a scientific information platform on the World Wide Web (www.freshwaterbiodiversity.eu). This information platform represents a ‘next generation’ resource supporting enhanced understanding and prediction of responses of freshwater biodiversity and its services to multiple stressors at global, European and local scales. Furthermore, the successful implementation of the outcomes and products of BioFresh substantially increases the awareness of the urgency for freshwater biodiversity conservation among scientists, policy makers, and the public; thereby improving present conservation strategies as well as supporting the work of the EU as well as the targets of international environmental agreements.
WP1-2 Building a web-based freshwater biodiversity platform and quality control and database preparation
The BioFresh freshwater information platform
Building a freshwater biodiversity information platform as a gateway to scientific information on freshwater biodiversity was a major objective of the BioFresh project. The BioFresh platform was designed as a thematic freshwater data and information hub, complementary to existing and established initiatives such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), the Catalogue of Life Consortium (Species2000, ITIS) and the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). As a central data and information platform, it acts as an important tool for raising the much-needed awareness for freshwater biodiversity and for supporting the necessity to make primary biodiversity data in the realm of freshwater research publicly and openly available. The BioFresh information platform was designed as a knowledge-based information system where scientists and early-career researchers, conservationists, ecosystem managers and stakeholders as well as the public and other interested parties can find satisfying pieces of information. It not only functions as a gateway to scientific data and information, but provides a platform for the dissemination of the project’s results and for raising awareness about the urgency for freshwater biodiversity conservation among scientists, policy makers, and the public.
Components of the platform
The BioFresh information platform includes the following components: (1) information on the BioFresh project and network, (2) the data portal, including the metadatabase with information on freshwater datasets, (3) the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas, (4) a resource section with tutorials, teaching and policy relevant material and research outputs and (5) the blog. It is accessible at http://www.freshwaterbiodiversity.eu/.
Information section on project and network
This section of the information platform offers all relevant information related to the EU funded project BioFresh. It includes details on the contributing partners, on the workplan and workpackages as well as on deliverables. It also serves as a repository for the project’s newsletters, press releases and links to the project’s major results (see also below “BioFresh Resources”).
This section of the information platform is all about "data" and is primarily targeted towards scientists and water managers who are interested to work with publicly available raw data. It helps them to discover datasets through the metadatabase (1), search for information and data on species and retrieve occurrence data (2). In addition, it comprises information on useful shape files and tools to support freshwater biodiversity research, and a data repository for datasets that are made available 'as is' (3).
“Metadata” is loosely defined as “data about data”. A metadatabase therefore collects information on datasets in order to allow data visibility and assessment. For the data producer/provider metadata are meant to document data to inform prospective users of their characteristics, while for the data consumer/user metadata are used to both discover data and assess their appropriateness for particular needs – their so-called “fitness for purpose”. The aim of the BioFresh metadatabase is to bring all possible information on freshwater related datasets together and provide a resource where scientists, conservationists and policy makers can find data relevant for their work.
The BioFresh metadatabase features three main parts: the questionnaire, the query page and the full text search.
The latter two components of the metadatabase offer the possibility to find appropriate datasets stored in the metadatabase either by specifying the search (e.g. regarding ecosystem type, region, organism group or others) or by entering any keyword of interest into the full text search. All datasets can be exported as pdf- or eml-files. When the corresponding data is published through the BioFresh Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT, see further for more details), metadata can directly be imported from this eml-export.
A fourth component not visible for the regular user of the metadatabase is the administration tool. This tool ensures data managers to actively extend and maintain the metadatabase during future developments on the portal and provides functionality to register new users and datasets, link datasets to the portal or repository as well as perform quality controlling on individual datasets.
(2) Species register and occurrence database
The data portal allows users to search for information on species and for species occurrence data. Technically, the species register and occurrence database are tightly linked and any search using a scientific species name makes use of the central species register.
For species information, we rely on the taxonomic checklists available through the Freshwater Animal Diversity Assessment (FADA) database, which was considerably extended in the course of the BioFresh project. This register of species names allows us to further link to existing information on these species available on the web, such as conservation status information through the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (http://www.iucnredlist.org) availability of species barcodes on BOLDsystems (http://www.boldsystems.org) and sequence data on GenBank (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/genbank/).
The occurrence database incorporates so-called primary biodiversity data (i.e. which organism has been observed where, when, how and by whom) and contains a selection of Darwin Core fields developed for use in BioFresh which are now generally available for freshwater sciences; "freshwatercore" https://code.google.com/p/freshwatercore/downloads/list. The database contains both datasets mobilised through the BioFresh project and network and data available through the GBIF portal and its network. To facilitate data entry in the occurrence database, we developed a “BioFresh data portal import tool”, which allows a scientific data manager to import and update datasets.
Species search options include a simple search on (part of) the scientific name and the selection of a species name from an auto-complete menu, while the advanced search allows the user to search on selected elements of the scientific name. In addition to simple occurrence searches on a scientific name, occurrences can be searched by dataset and by organism group in combination with a selected region. Species listings and occurrence result pages offer users the option to download data for use in their analyses.
(3) Shapefiles, tools and data repository
The shapefiles, tools and models used by researchers in the field of freshwater biodiversity are listed in the “Tools” and “Spatial data links” sections within the menu “Resources” of the BioFresh data portal (see http://data.freshwaterbiodiversity.eu/tools and http://data.freshwaterbiodiversity.eu/shapefiles respectively). These pages provide a quick overview of potentially useful shapefiles, tools, including R-packages and other related freshwater biodiversity software. The vast majority of these items have been used in the BioFresh scientific workpackages. These pages offer a broad overview of relevant resources for freshwater biodiversity researchers. The data repository provides us with a means to publish datasets and other relevant resources which cannot easily be mapped to the fields used in the occurrence database on-line (publication “as is”, e.g. for descriptive distribution information and map data).
Mobilising data and contributing to the data portal
One important aspect of the BioFresh vision is to make biodiversity data freely and openly available. We encourage data holders to support this vision by publishing primary biodiversity data through the BioFresh portal, by providing either information on their dataset(s) for the metadatabase or primary biodiversity data for the portal itself, preferably both. BioFresh partners have actively engaged in data mobilisation by approaching collaborators, engaging with freshwater journal editors, digitising data and mobilising data through small (supported through the contingency fund) projects for e.g. collection, collating and/or reformatting of existing data. Overall, a large number of datasets has been documented in the metadatabase and substantial volume of occurrence data has been provided to BioFresh and will gradually become available through the BioFresh data portal. By setting the example in data publication, we hope to further encourage researchers in the field of freshwater biodiversity in contributing to the BioFresh data network, thus substantially improving data availability and contributing to large-scale biodiversity analyses.
With over 150 individual user logins, 255 entries, and visitors from all over Europe as well as from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and South Africa, the BioFresh metadatabase has become a useful and widely used tool over the past years. To further improve the visibility of metadatabase entries and make publishing of metadata more attractive for data holders, we established a dedicated journal to publish freshwater dataset related information, the “Freshwater Metadata Journal” (FMJ).
The Freshwater Metadata Journal
The “Freshwater Metadata Journal” (FMJ) was established as a dedicated journal for publishing freshwater dataset related information. The process of publishing an article in the FMJ is fully automated based on the entries in the metadatabase. The FMJ has an ISSN and articles are allocated a DOI. All articles will be accessible through the BioFresh data portal website. Publishing the metadata of a dataset in the FMJ makes it citable with a unique reference and DOI, it becomes traceable for other scientists. The first publication in the FMJ is envisaged for end of August 2014. Data holders interested to publish dataset information in the metadatabase and in the Freshwater Metadata Journal, can request a metadatabase login from the BioFresh data team (email@example.com).
In addition to documenting datasets in the metadatabase, BioFresh encourages data holders to make their occurrence data publicly available. The different options to do so are outlined on the help pages of the data portal (see http://data.freshwaterbiodiversity.eu/supportBioFresh and http://data.freshwaterbiodiversity.eu/submitdata) and include submission in spreadsheet format, through the BioFresh IPT installation or through an external IPT installation. We also strongly encourage the publication of data associated with a (“regular”) scientific paper and the release of data through the publication of a dedicated data paper.
In total over 50 occurrence datasets (roughly corresponding to 2 million occurrence records) have been made available for publication through the BioFresh portal and will gradually become available through the portal. An overview of the fully processed datasets is available at http://data.freshwaterbiodiversity.eu/ipt/.
Collaboration with freshwater journals
In 2012 members of the BioFresh team engaged with the editors of 18 major freshwater journals (including for instance Freshwater Biology, Fundamental and Applied Limnology and Hydrobiologia) to encourage the submission of data associated with scientific articles published in their journal. This initiative is discussed in the paper: De Wever, A, Schmidt-Kloiber, A, Gessner, MO and K Tockner (2012) Freshwater Journals Unite to Boost Primary Biodiversity Data Publication. BioScience, 62 (6): 529–530. doi:10.1525/bio.2012.62.6.2. In this paper we argue that adopting submission of primary biodiversity data to a central network, as is common for sequence data submitted to the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/genbank/collab) as a standard scientific practice would increase the visibility and recognition of scientists’ work and foster broad-scale biodiversity analyses.
The BioFresh data team started to actively request data associated with published papers from 19 freshwater journals, which encourage the submission of biodiversity data to a central repository. In total tables of content and abstracts from 133 journal issues have been scanned and 260 requests for data were launched. We observed a 19% response rate and 90% of the responders were willing to consider publishing their data on-line. Detailed statistics of this data-requesting-effort will be reported in a paper on the added value of a freshwater biodiversity data and information platform.
WP3 Gap analysis and remediation
WP3 was dedicated to
(i) analysing the data needs of the partners who developed models or performed analyses about the freshwater biodiversity,
(ii) providing data filling those needs by locating potential existing datasets, and by digitizing data from non-electronic sources, mainly from publications,
(iii) performing a gap analysis about data and information still missing, and (iv) writing proposals for funding efforts to fill the identified gap.
Any piece of data or information on biodiversity includes five components that correspond to one type of question each:
- Taxonomic component: About?
- Geographic component: Where?
- Time component: When?
- Topic component: What?
- Reference component: Who and How? (source of data and methodology)
For the first four types, it is important to know the level (i.e. the range) and the scale (i.e. the precision), e.g. for the geography:
- Level: continent, region, country, sub-country, freshwater body / catchment, ecoregion, any other area with definitions given.
- Scale: from “by full area” to “by point data”.
More than 20 different requirements were finally listed and synthesized as follows.
The main groups targeted for biodiversity and conservation domain were the vertebrates, odonates, crayfishes; and for freshwater ecology, fishes, several orders of insects, several orders/families of crustaceans, and a few other benthic invertebrates.
Due to the project objectives, the primary target was Europe. But there was no general trend in the required geographical level and scale. We added the country level as potentially important for biodiversity management. The use of ecoregions was requested in many cases. A few tasks requested the use of (or conversion to) UTM-coordinates, or other grid schema.
In general, the most recent data were requested, a few tasks requiring time-series and historical data. In general, the more global was the geographic requirement, the less detailed was the time one.
The topics covered by the data requirements were extremely diverse.
- Tasks where the type of data were well defined, e.g. for models and activities that were already well developed, running almost as routines, data were already with the partners, but additional taxa or geographical extensions were requested.
- For tasks that were more exploratory and experimental, and reacting on data availability rather than on strictly specified requirements; focus and limits had to be defined.
Several data and information sources were provided, mainly electronic ones, and others to be digitized.
In the end, we analysed and compared which data were required and which were actually used during the project in the various WPs; and the match was almost perfect.
However, the country level suggested by us, did not encounter any success except for the maps of freshwater fish species richness per country produced by FishBase. This is worrying because – while at the one hand the distributions of species are not constrained by administrative limits, and on the other hand a number of conservation measures are elaborated at regional level like in Europe – the application and enforcement of regulations are actually always done on the ground at country level. Biodiversity managers at governmental level must know what biodiversity their country hosts. It is then possible to link species and ecosystems present in their national territory with targeted species and ecosystems listed in regional and global conservation measures and conventions, in order to be aware that there are species and ecosystems that require some attention.
Also, only a few models and analyses used species traits. It seems that species traits will be much more used in the future for biodiversity monitoring at least in Europe. Biodiversity Information Systems like FishBase, freshwaterecology.info and IUCN Red List have started this effort already a long time ago but it should be extended to other current and future initiatives.
The electronic data sources found were recorded in the metadatabase (see workpackage 2) where partners can search potential datasets of interests.
During the project, about twelve different actions of data encoding were performed including scanning, OCR texts and structuring the information in a database, reorganising worksheets into a database, digitising point data, digitising distribution areas, routinely encoding of data in a large information system. These activities have yielded about 110,000 new records, 50% being point data or polygons, and corrections, updates, or completion for about 100,000 other records.
Comparing the data needs with our capacity to answer the demand (from existing data source and data encoding) we ended up with recommendations to mitigate the gaps.
The main gap is the relatively low number of geo-coordinated point/occurrence data for freshwater species. Most of the models in BioFresh make a heavy use of such data, including IUCN for threat assessments. However, the required density of points in space and sometimes time was often beyond the current capacity of GBIF and our own capacity of encoding. In addition, the taxonomic issue, i.e. the management of names attached to the occurrence data, was raised again. And finally, some known good datasets are protected under complicated Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), which we had to renounce to get.
1. Recommend future funding for massive occurrence data encoding efforts.
2. Important need for funding the establishment/extension of authoritative freshwater species lists including an exhaustive overview of “synonyms” (FADA).
3. Recommend the elaboration of European policies on IPR issues related to aggregated data.
4. Explore the options for a standardised embargo period after which publicly funded scientific data should be released.
In addition, we have explored the needs from a policy making point of view. Policy makers do not need raw data, but rather knowledge that is derived from information that are derived from data.
Thanks to the Symposium “Water Lives” organised in Brussels in January 2014 in collaboration with the Refresh project, we have analysed the gaps expressed by the policy makers as follows (the last one being a gap for scientists):
1. Policy makers expect socio-economic justifications for biodiversity conservation.
2. Policy makers expect solutions (possibly under several scenarios) in addition to problem exposure.
3. Policy makers prefer short, concise and precise statements.
4. Policy makers do not favour uncertainty.
5. The main geographic unit for management seems to be the catchment (like already practiced in France and Italy).
6. Although decisions are mainly driven by socio-economics, interest and power, there is still space for ethical issues.
7. Policy makers need to be “educated” about freshwater biodiversity.
8. Scientists have to learn how to push their results in the policy making pathways.
Further, we elaborated eight corresponding conclusions that could be taken into account in the next calls of Horizon 2020 that would include freshwater biodiversity:
1. For every proposal about biodiversity conservation, there should be (at least) one partner and one workpackage on socio-economics.
2. In relevant workpackages in proposals, there should be clear description of tasks about the elaboration of scenarios under various politico-socio-economic situations resulting from different political decisions.
3. For every proposal about biodiversity conservation, the workpackage on communication should explicitly list policy briefs as deliverables and should involve more the community that is already at the interface science-policy to write down these short papers.
4. Uncertainty should be expressed through the proposal of several solutions under several scenarios, which will mask positively a part of the uncertainty of scientific answers.
5. Most of the proposals should include a workpackage on integration of data, information, knowledge, management, and models at catchment level.
6. As much as possible, there should be a partner in the domain of philosophy and a workpackage on other ways to value biodiversity than monetary.
7. As much as possible, there should be a partner and a workpackage specialised on production of education material, including material for high engineer, administration and managerial schools.
8. Proposals should associate people who know pathways into policy making, if possible at the beginning of the proposal making. There is also a need to build a strong scientific advocacy to mitigate the impact of economy lobbying.
BioFresh Partners have been successful: 16 follow-up projects in the domain of biodiversity have been submitted of which 6 are successfully funded and 8 proposals are awaiting results.
However, in these funded projects the part that should be dedicated to maintain the BioFresh data portal is usually too small or even absent. There is still advocacy to be done so it becomes a reflex for projects to fund their biodiversity e-infrastructures, both in terms of hardware/software maintenance, and of increase and improvement of the data content.
WP4 Contemporary and past patterns in freshwater biodiversity
Actual rates of freshwater species extinction due to human actions are considered to be much higher than background (natural) extinction rates. However, efforts to set global conservation priorities have, until recently, largely ignored freshwater diversity thereby excluding some of the world’s most species rich, threatened, and valuable taxa. With the increasing availability of large-scale spatial data on freshwater biodiversity, we are now able to get a better understanding of global freshwater diversity gradients and their probable causes that will further serve to address some questions fundamental to conserving freshwater taxa, namely, to determine the major historical and environmental drivers of contemporary species distributions. Such information is important to further improve our understanding of how species might respond to ongoing and future impacts to the environments in which these species are living. To fill this gap, in a research, which appeared in the Journal of Animal Ecology, BioFresh scientists have analysed, for the first time, the global distribution of five different freshwater animal groups (or taxa) across 819 river basins around the world. The taxa investigated were aquatic mammals, aquatic birds, freshwater fish, crayfish, and amphibians. The study looked at how environmental factors drive biodiversity patterns at the river basin level and tested the ‘convergence hypothesis’, which takes the view that the environment drives evolution in a predictable direction (i.e. the same causes should produce the same effects). The study found that contemporary climate, history and area are the main factors in explaining species richness and endemism patterns for most of the taxa at the river basin scale, endemism patterns being more “history” driven. In addition, and importantly, the research also found that amphibians and freshwater fish, display the highest level of congruency with other groups (taxa) of animals.
Approximate the true number of extinct species
Because both descriptions of species and modern human-driven extinctions started around the same time (i.e. eighteenth century), a logical expectation is that a large proportion of species may have gone extinct without ever having been recorded. Despite this evident and widely recognised assumption, the undescribed species loss has never been estimated. In a study reported in Conservation Biology, BioFresh partners quantified this loss for several taxonomic groups and regions for which undescribed species extinctions are likely to have occurred. Results show that species loss is severely underestimated by considering only known species extinctions. According to estimates made by BioFresh partners, the proportion of undiscovered extinct species over all extinctions ranged from 0.15 to 0.59 depending on the taxonomic group and the region considered. This means that recent extinctions may be up to twice as large as the number recorded.
Climate change and biodiversity: good news from riverine fishes
Forecasting extinctions within a policy-relevant interval is a challenging task. Studies often use habitat loss to predict how many species will go extinct, but not how long that process will take. An important BioFresh study reported in the Journal of Applied Ecology tackles this problem head-on. By building a modelling technique that predicts riverine fish extinctions by 2090, the study develops a meaningful timeframe for policy. A key finding is that climate change may have little effect in most rivers in the next 80 years, especially when compared to other anthropogenic impacts.
To develop effective actions and targets, policymakers need information about extinction threats within a relevant time-scale: the time between prediction and extinction represents a “window of opportunity” where species may still be saved. The EU’s Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 specifically aims to reverse biodiversity loss, as does Aichi Target 12 under the Convention on Biological Diversity, which calls for preventing the extinction of known threatened species. Good planning also means figuring out which threats are the most urgent.
The good news for fish is that overall, these new models predict that even under a “pessimistic” climate change model, less than one-quarter of the drainage basins should lose habitat. On average, those basins that do are predicted to have around a 24% higher extinction rate. The effects should concentrate in arid, semi-arid, and Mediterranean climates, especially in the southwest USA, Mexico, southern America, northeast Brazil, northern and southern Africa, southern Europe, western and middle Asia, and Australia. Using actual species numbers, the study found that only 20 out of 1,010 basins would lose species by the year 2090, with the number of species lost ranging from 1 to 5.
These findings give climate change a much smaller role in driving extinctions than in other studies – particularly when compared to other anthropogenic pressures. In Central and North America, human impacts have driven 47 species extinct over the last century in 20 river basins, a rate 130 times greater than that predicted for climate change.
To conclude, there still is a chance to counteract current and future fish species loss [by] focusing conservation actions on the other important anthropogenic threats generating ongoing extinctions in rivers.
WP 5 Climate change and freshwater biodiversity
WP 5 predicted changes in biodiversity and ecosystem services under future climate conditions by developing and improving models and policy-relevant indices. The following main objectives were completed during the project:
• Improvements of the BioFresh portal by identifying data sources, filling gaps and integrate models, tools and indices.
• Development of the Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI) and the “Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas”.
• Development and test of spatially-explicit models to quantify how climate change biodiversity under future thermal and hydrological regimes.
• Analysis of the impacts of climate change on ecosystem functioning.
Improving the BioFresh portal
WP4-7 partners have prepared large data bases for their analysis and for subsequent inclusion into the BioFresh portal. The following data sources are of particular importance:
• Data from the national WFD monitoring in Germany have been fully processed and are published through the BioFresh portal at http://data.freshwaterbiodiversity.eu/ipt/. In total 8 datasets with over 280,000 occurrence records (from more than 10,000 sampling sites) including data on fish, benthic invertebrates, macrophytes and benthic diatoms have been made available.
• Pond and wetland literature data. Data from different countries covering abiotic and biotic variables have been processed. In total, this dataset contains just under 18,000 records.
• Stygofauna Mundi. The digitised Stygofauna Mundi database was made available through the data repository at http://data.freshwaterbiodiversity.eu/data/BF_DIG2-StygofaunaMundi/.
• Fish-AMAZBOL. Thanks to an official collaboration between the IRD team and the University Mayor de San Simon (Bolivia), we built and published a database for fishes from the Bolivian Amazon.
Integration of results into the BioFresh portal
A wide variety of models and tools were applied and developed in the course of the BioFresh project. This ranges from adapting existing on-line modelling tools for use of freshwater species modelling (AquaMaps), applying established modelling techniques for species distribution modelling, to the refinement of forecasting models (ensemble forecasting methods of invasive species) and the development of a conceptual modelling framework (Climate Vulnerability Index).
Climate Vulnerability Index
The conceptual development of the Climatic Vulnerability Index as well as the application of the developed methodology towards estimation of the vulnerability of European freshwater ecosystems to climate change has been successfully completed. A Climate Vulnerability Index for 18,783 freshwater catchments across Europe based on climate-induced exposure to hydrological and temperature regime changes, sensitivity to altered environmental conditions of 1685 freshwater species of plants, fishes, molluscs, amphibians, crayfish and turtles, and the resilience potential conferred by features within and between catchments, such as topology and connectivity was derived. Using multiple general circulation models, emission scenarios and hydrological models, our methods examine the potential variability in Climate Vulnerability within and among catchments and highlight consensus across methods. We showed consensus that climate vulnerability increases from the 2030s to the 2080s and that the biodiverse Lakes Ohrid, Prespa and Skadar, along with the islands of Rhodes, Lesbos (Greece), Mallorca (Spain), Sicily and Sardinia (Italy) represent just some of the 576 catchments that show high to very high Climate Vulnerability by the 2030s. We suggest these could be a practical starting point as targets for climate change mitigation. Furthermore, the presence of dams significantly reduces resilience and elevates Climate Vulnerability, indicating that management actions and development decisions can be taken to mitigate against climate change in freshwater ecosystems. Finally, with protected areas currently covering less than 25% of the most Climate Vulnerable catchments, our results also highlight the need to improve and ‘future-proof’ Europe’s protected area network for freshwater ecosystems.
The Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas
The Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas – launched online in January 2014 – is a constantly expanding collection of key maps related to freshwater biodiversity. These include outputs of the BioFresh project, as well as of the wider scientific community, and cover state-of-the-art scientific models and conservation planning maps, such as the Freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas.
The online Atlas adopts a book-like structure allowing easy browsing through its four thematic chapters, in particular on 1) patterns of freshwater biodiversity; 2) freshwater resources and ecosystems; 3) pressures on freshwater systems; and 4) conservation and management. A short article with further contextual background information accompanies each map. The interactive map interface allows the user to switch between the maps easily, navigate and zoom within maps, and view additional information for each map feature. Unlike a conventional printed atlas this online Atlas can be constantly expanded and updated as new maps and data become available. Maps and articles on the Atlas are offered under a creative commons license; also the whole infrastructure was developed using open source technologies. This means that almost anything in the Atlas can be reproduced and shared with appropriate acknowledgement.
The Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas is supported by a number of the key international partner organisations active in the field of freshwater biodiversity research and conservation, namely the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON), DIVERSITAS, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Global Water System Project (GWSP), Conservation International (CI), Wetlands International, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Climatic Freshwater Biodiversity Models
The ‘Comparative Biodiversity Trend Analysis’ has been a main aim to assess current (WP4) and future distribution patterns of freshwater biodiversity under climate change (WP5) and other stressors (WP6) at the basin scale. There are three target basins in this key component that have been investigated extensively that belong to two climatic areas (Mediterranean and temperate): the Ebro, the Elbe, and the Danube. The distribution shifts of Salmo trutta based on environmental predictors was forecasted. We provide guidelines for choosing proper species for river rehabilitation measures in relation to large spatial scales in the three target basins. Finally, we analysed potential changes of fish assemblages due to climate change impacts.
For the Mediterranean basins, long-term existing data (14 years) in the Llobregat River basin has been used and we are still working on a study on the fish assemblage distributions using RIVPACS models in the Ebro River basin. For the whole Mediterranean region and using data from different basins, we have been working on a study to analyse functional diversity patterns along evolutionary and current stressors. In addition, using the same database, the relationship between ecological niches, biological traits and evolutionary species and rarity is being analysed. For this purpose, the phylogeny of the whole aquatic macroinvertebrates was needed and developed in another study that analysed the relationship between ecological and functional niche and clade age.
For the temperate basins, we described an ecological mechanism governing biodiversity resilience in the course of extreme weather events. Another study analysed the vegetation changes of floodplain meadows along the regional climatic gradient of the Middle Elbe River and evaluated the vulnerability of plant species and communities to climate change. We are still working to understand the taxonomic and functional effects of changing water levels in the course of climate change on different taxonomic groups. In a further study, we are focusing on the Alpine part of the Danube catchment and on the linkage between macroinvertebrates and fish through a predator-prey relationship. Future changes and shifts in the overlap of distribution patterns underline the need to consider those biological linkages to evaluate impacts of climate change. Another study focused on the restoration effects of a dyke relocation on semiterrestrial molluscs at the Elbe River, using an extensive monitoring dataset. This study will provide one of the first scientific evaluations of the restoration success of large dyke relocations in Germany. Another study investigates water temperature alterations linked to climate descriptors at the extent of Elbe and Danube River and highlighted the consequences for riverine fish. Furthermore, we have shown that the Elbe River hydroclimatic data are affected by the long-term externally forced oscillations, implying that using a single value “long-term-average” in modelling species distributions, is inappropriate as it fails to capture species life-time experience with different climatic conditions. In a continuative study, a water temperature model for Alpine rivers is directly linked to the biological communities represented by fish. Additionally future alterations in the thermal regimes due to climate change highlight projected changes in the fish assemblage and impacts on cold-water adapted taxa. Finally, the results of an existing study were made available to the BioFresh Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas. These results will serve as an example of the linkage between scientific analyses and large-scale management.
Impact of freshwater biodiversity change on ecosystem function
Results from a long-tern study of the relationship between phytoplankton biodiversity and ecosystem functioning were summarized. Models of ecosystem functions- algal biomass and nitrogen and phosphorous resource use efficiency, linking seasonal variability in ecosystem functioning to that in various physical, chemical, and diversity related drivers were presented. The study indicates, that throughout the seasons, phytoplankton biomass and nitrogen resource use efficiency are mainly linked to the diversity of phytoplankton communities. In contrast, resource supply determines the phosphorous use efficiency, except for spring with species evenness as the central driving factor. Overall, an increase in species evenness- regardless whether taxonomic or functional, is accompanied with a decrease in ecosystem functioning. Further, the shape of the ecosystem response to a particular driver and the temporal patterns in drivers’ relative importance are shown to manifest larger variability across seasons, than across ecosystem functions
Furthermore, results from standardized and comprehensive field experiments conducted in streams across geographical regions were summarized. The presented data set reveals a remarkable convergence not only of litter decomposition rate but also of fungal decomposer and detritivore dynamics across climatic zones when data are normalized for temperature. This is an important advance towards a unified quantitative model of decomposer dynamics, litter decomposition as a central biogeochemical process, and organic matter turnover in stream networks in general. Such syntheses are essential given the recently discovered, unexpectedly large significance of streams in the global carbon cycle, in which particulate organic matter dynamics are not explicitly considered.
WP6 Multiple stressors and freshwater biodiversity
WP6 investigated and predicted biodiversity patterns and ecosystem services under future socio-economic and climate conditions by addressing multiple stressors and their impact on biodiversity and its related services.
In cooperation with WP4 and WP5 an extensive literature review of the responses of freshwater biodiversity to natural drivers and pressures as well as tested hypotheses of freshwater biodiversity was carried out. The review focused on the literature published from 2000 to 2010 and aimed at (i) collecting the major hypotheses explaining freshwater biodiversity patterns, (ii) identifying the main stressors affecting freshwater biodiversity, and (iii) revealing information gaps regarding ecosystem types, organism groups, spatial and temporal scales to highlight research needs to better propose sound conservation measures. The comparative analysis addressed six organism groups ranging from microorganisms to fish in basins, rivers, lakes, wetlands, ponds and groundwater. Short-term studies at ecoregion and catchment scale focusing on invertebrates, macrophytes and fish in Palaearctic and Nearctic regions dominated. The most frequent hypotheses tested were the landscape filter concept, the species–area relationship, the metacommunity concept. Dominating natural drivers were area, heterogeneity and disturbance. Land use, eutrophication and habitat destruction were identified as most important stressors. Generally, freshwater biodiversity declined in response to these stressors in contrast to increasing biodiversity determined by natural drivers across all ecosystems. Preferred organism groups were fish and invertebrates, most frequently studied in rivers, in contrast to smaller organisms (e.g. bacteria) and, e.g. groundwater being underrepresented. Hypotheses originating from the last century are still tested in freshwater research, while novel concepts are either missing or untested. Protection of freshwater biodiversity turned out to be the ultimate challenge since it supports valuable ecosystems services ensuring perpetuation of mankind. For that, comprehensive large-scale studies with holistic approaches are urgently needed.
In the ecosystem service domain, following an extensive literature review, we identified the status quo of current research on the relationships between freshwater biodiversity, the provision of ecosystem services (ESS) and their integration into the ecosystem service approach (ESA) as well as the knowledge gaps necessitating further research. While individual components of the ESA and the relationship between biodiversity and ESS have been a central focus of scientific research, studies addressing variations in the application of the approach and the related contextual factors that lead to this variation remain elusive, particularly within a freshwater context. Three main contextual factors were found to exert an influence on the application of the ESA, namely: (1) individual perceptions and/or choices, (2) lack of data availability for ESS valuations and (3) scale of the ESA application. We described the correlation between the contextual factors surrounding the application of the ESS approach and the weight given to the different service categories. Whether intentional or subconscious, contextually induced biases have been shown to result in the under representation or omission of certain ESS categories and overestimation of others in applying the ESA. These possible biases can have important consequences for freshwater ecosystem and/or species conservation efforts by creating a scientifically unsubstantiated partiality in decision-making processes.
We developed new predictive approaches to quantifying true extinction rates (i.e. number of extinctions per unit time). Current models estimating impact of global climate change induced habitat loss on biodiversity usually project high percentages of species "committed to extinction" on an uncertain timescale. This limitation can be overcome by using an empirically derived “extinction-area” curve for freshwater fishes and predicts that only few (7%) river basins worldwide (over more than 90,000 rivers analysed) should suffer an increase in natural extinction rates from area loss due to climate change by 2090. Rivers projected to experience an increase in extinction rates are located in regions where semi-arid and Mediterranean climates currently occur (i.e. southwest USA, Mexico, southern America, north-east Brazil, northern and southern Africa, southern Europe, western and middle Asia, Australia). We predicted the extinction of 1 to 5 species by 2090 in no more than 20 rivers worldwide (compare WP4). Furthermore, based on well documented fish extinctions from Central and North American rivers over the last century, the authors also show that recent extinction rates are, on average, 150 times greater than natural extinction rates and 130 times greater than projected extinction rates from habitat loss due to climate change. To conclude there still is a chance to counteract actual and future fish species loss by preferentially focusing conservation actions on the other important human-driven threats generating on-going fish extinctions in rivers such as habitat degradation and fragmentation, overexploitation, eutrophication and introduction of non-native species.
Concerning spread and effects of invasive species, an Iterative Ensemble Modelling (IEM) method was developed on virtual species and tested using real fish species. Compared to Ensemble Modelling (EM), the IEM approach is superior to predict the spatial distribution of European freshwater fish species, in particular for modelling the distribution of difficult-to-detect species, provided that presence data are representative of the niche of the species.
We further analysed patterns and determinants of global fish taxonomic homogenisation. Non-native species introduction, combined with the extirpation of native species, affects biodiversity patterns, notably by increasing the similarity among species assemblages. We assessed the current homogenisation status of freshwater fishes at global and regional scales. Current homogenisation of the freshwater fish faunas is still low at the world scale (0.5%) but reaches substantial levels (up to 10%) in some highly invaded river basins from the Nearctic and Palearctic realms. In these realms experiencing high changes, non-native species introductions rather than native species extirpations drive taxonomic homogenization. Our results suggest that the "Homogocene era" is not yet the case for freshwater fish fauna at the worldwide scale. However, the distressingly high level of homogenisation noted for some biogeographical realms stresses the need for further understanding of the ecological consequences of homogenisation processes. We further investigated how historical patterns and anthropogenic drivers shape the changes in dissimilarity and its turnover component in freshwater fish assemblages both in historical (i.e. pre-industrial) times and at the present day. We used a global database of fish assemblages in 1,054 river basins throughout the world to quantify the change in turnover through its contribution to taxonomic dissimilarity between the two periods. The observed changes were mainly explained by introductions of a small set of widespread non-native species, which promoted an increase in the number of shared species. Alongside historical distinctiveness, species introduction processes could determine whether assemblages become more homogenised or more differentiated. These results suggest that taxonomic differentiation can quickly turn to homogenisation as the number of species introductions increase. Taxonomic differentiation can hence be considered as an early warning for homogenisation. Based on these results, we simulated a future increase in non-native species invasions and native species extirpations on taxonomic similarity among fish faunas. According to eight scenarios, taxonomic similarity among fish faunas will strongly increase in the future at the three spatial scales considered. Fish faunas from the Southern Hemisphere, which are currently the less affected by taxonomic homogenisation, are forecasted to show the steepest changes. Our scenarios also reveal that non-native species introductions will account for most of the predicted changed, whereas the effect of native species extirpations will be weak. The predicted future taxonomic homogenisation will blur the current high level of taxonomic dissimilarity among freshwater fish faunas and therefore imperil the conservation programs based on beta-diversity mapping.
Concerning response signatures of freshwater assemblages to various forms of natural drivers and stress we compared organism groups inhabiting rivers, ponds, lakes, floodplains and groundwaters. We addressed the impact of two intensive forms of land use, arable land and urban land, on the diversity of 11 organism groups covering vertebrates, invertebrates and plants. In addition, nine geo-climatic variables (e.g. latitude, longitude, precipitation) were used to quantify the independent, overlapping and interacting effects of land use and natural descriptor variables. Biodiversity response was computed as taxon richness, Shannon diversity, taxon rareness and taxonomic distinctness. Variance partitioning revealed consistently low pure effects of land use on biodiversity across all ecosystems and organism groups. In contrast, both pure geo-climatic and shared effects of both descriptor groups explained significantly more variance in the 39 biodiversity metrics tested. Data sub-setting according to the strongest geo-climatic gradient in each dataset aimed to cut the strength of the respective natural descriptor variable. We therefore hypothesised stronger relative effects of land use on biodiversity in the data sub-sets. Indeed, our findings confirmed that data sub-setting could control the analysis of land use effects on freshwater biodiversity, if geo-climatically more homogeneous datasets were analysed. Yet, this relative gain in the role of land use was not linked to the latitudinal or longitudinal extent of the data sub-sets and hence suggests that the observed land use effects were not dependent upon the spatial extent covered by the subsets. Our results confirm considerable joint effects and interactions of land use and natural environmental factors on freshwater biodiversity. We thus infer three implications for biodiversity monitoring and assessment schemes. First, the combined analysis of anthropogenic stressors and geo-climatic factors is a prerequisite for the detection and quantification of human threats to biodiversity. Second, geo-climatically more homogeneous datasets can enhance the role of anthropogenic stressor variables in the analysis. And third, whole community-based biodiversity metrics reveal contrasting response directions and thus should be complemented by others accounting for taxon identity and turnover, to better address the loss of biodiversity sensitive to human land use and other stressors.
We synthesised our results by comparing lentic and lotic ecosystems and floodplains and three organism groups each per ecosystem to analyse the effects of land use, human modification and pollution on four biodiversity metrics: taxon richness, taxon rareness, Shannon-Wiener diversity and taxonomic distinctness. The diversity metrics were analysed against four groups of descriptor variables: land use, human modification, physico-chemical deterioration and natural geo-climatic variables. Overall, we found geo-climatic variables to explain more variation than any other descriptor group in most cases. The total variation explained by the analyses showed large differences between ecosystems, with highest values in lentic and lowest values in lotic ecosystems. Our analysis revealed the dominant role of geo-climatic variables, but also strong influences of catchment land use on river diversity or of nutrient enrichment on lotic and lentic ecosystems’ biodiversity. Our results demonstrate a response of richness (all ecosystems and taxonomic groups) and taxonomic distinctness and rareness (rivers, floodplains) to land use and nutrient enhancement, while the stressor effects are strongly linked to geo-climatic effects.
WP7 Informing policy for conservation planning
Conservation planning has traditionally been based on the management of networks of protected areas and many of the world’s governments have committed to expanding these networks to ensure the conservation of biodiversity. A number of issues arise relating to the effectiveness of such an approach for freshwater ecosystems. Firstly, current protected areas networks are predominantly designed for the protection of terrestrial species and habitats and often fail to provide adequate protection for freshwater species and habitats. The selection and prioritisation of sites (catchments) to be included within such protected areas networks may be based on methods being developed for identification of Key Biodiversity Areas. Secondly, policy makers are still not able to assess the efficacy of such networks for the conservation of freshwater ecosystems, as there is often no baseline on the status and distribution of freshwater. Finally, research on terrestrial protected areas networks has shown that a network designed for one target taxon may effectively capture and afford protection to other, non-target taxa. Research to date for freshwater biota, however, suggests that there is little correlation between the distributions of different taxonomic groups, but has been severely limited by the absence of a centralised source of all relevant data. In this context the following key research questions have been addressed through research conducted under Work Package 7:
• What is the current global and European conservation state of freshwater biodiversity?
• Where are the most important sites of freshwater biodiversity and how well do they match the current locations of protected areas?
• How well do current protected areas protect freshwater species biodiversity and how might they be modified to better do so?
• Will current Protected Areas be fit for purpose under predicted future distributions of freshwater biodiversity?
• Can data sets for one taxonomic group be used as surrogates for other taxa for which data are currently missing?
The research conducted through BioFresh under WP7 has contributed new data and research directly addressing all of the above questions as follows:
Conservation status and distribution of the world’s freshwater biodiversity
A total of more than 20,000 freshwater species have been mapped and their status assessed for the IUCN Red List. Almost all of these species assessments have now been published on the IUCN Red List and are freely and publicly available. The compiled data set has been analysed and the results presented in a report “Safeguarding Global Freshwater Biodiversity: Status, Gaps and Future Directions” which was submitted to the BioFresh project coordinator as Deliverable 7.3. This represented an increase in coverage of approximately 15,000 species during the lifetime of the BioFresh project. From a base of only 9,947 freshwater species assessed on the IUCN Red List in 2008, there are now 23,291 completed species assessments for freshwater birds, amphibians, mammals, reptiles, crustaceans, plants, molluscs, odonata and fishes. 2,000+ of these assessments have been conducted with BioFresh funding and all 20,000+ maps have been created or significantly improved by the BioFresh project through migration to the world’s most advanced standardised global river and lake catchment spatial delineation (created with BioFresh funds under WP0). For Europe we now have significantly improved the information set on species distributions and status of direct value to conservation planning and policy implementation (see below). Globally, there still remain significant regional gaps in information but through BioFresh a number of key taxonomic groups are now globally complete and some new regions have also been added, such as New Zealand - the first region in the southern hemisphere to be comprehensively assessed (through BioFresh).
Globally, for freshwater species in most regions we are now able to highlight the most species rich regions of the world, regions where species are most heavily threatened, and regions with the least available data as a focus for future research. We are also able to identify the main threats to freshwater species and the level of that threat. Of the 23,291 freshwater species assessed by the end of 2013, 226 freshwater species are thought to be “Extinct”, 16 are “Extinct in the Wild” and 5,320 are threatened with extinction (“Critically Endangered”, “Endangered” or “Vulnerable”). Accounting for species for which data are still lacking, we now know that almost 30% of freshwater dependent species are threatened with extinction. As we also know where these species are and the main drivers for species declines the governments of the world are in a better position to know where to act and what to do. It is clear from this data set that much work is to be done if the 193 Parties to CBD are to meet their target for halting the loss of biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems by 2020. In Europe, we also now know that freshwater species are the most heavily threatened of all taxonomic groups assessed to date.
Important Sites of Freshwater Biodiversity
Having determined that freshwater biodiversity is heavily threatened and that the most significant threat is the loss/degradation of habitats we can conclude that site based conservation is going to be one of the most effective ways to address the problem. In this context, through BioFresh, we have finalised the methodology to identify and delineate those freshwater sub-catchments that are most important for the persistence of global freshwater biodiversity, known as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). The methodology is published in the Journal of Biological Conservation. Proposed sub-catchments as the basis for freshwater (FW) KBAs have now been identified and mapped for all of Africa, Europe, India, and Indo-Burma. Through BioFresh, in collaboration with another IUCN project, we have specifically focused on FW KBAs in Europe and, through stakeholder participation, have validated these sites for the Balkans – identified as a centre of threatened and unique freshwater species diversity in Europe. Approximately 45% of the river/lake catchment area of Europe was found to meet the KBA criteria due to the high numbers of threatened and restricted range species, with most of these catchments located in southern Europe. This critical sitenetwork was then optimised to meet a number of conservation and policy targets, maximising use of the Natura 2000 network, employing systematic conservation planning approaches (MARXAN). Through this process the network was reduced to a more manageable area of around 17% of the European land area whilst also meeting selected targets such as the inclusion of all qualifying sub-catchments including Critically Endangered species. Through this process we were also able to map those sub-catchments that are considered “irreplaceable” as they are required in all possible network options meeting the specified targets – these are identified as the highest priority sub-catchments for conservation. These results demonstrate the potential for using the dataset to meet any combination of desirable conservation-policy targets. The analysis has been presented to the EC through a number of discussions, including at the BioFresh final Science-Policy-Interface symposium “Water Lives”, and it is hoped that the findings will be taken forwards in future evaluation of the conservation benefits provided by the Natura 2000 network and the Birds and Habitat Directives. The findings have been submitted for publication in Diversity and Distributions.
Gap analysis of European Protected Areas and freshwater biodiversity
Through BioFresh we now know where the most important sites of freshwater biodiversity are found in Europe and were therefore able to conduct a gap analysis to see how well they are covered, spatially, by the existing protected areas network. Of the 8423 catchments qualifying as potential KBAs, 23% have no coverage by existing PAs. Most (73%) qualifying catchments have less than 20% overlap by PAs. About 6% of qualifying catchments have at least 70% coverage by PAs. Unprotected qualifying catchments are mostly located in the Balkans and eastern Europe - countries that are not current members of the EU. However, this could also reflect poor information within the World Database of Protected Areas. The top priority sites, known as Alliance for Zero extinction sites (AZEs) were also identified. Twenty per cent or 13 of the 65 AZE sites have no protection from Natura 2000. In summary, our gap analysis found a substantial lack of protection for the freshwater important sites network. Even where the overlap is there it is by no means certain that freshwater species will receive any benefit, in particular if the management focus for the PA will be focused on terrestrial rather than freshwater ecosystems.
Scenarios for future protected areas networks under climate change
The design of a protected areas network has to account for predicted impacts of climate change on species distributions and ability to tolerate a changing environment. We therefore predicted changes in species distribution ranges under a scenario for climate change in the 2050s for 1,648 European freshwater plants, fishes, molluscs, odonates, amphibians, crayfish and turtles for two dispersal scenarios and identified hotspots of change at three spatial scales: major river basins, countries and freshwater ecoregions. To set our findings within the context of current and future conservation networks, we evaluated the coverage of freshwater biodiversity by Europe's protected area network. Our results showed that climate change will most likely cause a decrease in habitat suitability across the current range area by the 2050s for the vast majority of studied freshwater species, combined with a north-eastward shift in species distributions.
Our results demonstrate the importance of considering climate change impacts in conservation planning for freshwater species across Europe. Given the predicted losses in habitat suitability of the current species ranges by the 2050s, a static approach to species conservation, where protected areas are positioned and managed under the assumption that conditions within them will remain suitable, and that species will remain where they are today, is unlikely to be sufficient. Protected area planning will need to allow for, and to facilitate, species dispersal to more suitable habitats as environmental conditions change. In conclusion, we identified the species most at threat due to projected changes in both catchment suitability and representation within the European protected area network. Our findings suggest an urgent need for freshwater management plans to facilitate adaptation to climate change. The results of this research have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Diversity and Distributions.
Potential taxonomic and habitat surrogates for biodiversity
Global patterns and predictors of species diversity are well known for numerous terrestrial taxa but our understanding of freshwater diversity patterns and their predictors is much more limited. Where data are missing or poor for a number of freshwater taxonomic groups we examined spatial concordance in global diversity patterns for aquatic mammals, aquatic birds, aquatic reptiles, fishes, crayfish and aquatic amphibians. At the scale of large river drainages, we found that aquatic amphibians display the highest levels of congruency with other taxa, this taxa group appears to be a good ‘surrogate’ candidate for developing global freshwater conservation planning at the river drainage basin grain. However, the results of this type of analysis are clearly scale dependent such that amphibians do not provide suitable surrogates at the sub-basin scales – as demonstrated in our earlier analysis of freshwater species in Africa. Overall, our research suggests that, for the taxonomic groups analysed to date, none will provide a suitable surrogate for other taxonomic groups at the site scale and we should continue to collate information for all species groups at the scale of sub-catchments – as now standardised in the new HydroBASINS GIS layers. The findings have been published through three papers: Journal of Animal Ecology (River Basin scale); Global Ecology & Biogeography (Grid squares), and Conservation Letters (sub-catchments).
In summary, the research conducted through WP7 has informed conservation planning and policy through: i) increased knowledge on the distribution and status of freshwater biodiversity at European and global scales; ii) identification and mapping of the most important sites of freshwater biodiversity at European and other regional scales; iii) gap analysis of protected area coverage of proposed Key Biodiversity Areas at the European scale, with particular focus on the efficiency of the Natura 2000 network for conservation of freshwater biodiversity; iv) demonstrating the application of these newly collated species datasets to systematic conservation planning to meet specified conservation and policy targets; vi) demonstrating the need to plan for species range shifts under climate change, and; vii) confirming the need to collate species data for all the major freshwater taxonomic groups as none can be used as a reliable surrogate for overall distribution patterns of freshwater biodiversity. All maps produced through WP7 are presented in the BioFresh Atlas (WP5) and the underlying data sets are freely available through the BioFresh portal.
WP8 Capacity building, awareness raising, and outreach
A dedicated section on research, policy, education and media resources was established as part of the BioFresh information platform. There, for the research-oriented audience we provide information on key freshwater journals, the top five questions in freshwater research as well as papers and publications that we consider relevant or which are the outcomes of our project work. Further this section offers a quick entry point to online teaching and learning resources like manuals or videos (worth checking out is the “Water Lives” video, an experimental art-science-policy communication product), but also includes stories about the life as a freshwater researcher. This part of the website was amended with a “How-to”-series to help students and early-career researchers to find their way through freshwater models and tools. Another section serves policy makers, managers and consultants with policy frameworks, policy briefs and other thought pieces. In the press corner the BioFresh press kit can be found.
During the second week of April 2014 the number of views of the BioFresh blog passed the 100,000 mark. Blog statistics are important and fun to follow but it is hard to know what they really mean. This milestone certainly says something about consistency of our postings and that there are people out there interested in reading our content. However, this particular statistic sheds little light on a question we set out to answer through delivery of the BioFresh blog: are specialist science blogs worth the effort? What is their purpose and what do they do?
Therefore we conducted an in depth analysis of the blog, including analysis of statistics, a review of relevant literature and survey of the BioFresh consortium. The science communication literature foregrounds the role of science blogs in providing a more informal and thus accessible space to communicate specialist science - one where new ideas can be developed and where lay publics can discuss and dispute science. An insight from our study was that science blogs, such as the BioFresh, may serve a valuable function in terms of strengthening science-policy interfaces. The concept of epistemic community (introduced by PM Hass) is nicely defined on Wikipedia as “a transnational network of knowledge-based experts who help decision-makers to define the problems they face, identify various policy solutions and assess the policy outcomes”. This concept draws attention to the fact that it is not so much the quality of individual scientific outputs that underpin effective policy, rather it is the profile and vibrancy of the epistemic communities that interact with policy makers over time. The BioFresh project was conceived as an initiative to raise the profile of freshwater biodiversity in policy through strengthening the science base. The practice of delivering the BioFresh blog has reminded us that delivering on this goal also involves communication activities aimed at building an active and cohesive epistemic community. The BioFresh blog is emerging as a virtual space serving to strengthen science community: one that builds profile and identity that gives visibility and voice to members and the science, issues and interests that motivate and bond people. Lastly, science that informs policy is increasingly conducted by networks of scientists organised under time-limited projects. The BioFresh blog was therefore transferred to the newly launched MARS project. This is an exciting and significant development. It demonstrates the portability of blogs and thereby the potential of successive projects to develop and deploy this type of digital media asset to strengthen science community and science policy interfaces.
By keying into such current debates, the blog has grown in readership, serving not only to share the scientific work that BioFresh partners are accomplishing, but also to spur on discussion. Focusing on freshwater biodiversity itself also remains popular: the Cabinet of Freshwater Curiosities – established at the beginning of BioFresh – is going strong, and on the main BioFresh blog, “The mayfly’s lifecycle: a fascinating, fleeing story” is still a favorite, two years after it was published. Although its popularity has seemed (perhaps unsurprisingly) to peak each summer, this year there was an explosion of mayfly interest, with 1,690 hits to that post in July alone.
Science-Policy Dialogue Strategy (SPIS)
A science-policy dialogue strategy (SPIS) and a detailed action plan to guide BioFresh activities for a continuous science-policy dialogue was developed during 2012 and revised taking into account of the SPIRAL recommendations.
One of the dissemination activities of the SPIS included the dialogue with policy-makers at the European Commission. The EU was the main level of active engagement, and BioFresh policy relevant scientific outputs were identified and aligned with the different targets and actions of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and with the objectives of the WFD.
WP1-2 Building a web-based freshwater biodiversity platform and Quality control and database preparation
The BioFresh information platform is a knowledge-based platform. Scientists and early-career researchers, conservationists, ecosystem managers and stakeholders as well as the public and other interested parties can find information related to freshwater biodiversity. It covers e.g. series on the life as a freshwater researcher, “how-to-use…” models and tools or the impact of biodiversity maps.
The information platform is not only meant to find information, but also to publish research results. Contributing to the BioFresh information platform means (i) contributing to the development of freshwater biodiversity science, (ii) increasing the visibility of one’s data, and (iii) generating more recognition for the scientist’s work. BioFresh provides full acknowledgment of contributors to the data portal and atlas and provides clear citation guidelines.
BioFresh also envisages increasing the speed of scientific exchange among freshwater biodiversity scientists and their policy impact. By providing posts, comments and tweets to the BioFresh online services contributors will help build the vitality of the freshwater network and science.
Data portal, metadatabase and the Freshwater Metadata Journal (FMJ)
Basic and applied ecological research asks for the availability of ‘high-quality’ data and the reuse of data has become a heavily discussed issue, also in connection with EU funded projects. By building the data portal, and by extending the whole freshwater biodiversity information platform as a central access point for finding and retrieving a wide range of information and datasets, BioFresh created a unique resource for a broad variety of users. Through the metadatabase, which collects information on all kinds of freshwater related datasets, the BioFresh portal offers an overview of available freshwater data. The establishment of the data portal and its search tools provides the unique possibility for the interested public, the scientific community, conservationists and policy makers to find data relevant for their work. Scientists who are for example interested in a certain region or organism group can query the metadatabase and/or occurrence database and will detect datasets useful for their research. The metadatabase provides for instance a specific section on how the data are accessible and under which circumstances they can be used, including a section specifying the intellectual property rights and citation of the datasets. In doing so, we want to guarantee that a dataset gets the appropriate recognition when used by another scientist. Generally, the BioFresh metadatabase supports the intention of gaining overview of available freshwater data and the options to further explore them. The species register and occurrence database on the other hand provides access to data that is open and publicly available in a standard format, and allows users to download data straight away.
The data mobilisation efforts conducted in the framework of the BioFresh project also represent a major effort in terms of raising awareness for the importance to make freshwater biodiversity data publicly available. In parallel, we developed and adopted easy to use solutions for facilitating (meta) data entry and actively support data holders in processing their data and enhance its visibility. To further foster the dissemination of the information on datasets entered in the BioFresh metadatabase we founded the Freshwater Metadata Journal (FMJ). Publishing the metadata of a dataset in the FMJ makes it citable with a unique reference and a digital objective identifier (DOI), it becomes traceable for other scientists and therefore more valuable in the sense that it creates recognition of a scientist’s work.
WP3 Gap analysis and remediation
The WP3 worked mostly on the side of the backend of the BioFresh information system.
The exposure and the advertising of the results are done through the website, including the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas. In addition, data newly digitized represent a small fraction of the 430 million occurrence records already in GBIF and it is difficult to evaluate the impact of BioFresh there. However, the number of records in freshwaters is not proportional to the number of species.
BioFresh had an impact on the quantity and quality of data encoded in FishBase for freshwater species. As FishBase is freely available, the information is already disseminated all around the world.
Two new and improved web pages are the result of BioFresh activities:
- A map for each species that displays icons over each country where the species was reported with shape and colour indication of occurrence, national threat and life zone status. It is being used for quality control in FishBase, and the concept could be widely advertised and then picked up for other groups and geographical areas.
- A search interface dedicated only to European fishes.
WP 4 Contemporary and past patterns in freshwater biodiversity
The results on global diversity patterns in freshwater ecosystems have potentially important implications for global freshwater conservation planning. Indeed, as most of the examined taxa display convergent patterns, one taxon can be used to predict patterns for the others. This is significant because by using one group of animals, such as amphibians or fish, to guide conservation planning, may be the best and most cost-effective way of protecting the largest number of species, and in a broader sense, freshwater ecosystems as a whole in the resource-constrained world of conservation. In addition, because amphibians are considered highly threatened and have previously been listed as potential surrogates in terrestrial ecosystems, the use of amphibians to represent spatial patterns of biodiversity may also help unifying terrestrial and freshwater conservation efforts under a common framework, at least at an intergovernmental planning level. However, it is important to note that the scale of the investigation, which was at the river drainage basin scale, can greatly influence our perceptions of patterns and processes. Therefore, while the results may be useful for broad intergovernmental planning to increase trans-boundary cooperation, their validity for conservation planning at finer scales is not warranted and requires further research.
Approximate the true number of extinct species
In the light of the results regarding the number of extinct species, the main question is: what should be the future strategy of conservationists? It goes without saying that conservationists should try to preserve as many species as possible. However, it is not intellectually easy to justify and ensure the preservation of yet undiscovered diversity. As stated by Ceballos and Ehrlich (2009), “the more diversity that is discovered the more urgent becomes putting additional resources into understanding and finding ways to conserving [sic ] it.” BioFresh partners reached a somewhat opposite conclusion: the more diversity still to be discovered, the more urgent it becomes to put additional resources into understanding and finding ways to conserve it. Knowing that approximately 90% of existing species await description, this result is an urgent call for ecosystem conservation and taxonomic research. Conserving natural systems where large proportions of biodiversity are yet to be discovered seems the most reasonable way to give unknown species a chance to be discovered before they become extinct. However, we should keep in mind that the majority of organisms are invertebrates, fungi and microorganisms, which are still largely undescribed and likely to remain so if the number of taxonomists specializing in these organisms does not increase.
Climate change and biodiversity: good news from riverine fishes
To determine how climate change drives extinctions, researchers have previously relied on the so-called “species-area relationship” – the greater the area, the more species will be found there. By estimating how much of a particular habitat area will become unsuitable due to climate change, scientists can predict how many species will also eventually disappear. But the time lag can range from decades to millennia, which limits its usefulness for policy. BioFresh partners, however, build on previous work that calculates the relationship between area and true extinction rates. They use that relationship to estimate how habitat loss from climate change will change extinction rates in over 90,000 river drainage basins worldwide, and then predict how many species will be threatened with extinction in a smaller set of the rivers by the year 2090.
WP 5 Climate change and freshwater biodiversity
The provision of data, the scientific progress during the project, and the development and test of models can be used to develop clear policy and management recommendations for freshwater conservation strategies.
Using the data to quantify past and present impacts of multiple stressors, single and in concert, the project has significantly improved our ability to predict future responses of freshwater biodiversity and its services to climate and socioeconomic pressures.
The Climatic Vulnerability Index (CVI) including the combination of exposure, sensitivity and resilience that consider key features of freshwater systems such as species ranges and environmental tolerances as well as attributes of river networks such as hydrological connectivity and dispersal barriers, provides a unique vulnerability assessment framework tailored to freshwater ecosystems.
Large data bases of the BioFresh portal and the visualization of them in the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas are highly important for scientists and early-career researchers, conservationists, ecosystem managers and stakeholders as well as the public and other interested parties. Integrated data raise recognition for scientist’s work and increases the visibility of one’s data and hence provides the possibility to get an overview of current research in the frame of freshwater biodiversity and stimulates collaborations between scientists.
BioFresh provides a new way for scientists to increase the visibility and impact of their science by contributing their research results to the Atlas. The Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas is the gateway not only for BioFresh results but for a wide range of continental and global geographical information on freshwater biodiversity for policy makers, the wider scientific community, and interested public. These data will help to reveal the status and trends of freshwater biodiversity as well as the services that it provides. The Atlas is a resource for better, evidenced-based decision making relating to water policy, science and management. Further, the Atlas is of immense value to NGOs, policy-makers and conservation planners working to identify key areas of freshwater biodiversity create freshwater protected area networks, minimise the harm caused by large-scale land use projects such as dams and to meet conservation targets such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
WP6 Multiple stressors and freshwater biodiversity
The potential impact of WP6 is related to three areas:
(1) Easily understandable summaries and meta analyses of the widespread literature on multiple stressor effects on biodiversity.
(2) New modelling tools to predict biodiversity changes, in particular approaches to quantifying true extinction rates and the Iterative Ensemble Modelling (IEM) method.
(3) A better understanding of the complex relationships between single stressors (in particular invasive species), multiple stressors (in particular landuse intensification, habitat degradation and pollution) and natural drivers and how these factors singly and combined affect biodiversity patterns.
Main dissemination activities were:
- > 15 scientific publications (including the yet unpublished manuscripts)
- Conference presentations
- Blog posts
- Integration of data into the BioFresh portal
- Integration of results into the BioFresh atlas
WP7 Informing policy for conservation planning
The main objective of WP7 has been to inform policy for conservation planning through provision of new data and research on the distribution and status of freshwater biodiversity. At the European regional scale the project outputs have been able to directly inform the EC in relation to the effective implementation of EC Policy to benefit freshwater biodiversity through the Birds and Habitats Directives and the Water Framework Directive. It is now possible to identify areas of success and shortcomings of these policies in relation to conservation of freshwater biodiversity. Specific advice has been presented for: i) the optimal location of current and future protected areas (under climate change); ii) existing protected areas where management focus needs to be strengthened to benefit freshwater biodiversity where critical sites have been identified, and; iii) priority sites for restoration actions. Critical sites with no current protection for freshwater biodiversity are highlighted.
The next step is to determine the causes of any shortcomings, such as failure to implement existing policy or failure of the policy instrument to adequately account for freshwater biodiversity, such as through omissions in the Directive species and habitat annexes. Through this research we have been able to demonstrate that, without change in the implementation or content of existing policy the EC is unlikely to meet its 2020 target for halting and reversing the loss of freshwater biodiversity.
At the global scale the research findings are most relevant to signatories of the Convention on Biological Diversity, specifically for the agreed Targets 11 (Protected Areas – with special concern for areas of particular importance for biodiversity) and 12 (prevention of species extinctions and improved status). The research presented through WP7 will directly help countries to focus their efforts on freshwater species conservation through provision of species Red List status and locations. Freshwater KBAs represent sites for country consideration as potential new Ramsar sites.
The research findings have been disseminated through the following channels: i) Published papers – key research findings have been published in peer-reviewed journals and through a number of policy briefs (including through the EC DG Environment New Alert Service); ii) The BioFresh information platform - data generated are freely available through the data portal and key findings have been presented on the BioFresh Blog; iii) BioFresh Atlas - all spatial outputs are presented through the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas, or will be shortly; iv) Meetings/Symposia - research findings have been presented at a number of meetings, including the “Water Lives” Symposium, KBA stakeholder workshops, and hopefully at the IUCN World Protected Areas Congress later in 2014; v) Websites – all KBA data will be published and managed in the World Biodiversity Database (http://www.birdlife.org.uk/datazone/home) which is the current source of all KBA datasets, will be made available through IBAT (https://www.ibat-alliance.org/ibat-conservation) and efforts are ongoing to ensure the freshwater sites for most urgent conservation action (AZE sites) are published on the AZE website (www.zeroextinction.org). All species data generated through WP7 are freely available through the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (www.iucnredlist.org).
Discussions remain ongoing with members of the EC Biodiversity and Nature Units as to how best apply these findings to further assist effective implementation of EC Policy, in particular the Birds and Habitats Directives and the Water Framework Directive.
Future work: i) In collaboration with IGB, IUCN will complete the work initiated under BioFresh to publish a high impact paper on the status and distribution of the world’s freshwater mega fauna. It is hoped that this paper will raise awareness of the globally poor state of freshwater species through focusing on those species most likely to catch the public attention. ii) Expansion of European research to incorporate data from additional taxonomic groups (mammals, birds, crayfish, turtles), possibly through input to the Natura2000 Fitness Check, scheduled for 2014.
WP 8 Capacity building, awareness raising, and outreach
WP8 combined the skills of the whole project team to deliver the overall objective stated in the BioFresh DoW (p6) as “increase awareness of the urgency for freshwater biodiversity conservation among scientists, policy makers and the public, thereby improving present conservation strategies and supporting the work of the EU and the aims of the international environmental agreements”
Our work was guided by the 2010 BioFresh Communication and Dissemination strategy (D8.1) and the subsequent BioFresh Science-Policy Interface Strategy (SPIS) (D8.5) finalised during this reporting period. These documents recognised three important developments in science communication: i) the opportunities afforded by rise of internet and social media platforms and tools, ii) the move in science communication theory from the so-called ‘deficit model’ to the ‘dialogue model’, and iii) investments in strengthening formal science-policy interfaces prompted by failure to meet key 2010 Biodiversity targets. WP8 engaged with this dynamic by exploring and innovating with the affordances of new communication technologies whilst remaining true to the intent of the DoW (which was prepared prior to these developments).
The outputs of WP8 include: i) traditional communication materials such as conference posters, policy briefs, brochures, promotional postcards and ‘thought pieces’ in professional magazines, and ii) newer ‘online’ materials notably a freshwater science blog, short videos and online training materials. The majority of these were designed for a targeted purpose but were later incorporated into the BioFresh information platform (and informed and inspired aspects of the platform architecture). Other materials were produced specifically for the platform to enhance its utility as a freshwater scientific, policy and educational resource. These included research and teaching resources (e.g. key journals and ‘top 5’ questions, but also ‘convective tissue’ content notably the “maps in action series” designed to illustrate connections between the scientific products (the data portal and the Atlas) and applied freshwater biodiversity policy and management.
The BioFresh information platform represents an important and dynamic resource for professional and lay interests in freshwater biodiversity. The BioFresh blog, and an online Cabinet of Freshwater Curiosities, were designed to build this community of interest. The blog editorial adopted two strategic aims: i) to develop, and give greater external visibility to, the epistemic community of freshwater biodiversity scientists and the policy frameworks they support. This was achieved with posts introducing individual scientists, viewpoints from policy makers, and reports of scientific papers, conferences and projects, ii) to reach out and engage wider constituencies with a direct or casual interest in freshwaters. This was achieved with posts contributed by external actors, reports of current issues and controversies, articles on artistic, recreational and other engagements with freshwater and the dissemination of our own creative outputs such as the “Water Lives” art-science animation. The “Cabinet” represented our ‘outer reach’ in this strategy and aimed simply to make a connection between any curious person googling for information on weird and wonderful freshwater life with the community of scientist studying it.
WP8 was attentive to the importance of developing an interplay between virtual and real modes of science dissemination, particularly with respect to the EC and international biodiversity science-policy interface. We presented at numerous conferences and had booths demonstrating our products at key international meetings such as the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress in S. Korea and the 2012 London Planet under Pressure conference. This stream of work culminated with the 2014 “Water Lives” science-policy symposium in Brussels where scientists from BioFresh and our sister project, Refresh, discussed their scientific findings with EC policy makers. The structure and spirit of this symposium exemplified the ethos of dialogue, community and the interplay of online and face-to-face communication that WP8 sought to promulgate.
The platform and blog, together with Twitter and Facebook feeds and a LinkedIn group, were crafted into a core BioFresh communication and dissemination assembly. This was then linked to other key components of the web-informational architecture such as Wikipedia, iTunes U, and YouTube. This has resulted in the emergence of a virtuous circle whereby BioFresh dissemination products rank on the first page of search engines (when freshwater biodiversity related terms are entered), which in turn enhances and maintains the visibility and value of these products.
WP8 aimed to produce materials that would live beyond the end of the project. We believe that we have achieved this in a novel and effective way and one that offers inspiration for other projects. WP8 created a transferrable communication asset - the aforementioned BioFresh ‘Communication and Dissemination Strategy’. The BioFresh blog has been ported to the MARS project and the name changed from ‘BioFresh’ to the more generic ‘Freshwater’. Such online communication assets have the potential to assure longer term value creation from public funds invested in the C&D components of science projects. For instance it is well known that the readership of science blogs starts slowly but can then build exponentially. At the close of the BioFresh project the BioFresh blog readership had reached 8,000 hits per month. Two months later under MARS it topped 10,000 hits per month.
List of Websites:
Prof. Dr. Klement Tockner and Dr. Jörg Freyhof
Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries
Müggelseedamm 310, 12587 Berlin, Germany
Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB)
Blog & Cabinet of Curiosities
Oxford University (UOXF.AC)
Data portal site
Aaike De Wever
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS)
Universität für Bodenkultur Wien - Institute of Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management (BOKU)
Platform, Project & Resources sites
University of Duisburg-Essen, Faculty of Biology, Aquatic Ecology (UDE)
Grant agreement ID: 226874
1 November 2009
30 April 2014
€ 8 122 680,75
€ 6 465 406,10
FORSCHUNGSVERBUND BERLIN EV
Deliverables not available
Grant agreement ID: 226874
1 November 2009
30 April 2014
€ 8 122 680,75
€ 6 465 406,10
FORSCHUNGSVERBUND BERLIN EV
Grant agreement ID: 226874
1 November 2009
30 April 2014
€ 8 122 680,75
€ 6 465 406,10
FORSCHUNGSVERBUND BERLIN EV