BioFresh - Biodiversity of Freshwater Ecosystems: Status, Trends, Pressures, and Conservation Priorities
Scientists and water managers have collected a vast amount of data on freshwater organisms, and yet it is rarely possible to describe the geographic range of an organism. Why is this? It is because the data are dispersed in many locally-managed databases, many of which are not publically available. The bits of the puzzle are scattered, and it is difficult even to find them. What story might they tell if they were combined and easily accessible to scientists, policy makers and planners? Such an integrated and accessible dataset could be used not only to help to protect and take better advantage of the services provided by aquatic ecosystems, but also to make it possible to establish effective regional plans for conservation. BioFresh, a major new FP7 project, will design and provide a single point of access to the extensive information on freshwater organisms that is currently stored in the databases. The BioFresh information portal for freshwater biodiversity will allow scientists and planners to complement, integrate, and analyse quantitative data to discover, evaluate and examine patterns that will shed new light on how freshwater biodiversity responds to global, European, and local environmental pressures. The spatially-explicit data will help to reveal the status and trends of freshwater biodiversity, and the services that it provides. Scientists in the BioFresh consortium will take advantage of the information in the databases that the project links, by using the data to examine how various stressors interact to impact freshwater biodiversity. This work will help to shed light on how future climate and socioeconomic pressures will give rise to global, continental and local responses in freshwater biodiversity. Until now, it has not always been easy to incorporate understanding of freshwater biodiversity explicitly into environmental agreements (EU WFD, for example) or in related policy instruments (for example the Habitats Directive). BioFresh aims to change that, by providing both the access to valuable data and an appropriate and coherent scientific foundation. The products and findings of the project will be used on the one hand to make people more aware of the importance and beauty of freshwater biodiversity, and on the other to help policy makers take decisions based on the best available evidence.