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Building the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas

April 17, 2013

Day two of the annual BioFresh meeting again saw BioFresh’s information infrastructure at the forefront of discussions. This time, it was the BioFresh Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas that was the focus.

The Atlas allows stakeholders, policy-makers, scientists and the wider public to explore a wide range of maps about life in freshwater across the globe. It uses all available freshwater-related information and will be closely integrated to existing BioFresh information infrastructure such as the BioFresh data portal.

The Atlas is not only a collection of maps, but also a tool to increase the accessibility of scientific research into freshwater life. The Atlas is different from other online mapping tools because it allows you to navigate through it like you would a book. Users can leaf through the Atlas and explore what interests them and perhaps discover something unexpected. It is organised into different ‘chapters’, which cover past, present and future status of freshwater biodiversity, information about different ecosystems and where species live, current and future threats to freshwater biodiversity such as climate change, pollution or dams, and finally a chapter on what we can do about it.

The Atlas is currently in its final stages of development. Work is being done to create more features on the Atlas and make it an easy to use and interactive product. Such features will include pop-ups that will have information on map features, the ability to combine different aspects of maps together (e.g. climate change threats and key biodiversity areas), and interactive graphs and tables.

Another important development in the Atlas project has been the formation of an editorial board headed by two editors, Dr. Astrid Schmidt-Kloiber and Joerg Freyhof, who gave an interview about the Atlas recently. The editorial board of the BioFresh Atlas is actively searching for contributions of maps, articles and any other information relating to freshwater biodiversity. Dr. Schmidt-Kloiber says ‘it is a great way for scientists who contribute to increase the visibility and impact of their science and we invite scientists to publish their research on the Atlas.”

The editorial board of the Global Freshwater Atlas

The editorial board of the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas

So who should use the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas? It is really a resource for everyone, but three main types of users might find it useful. Firstly, the Atlas will be a huge resource for scientists. We are constantly flooded with information and scientists know this better than anyone. The Atlas helps because it provides an overview and visualisation of the freshwater-related science that has already been done. This enables the Atlas to be used as a platform for scientists to situate their own research, but also for providing inspiration for new ideas for future research projects.

Secondly, one of the most important uses of the Atlas will be for planners and policy-makers. It can be used by NGOs to identify key areas of freshwater biodiversity, policy-makers and governments to create Protected Area networks and meet conservation targets such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, as well as minimising harm caused by large-scale land use projects such as dams, and by corporations in their environmental impact assessments or land-use considerations.

Last, but by no means least, the Atlas will be great for anyone with an interest in freshwater, conservation, science or just good old-fashioned map enthusiasts. It opens up the world by getting science out of journals and presenting it in an easy to understand and open way. Making science accessible is a goal of the BioFresh project, and the Atlas should contribute to this aim enormously.

Our goal is to launch the Atlas later in the year. We’ll keep you informed and up-to-date in the meantime.

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