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The Freshwater Information Platform is launched

May 6, 2015

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Human-driven environmental pressures such as water pollution, intense land-use and climate change are increasingly threatening the health and diversity of European freshwater ecosystems. Over recent years, many European Union funded research projects have investigated the causes of these pressures and their effects on rivers, lakes and wetlands, and developed appropriate conservation and rehabilitation strategies. However, the scientific data generated by these projects is often difficult for water managers, policy makers, scientific communities and the general public to access from a huge number of scientific papers and research project websites.

In order to make this detailed and wide-ranging knowledge of freshwater ecosystems accessible to all, four European research institutes in Austria, Belgium and Germany have joined forces to launch the Freshwater Information Platform, an interactive website integrating results and original data stemming from finished, ongoing, and future freshwater research projects.

MARS scientist Astrid Schmidt-Kloiber from BOKU in Vienna outlined the potential of the Freshwater Information Platform as a valuable tool for conservation, stating that, “Freshwater environments are subject to numerous damaging pressures leading to a significant threat to their biodiversity. The Freshwater Information Platform helps freshwater scientists to overcome the challenging task to find scattered research resources, by pooling relevant information in one single place. This will help improve the understanding of freshwaters and provide a stronger voice for their conservation.”

The Freshwater Information Platform offers a forum for information exchange and open-access publishing of maps and data, and aims to stimulate cutting-edge research and collaborations in the field. The Platform provides a unique and comprehensive knowledge base for sustainable and evidence-based management of our threatened freshwater ecosystems and the resources they provide.

For Daniel Hering, leader of the MARS project at UDE in Germany, high-quality data is key: “The efficiency of freshwater ecosystem protection and restoration is largely driven by the quality of scientific data that it relies on. The identification of sensitive areas and species, the development of restoration measures and the prediction of climate change effects: all are complex scientific tasks requiring high-quality data. The Freshwater Information Platform is an extremely valuable resource in providing the evidence needed to guide successful and sustainable freshwater management and policy.”

Aaike De Wever from RBINS in Belgium echoes this sentiment, encouraging freshwater scientists to get involved, to share their data and to potentially spark new collaborations: “Through the Freshwater Biodiversity Data Portal – integrated in the Freshwater Information Platform – we encourage scientists to publish their data on species observations online. By bringing together a large number of freshwater datasets we want to support large-scale environmental analyses and modelling, which improves our understanding and capacity to manage freshwater environments.”

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The Platform contains several complementary sections, either providing access to original data or summarising research results in an easily digestible way. All sections are composed as ‘living documents’ that will be continuously improved and updated.

The Freshwater Biodiversity Data Portal provides access to data on the distribution of freshwater organisms (such as fishes, insects and algae), both in Europe and worldwide, whilst the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas provides a series of maps on freshwater biodiversity richness, threats to freshwaters (or ‘stressors’) and the effects of global change on freshwater ecosystems.

The Freshwater Species Traits Database integrates the knowledge on the ecology of around 20,000 species inhabiting European freshwater ecosystems, including information about where species live, what they feed on or how tolerant they are to pollution.

The Freshwater Metadata section provides an overview of hundreds of major data sources related to freshwater research and management and offers the option to publish such data in the Freshwater Metadata Journal. The Freshwater Information Platform also provides a collection of research tools, information about freshwater-related policies and relevant European and global networks relating to freshwater science and policy.  In short, it provides an invaluable tool for anyone wanting to do freshwater research, conservation or policy.

Finally, this blog – publishing features, research highlights, interviews and podcasts on freshwater science, policy and conservation – is the final piece in the FIP jigsaw, helping communicate a variety of important research.

The last word on the Freshwater Information Platform comes from former BioFresh leader Klement Tockner at IGB in Germany: We are fundamentally and in most cases irreversibly altering how the natural world functions. The consequences for the natural systems on which we depend are such that they may threaten our own survival. The Freshwater Information Platform provides a shared research infrastructure of global relevance that facilitates tracing the multifaceted consequences of accelerating environmental change for freshwater resources and biodiversity.”

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You can access and explore the Freshwater Information Platform here.

Contributing institutions:

University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (Vienna, Austria), BOKU
University of Duisburg-Essen, Aquatic Ecology (Germany), UDE
Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (Berlin, Germany), IGB
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (Brussels, Belgium), RBINS

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