Measuring the extent and dynamics of the global biodiversity crisis is a challenging task that demands rapid, reliable and repeatable biodiversity monitoring data. Such data is essential for policymakers to be able to assess policy options effectively and accurately. To achieve this, however, there is a need to enhance the integration of biodiversity data from various sources, including citizen scientists, museums, herbaria, and researchers.
B-Cubed (Biodiversity Building Blocks for policy) hopes to tackle this challenge by reimagining the process of biodiversity monitoring, making it more adaptable and responsive.
B-Cubed’s approach rests on six pillars:
Improved alignment between policy and biodiversity data. Working closely with existing biodiversity initiatives to identify and meet policy needs.
Evidence base. Leveraging data cubes to standardise access to biodiversity data using the Essential Biodiversity Variables framework. These cubes are the basis for models and indicators of biodiversity.
Cloud computing environment. Providing users with access to the models in real-time and on demand.
Automated workflows. Developing exemplary automated workflows for modelling using biodiversity data cubes and for calculating change indicators.
Case studies. Demonstrating the effectiveness of B-Cubed’s tools.
Capacity building. Ensuring that the solutions meet openness standards and training end-users to employ them.
Harnessing its experience in the communication, dissemination and exploitation of numerous EU projects, Pensoft focuses on maximising B-Cubed’s impact and ensuring the adoption and long-term legacy of its results. This encompasses a wide array of activities, ranging all the way from building the project’s visual and online presence to translating its results into policy recommendations. Pensoft also oversees B-Cubed’s data management by developing a Data Management Plan which ensures the implementation of the FAIR data principles and maximises the access to and re-use of the project’s research outputs.
One million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, many within decades, admits the global Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on the eve of the adoption of its boldest plan ever, the New Global Agreement to Safeguard Nature.
Europe is a major player in the political response to this global crisis mobilised through its own Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. In recognition of its global responsibilities, the EU has taken bold steps towards global leadership in setting policies and commitments.
The recently adopted by the CBD Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) provides the basis for the instruments for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and for equitable sharing of their benefits, including the genetic resources.
About the projects
The new Horizon Europe-funded projects CO-OP4CBD (abbreviation for Co-operation for the Convention on Biological Diversity) and BioAgora (or Bio Knowledge Agora) unite experts from renowned European organisations to enhance the coordination and strengthen the EU support for the implementation of the Convention.
Both projects will make more effective use of existing networks of experts with the aim to transform the EU policy-making process by supplying decision-makers with access to top European scientific expertise on biodiversity and social transformation.
CO-OP4CBD kicked-off in December 2022 and will be running until 2026 with the grant of EUR 4 million, provided by the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme.
Experts will provide advice to the European Commission, Member States and associated countries’ delegations of negotiators and technical experts.
The consortium of CO-OP4CBD comprises 9 universities and research centers from across Europe. Together, they bring together experts from various backgrounds with extensive experience in EU projects in the field of biodiversity.
BioAgora was launched in July 2022 and is a five-year project with nearly EUR 12 million granted from the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme.
The KCBD, the European Commission’s initiative on better knowledge management for policy-making on biodiversity, plays a central role in the EU biodiversity policy landscape, and therefore BioAgora will support orchestrating a harmonious dialogue among scientists, other knowledge holders and policy actors in the biodiversity policy arena.
The project partners believe that science, policy, and society need to work closer together, if they wish to enable the sustainability transformation in Europe.
A key part of this transformation will depend on a stronger role of knowledge, whether from science or practitioner experience in decision-making and implementation of decisions on the ground. BioAgora aims to facilitate this interaction.
As an expert in science communication, dissemination and exploitation, Pensoft joins the Horizon-funded project TRANSPATH to identify leverage points and interventions for triggering transformative changes at consumer, producer and organisational levels.
The magnitude of biodiversity loss and climate crisis has grown exponentially in recent years, which will inevitably lead to serious consequences at a global scale. Although reversing the degradation of ecosystems and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are top priorities for the European Union, science and policy communities are united in the belief that conventional policies alone are not enough to halt biodiversity loss or mitigate climate change.
In order to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, whilst simultaneously reshaping people’s relations with nature, we need transformative changes in our economies and societies urgently.
TRANSPATH (short for TRANSformative PATHways for synergising just biodiversity and climate actions) – a new European Union-funded project, plans to satisfy this need by accelerating diverse transformative pathways towards biodiversity-positive and climate-proofed societies, with sensitivity to social-cultural contexts and rights.
TRANSPATH will identify leverage points and interventions for triggering transformative changes at consumer, producer and organisational levels. A research team, consisting of leading academics, science-policy experts, and early-career professionals, will directly engage with diverse stakeholders, who affect and are affected by trade regimes and associated ‘greening’ mechanisms.
As a leader of WP5: Dissemination, outreach and catalysing transformative pathways, Pensoft is responsible for providinga dissemination and communication strategy, as well as taking care of the project branding and website. In addition, the Pensoft team is to organise joint activities with other projects or initiatives on transformative change and related topics.
Funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme, TRANSPATH was launched on 1st November 2022 and will be running until October 2026. The official kick-off of the project took place online and was followed by an in-person kick-off meeting of all consortium members on the 2nd and 3rd February 2023 in Wageningen, the Netherlands.
For the next four years TRANSPATH will be focussing on the design and integrated assessment of a suite of transformative pathways that hold potential to accelerate shifts in unsustainable patterns of extraction, production, consumption and trade. The project’s mission will be achieved by four objectives:
Set up a Policy Board and Science-policy-practitioner Labs at multiple scales to engage and jointly deliberate on implications of diverse visions and pathways of change.
Identify and characterise leverage points for diverse contexts that lead to positive synergies between biodiversity, climate and trade domains.
Integrate and customise European and global pathways by considering coupled biodiversity-climate actions and critical leverage points.
Identify and test alternative interventions at global and European scales that can trigger transformative change at the level of consumers, producers and organisations.
TRANSPATH will bring together and advance several strands of recent research, which hold potential for triggering and accelerating transformative changes that can restrain biodiversity loss and climate change.
The project will draw on diverse contexts in Eastern and Western Europe, Africa and Latin America, to engage with policy makers and practitioners, individuals, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and multinational corporations.
In addition, policy packages and other interventions will be designed to facilitate the emergence of leverage points at different scales of action in ways that change the decision-making framework of everyday choices.
These interventions take into account the synergies and trade-offs of actions across multiple individuals and locations, as well as the role of incentives and political obstacles to implementation.
The EU project will provide a suite of Transformative Pathways along with a Toolbox of Transformative Interventions to trigger and enable these pathways. The Transformative Navigation Toolkit assists practitioners in enabling and navigating these pathways, acknowledging that determining what constitutes a ‘transformative pathway’ is also a product of an iterative and adaptive process that emerges and evolves over time.
The TRANSPATH project brings together leading academics, science-policy experts, and young professionals from different social-cultural origins across Eastern and Western Europe, Africa and Latin America. Represented by nine countries and twelve nationalities, the consortium comprises a diverse range of scientific disciplines in environments, economics, and social sciences.
Dedicated to ensuring sufficient engagement from local to global levels in this project, the experts are focused on integrated and inclusive deliberation that is essential for identifying, legitimising, and navigating transformative pathways.
Ambitious goals have been set by the European Union, in order to tackle the biodiversity conservation challenges over the coming decade. No less ambitious are the goals of the Horizon Europe project SELINA, which is one of the current major initiatives looking in the same direction.
SELINA (Science for Evidence-based and Sustainable Decisions about Natural Capital) is a transdisciplinary project aimed at promoting the conservation of biodiversity, enhancing ecosystem conditions, and supporting the sustainable use of the environment through evidence-based decision-making.
As an experienced science communicator and open-science publisher, Pensoft will be leading the project’s communication and dissemination activities.
SELINA was launched in July 2022 and will run for 5 years. Having received EUR 13 million in funding, the project is seen as an unprecedented opportunity for smart, cost-effective, and nature-based solutions to historic societal challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and food security.
One of the project’s main objectives is to identify biodiversity, ecosystem condition, and ecosystem service factors that can be successfully integrated into decision-making processes in both the public and private sectors.
To achieve this objective, SELINA will develop, test, and integrate new and existing knowledge, including methodological approaches to improve biodiversity, ecosystem condition, and ecosystem service information uptake by decision-makers.
In addition, the project will utilise EU-wide workshops and multi-disciplinary Communities of Practice involving a wide range of stakeholders, including scientists, policymakers, business leaders, and civil society organisations.
The project will also organise Demonstration Projects on biodiversity, ecosystem condition, and ecosystem service integration in decision-making and co-create a Compendium of Guidance that will allow stakeholders to make full use of the project’s results and fit-for-purpose recommendations with real-world applications in policy-making and business decisions.
SELINA project brings together experts from 50 partnering organisations across all European Union member states, Norway, Switzerland, Israel, and the United Kingdom.
The project comprises a Pan-European and transdisciplinary network of professionals from the academic and non-academic sectors with various (inter)disciplinary backgrounds – including ecologists, economists, social scientists – who have agreed to work collaboratively to support transformative change based on evidence-based decision-making related to the management of natural resources.
While insect populations continue to decline, taxonomic expertise in Europe is at serious risk, confirms data obtained within the European Red List of Insect Taxonomists, a recent study commissioned by the European Union.
Expertise tends to be particularly poor in the countries with the richest biodiversity, while taxonomists are predominantly male and ageing
While insect populations continue to decline, taxonomic expertise in Europe is at serious risk, confirms data obtained within the European Red List of Insect Taxonomists, a recent study commissioned by the European Union.
Scientists who specialise in the identification and discovery of insect species – also known as insect taxonomists – are declining across Europe, highlights the newly released report by CETAF, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Pensoft. The authors of this report represent different perspectives within biodiversity science, including natural history and research institutions, nature conservation, academia and scientific publishing.
Despite the global significance of its taxonomic collections, Europe has been losing taxonomic expertise at such a rate that, at the moment nearly half (41.4%) of the insect orders are not covered by a sufficient number of scientists. If only EU countries are counted, the number looks only slightly more positive (34.5%). Even the four largest insect orders: beetles (Coleoptera), moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera), flies (Diptera) and wasps, bees, ants and sawflies (Hymenoptera) are only adequately ‘covered’ in a fraction of the countries.
To obtain details about the number, location and productivity of insect taxonomists, the team extracted information from thousands of peer-reviewed research articles published in the last decade, queried the most important scientific databases and reached out to over fifty natural science institutions and their networks. Furthermore, a dedicated campaign reached out to individual researchers through multiple communication channels. As a result, more than 1,500 taxonomists responded by filling in a self-declaration survey to provide information about their personal and academic profile, qualification and activities.
Then, the collected information was assessed against numerical criteria to classify the scientists into categories similar to those used by the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. In the European List of Insect Taxonomists, these range from Eroded Capacity (equivalent to Extinct) to Adequate Capacity (equivalent to Least Concern). The assessment was applied to the 29 insect orders (i.e. beetles, moths and butterflies etc.) to figure out which insect groups the society, conservation practitioners and decision-makers need not be concerned at this point.
On a country level, the results showed that Czechia, Germany and Russia demonstrate the most adequate coverage of insect groups. Meanwhile, Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Luxembourg, Latvia, Ireland and Malta turned out to be the ones with insufficient number of taxonomists.
In most cases, the availability of experts seems to correlate to GDP, as wealthiest countries tend to invest more in their scientific institutions.
What is particularly worrying is that the lack of taxonomic expertise is more evident in the countries with the greatest species diversity. This trend may cause even more significant problems in the knowledge and conservation of these species, further aggravating the situation. Thus, the report provides further evidence about a global pattern where the countries richest in biodiversity are also the ones poorest in financial and human resources.
Other concerning trends revealed in the new report are that the community of taxonomists is also ageing and – especially in the older groups – male-dominated (82%).
“One reason to have fewer young taxonomists could be due to limited opportunities for professional training (…), and the fact that not all professional taxonomists provide it, as a significant number of taxonomists are employed by museums and their opportunities for interaction with university students is probably not optimal. Gender bias is very likely caused by multiple factors, including fewer opportunities for women to be exposed to taxonomic research and gain an interest, unequal offer of career opportunities and hiring decisions. A fair-playing field for all genders will be crucial to address these shortcomings and close the gap.”
comments Ana Casino, CETAF’s Executive Director.
The European Red List of Taxonomists concludes with practical recommendations concerning strategic, science and societal priorities, addressed to specific decision-makers.
The authors give practical examples and potential solutions in support of their call to action.
For instance, in order to develop targeted and sustainable funding mechanisms to support taxonomy, they propose the launch of regular targeted Horizon Europe calls to study important insect groups for which taxonomic capacity has been identified to be at a particularly high risk of erosion.
To address specific gaps in expertise – such as the ones reported in the publication from Romania – a country known for its rich insect diversity, yet poor in taxonomic expertise – the consortium proposes the establishment of a natural history museum or entomological research institute that is well-fitted to serve as a taxonomic facility.
Amongst the scientific recommendations, the authors propose measures to ensure better recognition of taxonomic work at a multidisciplinary level. The scientific community, including disciplines that use taxonomic research, such as molecular biology, medicine and agriculture – need to embrace universal standards and rigorous conduct for the correct citation of scientific publications by insect taxonomists.
Societal engagement is another important call. “It is pivotal to widely raise awareness of the value and impact of taxonomy and the work of taxonomists. We must motivate young generations to join the scientific community” points Prof. Lyubomir Penev, Managing Director of Pensoft.
“Understanding taxonomy is a key to understanding the extinction risk of species. If we strategically target the gaps in expert capacity that this European Red List identifies, we can better protect biodiversity and support the well-being and livelihoods of our societies. With the climate crisis at hand, there is no time left to waste,”
added David Allen from the IUCN Red List team.
“As a dedicated supporter of the IUCN Red List, I am inspired by this call to strengthen the capacity, guided by evidence and proven scientific methods. However, Europe has much more scientific capacity than most biodiversity-rich regions of the world. So, what this report particularly highlights is the need for massively increasing investment in scientific discovery, and building taxonomic expertise, around the world,”
said Jon Paul Rodríguez, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.
In a follow-up to a recent special issue, 8 research articles outline a set of verified guidelines for the monitoring of 5 saproxylic beetle species listed in the Habitats Directive
In a set of eight research publications, scientists tested various methods for the monitoring of five European saproxylic (i.e. dependent on dead wood) beetle species protected by the Habitats Directive. The aim of their work was to test and propose a standard method for each species. A key role in this conservation initiative was played by citizen scientists who made it possible for sufficient data to be collected within a significantly shorter time frame.
While the first article collection focused on reporting recent findings derived from monitoring surveys across the European Union, the papers in the latest issue are devoted to testing various methods for the monitoring of five selected species of protected beetles, in order to determine the most efficient methods and, subsequently, to propose them as standard methods.
Curiously, the public participation in the project was not limited to ecology and entomology semi-experts and aficionados. The team specifically targeted children when recruiting volunteers. One of the dissemination activities of the MIPP project was the “MIPP-iacciono gli insetti” (translated to “I like insects” from Italian), where 3000 students from primary to high school undertook 60 activities per year in order to learn how to locate and identify the target insects.
“Participation by children in environmental education programmes seems to have a great impact on their attitude and behaviour,” notes Giuseppe Carpaneto, Roma Tre University and his co-authors in their introductory article.
“Some studies have shown that children who participate in such programmes are more concerned about nature, want to learn more about environmental issues and are more prone to follow pro-environmental behaviour (e.g. waste recycling) than children who did not participate”.
In another article, included in the special issue, Fabio Mosconi of the Italian Agricultural Research Council and Sapienza University of Rome and his co-authors tested whether a specially trained Golden Retriever could locate the threatened hermit beetle faster and more efficiently than scientists using the standard “wood mould sampling” method.
About the Life project MIPP
The main objective of the project MIPP is to develop and test methods for the monitoring of five beetle species listed in Annexes II and IV of the Habitats Directive (Osmoderma eremita, Lucanus cervus, Cerambyx cerdo, Rosalia alpina, Morimus funereus).
Developed in the 1990s and early 2000s, LifeWatch is one of the large-scale European Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) created to support biodiversity science and its developments. Its ultimate goal is to model Earth’s biodiversity based on large-scale data, to build a vast network of partners, and to liaise with other high-quality and viable research infrastructures (RI).
Making use of the technologically advanced open access Biodiversity Data Journal and its Collections feature, the LifeWatchGreece team is publishing a vast collection of peer-reviewed scientific outputs, including software descriptions, data papers, taxonomic checklists and research articles, along with the accompanying datasets and supporting material. Their intention is to demonstrate the availability and applicability of the developed e-Services and Virtual Laboratories (vLabs) to both the scientific community, as well as the broader domain of biodiversity management.
The LifeWatchGreece Special Collection is now available in Biodiversity Data Journal, with a series of articles highlighting key contributions to the large-scale European LifeWatch RI. The Software Description papers explain the LifeWatchGreece Portal, where all the e-Services and the vLabs provided by LifeWatchGreece RI are hosted; the Data Services based on semantic web technologies, which provide detailed and specialized search paths to facilitate data mining; the R vLab which can be used for a series of statistical analyses in ecology, based on an integrated and optimized online R environment; and the Micro-CT vLab, which allows the online exploration, dissemination and interactive manipulation of micro-tomography datasets.
The LifeWatchGreece Special Collection also includes a series of taxonomic checklists (preliminary, updated and/or annotated); a series of data papers presenting historical and original datasets; and a selection of research articles reporting on the outcomes, methodologies and citizen science initiatives developed by collaborating research projects, which have shared human, hardware and software resources with LifeWatchGreece RI.
LifeWatchGreece relies on a multidisciplinary approach, involving several subsidiary initiatives; collaborations with Greek, European and World scientific communities; specialised staff, responsible for continuous updates and developments; and, of course, innovative online tools and already established IT infrastructure.
Arvanitidis C, Chatzinikolaou E, Gerovasileiou V, Panteri E, Bailly N, Minadakis N, Hardisty A, Los W (2016) LifeWatchGreece: Construction and operation of the National Research Infrastructure (ESFRI). Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e10791. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.4.e10791
This work has been supported by the LifeWatchGreece infrastructure (MIS 384676), funded by the Greek Government under the General Secretariat of Research and Technology (GSRT), ESFRI Projects, National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).