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1.2 million living species and counting… catalogue to be publicly accessible – University of Reading

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1.2 million living species and counting… catalogue to be publicly accessible

Release Date 16 September 2009

Despite over 250 years of effort, there is still no complete catalogue of all presently known living organisms of the world. However, the global species recording project, Catalogue of Life, which has currently recorded 1.2 million species, has now received €3.3 million from the European Commission to significantly widen the accessibility of the global species catalogue.

The 4D4Life Project will provide climate scientists, businesses, agencies, students or interested members of the public with a validated and integrated set of scientific names, synonyms and common names of the plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms of the entire world. The project, which involves 38 partner organisations across the globe, is led by Professor Frank Bisby of the University of Reading.

The Catalogue of Life currently provides a global reference catalogue, approaching 60% of all known species (1.2 million species) that can be used to make comparisons across the continents. It is widely used by the major global and regional biodiversity portals and by thousands of scientists, professionals and members of the public worldwide, as well as being recognised by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Professor Frank Bisby, University of Reading, said: "The Catalogue for Life project is vital to building the world's biodiversity knowledge systems of the future. Expert validation of recorded species will not only boost our understanding of the living world today but also allow Governments, agencies and businesses to improve their future modelling to benefit our natural resources."

"This next phase is about making our catalogue more accessible. While we are making good progress towards the complete taxonomic catalogue of the 1.8 million species presently known worldwide, it is equally important to ensure that we make best use of technology to share our data effectively with the many classes of users around the world."

The new widening access 4D4Life project will facilitate the scientific modelling of climate change on biodiversity across the globe and allow climate scientists to compare different geographical areas. The project will also allow businesses and agencies to tap into the data in order to, for example. accurately specify Fish species at risk from overfishing, document materials to ensure teak forests are not over exploited or identify polluting micro organisms in water supplies. In all these cases, it is the certainty of specifying accurately the species or sub-species that will allow best management of the related natural resources

Linking the data to new technologies, such as the EC 'ecosystem' of electronic e-infrastructures, will for instance also allow students to download species subsets to their mobile phones or public data systems to send automated Latin name enquiries to the Catalogue and get automatic responses about accepted species names.

The project will also extend the global reach of the programme by means of its Global Multi-Hub network, incorporating regional taxonomic hubs in China, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, N. America and Europe, which will have a significant impact on moving the project in the direction of completion.

The existing web-site Catalogue of Life, receives 40 million hits per year, and serves a rising community of c. 40,000 serious users. The programme supplies an annual CD-ROM edition to 3,500 users in 80 countries. Further very extensive usage is through portals that have incorporated the Catalogue as their taxonomic backbone, such as the intergovernmental Global Biodiversity Information facility (GBIF) and the Encyclopedia of Life (EoL).

4D4Life will run for three years and is co-ordinated by Professor Frank Bisby at the Species 2000 Secretariat in the University of Reading, with components led by Sara Oldfield (The Services Team, from Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Richmond); Thierry Bourgoin (The GSD Database Network, from Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris): Jiri Kvacek (The Global Multi-Hub Network, from Narodni Museum, Prague); Yury Roskov (Catalogue of Life Services, from University of Reading); Peter Schalk (Software Support, from ETI Informatics , Amsterdam) and Richard White & Alex Hardisty (New Architecture and the Design Team, from Cardiff University).

The Catalogue for Life project aims to complete the recording of all known species by 2014.

ENDS

Further information from Alex Brannen, Media Relations Manager, University of Reading, on 0118 378 7388

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