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European Law Monitor newsEU to take part in global database of all life on Earth

The European Union will contribute to a global effort, announced on 10 May 2007 in Washington, to create a Global Species Information System. Information about species is important for researchers, policy-makers, land managers, farmers, conservationists and many other groups in society, as well as the general public. Knowing what species exist, where and how they live, how they grow and interact helps us understand patterns of change, and provides better knowledge of how to change our behaviour to support our fragile biodiversity. The EU will take part with the SpeciesBase project, in collaboration with scientists from the US, Australia, Brazil, India and South Africa. This initiative is part of the follow-up to the G8 Ministerial meeting on Biodiversity, held in Potsdam in March 2007.
"The earth's biodiversity is a fragile resource" said European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik. "The more we know about it, the better we can protect it. Linking up researchers within Europe and across the world will increase our understanding of the species with which we share the Earth and, hopefully, improve our management of it."

The EU contribution to the Global Species Information System, SpeciesBase, will use European funds to bring together data and create a common information system. It will share this core data with other regional initiatives, such as the Encyclopaedia of Life in the US, and the Atlas of Living Australia.

SpeciesBase will not only be a valuable source of information for scientists, providing information on growth rates, fertility, environmental tolerance and genetic data. It will also provide the public with photos, maps and information on European flora and fauna in several European languages. Users will be able to supplement the information from experts with their own observations. SpeciesBase will build upon the successful experience of FishBase (, the most successful biological information system, with two million visitors a month and regular citations in scientific literature. Coordination will be provided by the German Leibniz Institute IFM-GEOMAR.

The international approach to this global system was agreed at a meeting of experts in Brussels in late April 2007. Scientists involved in existing initiatives pledged their support to the creation of SpeciesBase as the European input. These initiatives include:

The Catalogue of Life (
The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (
Fauna Europaea (
Euro+Med Plantbase (
The text of the communiqué from the first coordination meeting on "International Cooperation towards a Global Species Information System" is available at