Special issue of data papers boosts data from Northern Eurasia

FinBIF, Pensoft and GBIF Norway partner to support sharing of knowledge about biodiversity held within Ukrainian institutions

Nyctalus noctula-iNat-olsher-hero
Common noctule (Nyctalus noctula), observed in Ukraine. Photo 2021 Oleh Sheremet via iNaturalist Research-grade Observations, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Pensoft Publisher's Biodiversity Data Journal (BDJ) has published Biota of Northern Eurasia, a special collection of 11 data papers prepared by 39 co-authors, 33 of whom are affiliated with institutions in Ukraine.

The 12 datasets described in the collection contribute more than 80,000 new occurrence records of plants, non-avian vertebrates, fungi and spiders, drawing on a diverse range of sources that includes burial mounds, ancient settlement sites, owl pellets and a bat rehabilitation centre. Collectively and individually, these datasets fulfill the collection's goals of improving the quality of biodiversity data in Northern Eurasia and making it available for new insights and discoveries.

Biota of Northern Eurasia is part of a series of regional data mobilization and capacity development initiatives supported by GBIF Norway and the Finnish Biodiversity Information Facility (FinBIF). The collection is also the third to appear in BDJ, following West of the Urals from 2020 and Biota of Russia from 2021.

The regional activities offer key precedents that have provided lessons about the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of data papers in incentivizing data sharing among academic researchers. As such, they paved the way for addressing high-priority thematic data gaps on species related to human health (both past and present) and species that inhabit freshwater, as well as the current call for data papers on soil biodiversity.

"Most of the authors wrote their manuscripts this winter under particularly unfavourable conditions. The severe shortage of electricity and Internet connection, together with the ongoing war, gave us an experience we wouldn’t wish for any scientist,," said Oleh Prylutskyi, associate professor of mycology and plant resistance at V. N. Karazin Kahrkiv National University, who coordinated the work of the collection's authors. But I want no one to forget that many more researchers could have collaborated on this project, but they were—and are—defending Ukraine, making it still possible for us to conduct research and write.

"Biota of Northern Eurasia no doubt opened a new page in biodiversity data mobilization in Ukraine, as the data paper genre was practically unknown in Ukraine until this year," Prylutskyi continued. "I want to express my gratitude to all who made this possible—Pensoft Publishing and its editors, FinBIF, and all the authors."

The special collection—and, indeed, Northern Eurasia, more broadly—has benefited from the interplay between various initiatives across the GBIF network, particularly the training offered through BioDATA led by GBIF Norway and FinBIF's sponsorship of article processing charges.

GBIF advocates involved in regional activities have also frequently taken on formal roles within new nodes in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. So, too, the collective—and generally volunteer—support from members of the wider GBIF network as course trainers and mentors, translators or ambassadors, which has cultivated steady growth of both the data and the community from the region.

"It’s incredible to see the perseverance of our Ukrainian colleagues materialize in the BDJ special issue," said Hugo de Boer, professor and research director at the University of Oslo Natural History Museum and GBIF head of delegation for Norway. "Our collaboration was delayed first by the COVID pandemic and then the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but in the summer of 2022, we were finally able to work on data mobilization training with students and staff across Ukraine using online teaching."

"The recently completed collection in Biodiversity Data Journal again proves the power of data papers as an instrument for incentivizing researchers to publish FAIR biodiversity data," said Lyubomir Penev, founder of Pensoft and one of the innovators behind the GBIF-linked data paper concept. "We're eager to see two more GBIF-related collections soon—one on soil biodiversity and the other with articles linking FAIR biodiversity data for the BiCIKL collection."

As noted in September 2022, despite dealing with the traumatic and destructive consequences of the war, data publication from Ukraine has continued to expand thanks to the ongoing efforts of researchers, curators, data professionals and students affiliated with the country's institutions.

"Recognizing the incredible dedication and preserverance it took for Oleh and the authors to produce this body of work, the publication of the special collection inspires both pride and humility," said Joe Miller, GBIF executive secretary. "We look forward to continuing such collaborations to share critical biodiversity data."

With the Russian invasion and war in Ukraine having disrupted work on this effort, the publication of Biota of Northern Eurasia marks an important milestone for all involved. As "an open-ended long-term cooperative endeavour in order to sustain the benefits of access to biodiversity data” (see the voluntary GBIF Memorandum of Understanding, our network remains committed to building collaborative efforts that achieve this intention in Northern Eurasia and elsewhere around the world.

Data papers and datasets

Authors Article title Datasets
Alona Prylutska, Maryna Yerofeieva, Valeria Bohodist, Alona Shulenko, Anzhela But, Ksenia Kravchenko, Oleh Prylutskyi, Anton Vlaschenko The dataset of bat (Mammalia, Chiroptera) occurrences in Ukraine collected by the Ukrainian Bat Rehabilitation Center (2011-2022) view dataset
Nadiia Skobel, Dariia Borovyk, Denys Vynokurov, Ivan Moysiyenko, Andriy Babytskiy, Iryna Bednarska, Olesia Bezsmertna, Olha Chusova, Polina Dayneko, Jürgen Dengler, Riccardo Guarino, Kateryna Kalashnik, Alexander Khodosovtsev, Vitalii Kolomiychuk, Oksana Kucher, Anna Kuzemko, Viktor Shapoval, Olha Umanets, Natalia Zagorodniuk, Maryna Zakharova & Iwona Dembicz Biodiversity surveys of grassland and coastal habitats in 2021 as a documentation of pre-war status in southern Ukraine view dataset 1

view dataset 2
Nina Polchaninova & Oleksii Marushchak Spiders (Araneae) of the northeast of the Luhansk Oblast (Ukraine) view dataset
Nadiia Skobel, Ivan Moysiyenko, Barbara Sudnik-Wójcikowska, Iwona Dembicz, Maria Zachwatowicz, Maryna Zakharova, Oleksii Marushchak, Vikroria Dzerkal Vascular plants of old cemeteries in the Lower Dnipro region (Southern Ukraine) view dataset
Oksana Nekrasova & Oleksii Marushchak Records of common species of amphibians and reptiles widespread in northern, central, western and southern Ukraine view dataset
Yehor Yatsiuk, Nataliia Brusentsova & Yuliya Filatova Mammals in Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) pellets from Kharkiv Region, Ukraine view dataset
Andriy Novikov & Oleh Prylutskyi Genus Aconitum (Ranunculaceae) in the Ukrainian Carpathians and adjacent territories view dataset
Polina Dayneko, Ivan Moysiyenko, Barbara Sudnik-Wójcikowska, Iwona Dembicz, Maria Zachwatowicz & Nadiia Skobel Ancient settlements as natural heritage sites: the first occurrence dataset on vascular plant species from ancient settlements in the Lower Dnipro region (Ukraine) view dataset
Oleh Prylutskyi, Mykola Prydiuk, Vasyl Malanyuk & Valeria Yakunina Reference-based checklist of gilled Agaricales (Basidiomycota, Fungi) from Ukraine view dataset
Ivan Moysiyenko, Barbara Sudnik-Wójcikowska, Iwona Dembicz, Maria Zachwatowicz & Nadiia Skobel The first dataset of vascular plant species occurrences on kurgans in Southern Ukraine view dataset
Andriy Novikov & Mariia Sup-Novikova Endemic vascular plants in the Ukrainian Carpathians view dataset