Symposium showcases use of open-access biodiversity data

Presentations highlight research on climate change impacts, Arctic biodiversity

A public symposium in Norway this week will showcase the benefits to scientific research of more than a decade’s investment in free, open access to large volumes of data on the occurrence of species over time and across the planet.

Eight researchers will present their work making use of data accessed through GBIF, which organizes an annual science symposium alongside its governing board meeting, taking place this year in Lillehammer.

The symposium’s title is GBIF at work – biodiversity data at the service of science and society, and a major focus is the use of data from observations and natural history collections to help predict the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems. Several speakers will also highlight research based on data about biodiversity from the Arctic, projected to be especially vulnerable to the changing climate.

The chair of the GBIF Science Committee, Leonard Krishtalka of the University of Kansas, commented: “Collectively, the presentations demonstrate the remarkable scope and breadth of research that have incorporated and deployed data mobilized through GBIF.

“As important is how the research is helping to answer some of the critical environmental questions facing our generation: how will climate change affect biodiversity? How do we reconcile human managed systems with sustaining critical ecosystem functions?”

The symposium will open with a presentation from Nathan Swenson of Michigan State University, winner of the 2012 Ebbe Nielsen Prize, an award of €30,000 made annually to a scientist in a GBIF Participant country making novel use of biosystematics and biodiversity informatics.

Swenson will show how large, integrated online databases are helping to transform the way we understand the functions developed by world’s plants, and how they may be affected by global change.

Other presentations at the symposium will include:

  • Jeff Price, visiting fellow at the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia, outlining the Wallace Initiative which uses GBIF-mediated data to project the impact of climate change on the future distribution of nearly 50,000 plant and animal species

  • Kathy Willis, from the Oxford Biodiversity Institute, on the Local Ecological Footprint Tool (LEFT), which uses data served through GBIF to help plan sensitive siting of development projects with minimum negative impacts

  • Inger Greve Alsos, from Norway’s Tromsø University Museum, on research looking at the projected loss of genetic diversity among Arctic plant species due to climate change

  • Anouschka Hof, from Umeå University, Sweden, on how climate change could affect the survival of the critically-endangered Arctic fox due to reduced availability of its main prey, the Norway lemming, and increased competition from red foxes

  • Falk Huettmann of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, reporting a major study of the future of 27 seabird species in the Arctic region based on thousands of records accessed through the GBIF data portal

  • Jogeir Stokland of the Norwegian Forest and Landscapes Institute, on the use of digital data to analyse the complex relationships between tree species and the rich biodiversity, mainly insects and fungi, that rely on dead wood – guiding sustainable forest management

  • Håvard Kauserud, of the University of Oslo, on the changes already observed in the timing of the appearance of mushrooms among the fungi of northern Europe, with spring-fruiting species having advanced their annual fruiting time on average by 18 days in the period 1960-2007

The GBIF Science Symposium takes place from 9am to 5pm on Wednesday 19 September at Lillehammer University College, Gudbrandsdalsvegen 350, N-2624, Lillehammer, Norway. Press and the public are welcome to attend, and admission is free.

The full symposium programme can be accessed at

The proceedings will be published at a later date.

For more information please contact:

Tim Hirsch

GBIF Secretariat

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