Funded by the Belgian Science Policy Office, biodiversity.aq is building an innovative Antarctic biodiversity information system, giving access to a distributed network of contributing database, according to the principles of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. It is building a new data discovery tool using two complementary networks and will expand these by using an advanced technical architecture, capable of linking with many potential data resources.
biodiversity.aq integrates SCAR-MarBIN (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research - Marine Biodiversity Information Network), with the biodiversity databases managed by the Australian Antarctic Division, bringing together data from marine and terrestrial realms.
biodiversity.aq is the data management tool and repository for the biodiversity-related research conducted at the Princess Elisabeth Station.
biodiversity.aq will use the best available technology to integrate, share and disseminate all available information on Antarctic Biodiversity. Its implementation by the Belgian Biodiversity Platform ascertains that biodiversity.aq can take advantage of the relevant experience of the Belgian GBIF node.
biodiversity.aq is steered by an International Steering Committee composed of selected experts in the field of Polar biodiversity.
The origins of biodiversity.aq can be traced back to the International Polar Year (2007-2008), and more precisely the SCAR-MarBIN (the Marine Biodiversity Information Network of SCAR, the Scientific committee on Antarctic Research) project. Claude De Broyer (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences) noted that, although the Southern Ocean is extremely rich in biodiversity and numerous studies have already been conducted on it, this mass of scientific and technical information was very widely dispersed, fragmented and often not easily accessible.
In order to make this wealth of information more accessible SCAR-MarBIN was initiated in 2005 at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) and was implemented by the Belgian Biodiversity Platform (BBPF). SCAR-MarBIN received support from the Belgian Science Policy (BELSPO) and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (SLOAN) through the Census of Marine Life (CoML) and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).
The primary aim of SCAR-MarBIN was to provide a single and easy access to relevant marine biodiversity information from the Southern Ocean and to maximize the exploitation of these resources. For this it compiled and managed existing and new information on Antarctic marine biodiversity by coordinating, supporting, completing and optimizing database networking. SCAR-MarBIN was the companion-project of the Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML), an ambitious 5-year project which aimed at assessing the nature, distribution and abundance of the Southern Ocean biodiversity. During the International Polar Year (IPY) in 2007/08 CAML focused the attention of the public on the ice-bound oceans of Antarctica. SCAR-MarBIN continued to handle biodiversity data arising from CAML field projects. SCAR-MarBIN was funded by the Belgian Science Policy office (BELSPO) until September 2009.
Further networking activities are developing thanks to a new BELSPO-funded project, the Antarctic Biodiversity Information Facility (ANTABIF, www.biodiversity.aq). Where the original SCAR-MarBIN network focused on marine life in Antarctica, the new biodiversity.aq network builds on the success of SCAR-MarBIN and ensures its continuation by creating an overarching network that provides access to data from both the marine and the terrestrial realms. Just like SCAR-MArBIN, biodiversity.aq not only aggregates data but it also feeds this information into global biodiversity initiatives such as the Ocean Biogeographic Information system (OBIS), which offers access to marine species datasets from around the world, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). The new data platform (data.biodiversity.aq) aggregates Antarctic biodiversity data from various providers, such as the German PANGAEA and the Australian Antarctic Data Centre and offers a data hosting and publishing service to nations or research institutes that lack such facilities. As such all publicly available biodiversity data can be searched and retrieved through this data platform.