Advancing the science and management of European intermittent rivers and ephemeral streams

A COST Action set to bring together scientists and stakeholders from across 14 countries within Europe

Intermittent rivers and ephemeral streams (IRES) are waterways that cease to flow and sometimes dry. However, there is much left to learn about them, including their occurrence in the landscape, ecology, economic and societal values and incredible biodiversity. For efficient and adequate management and protection actions, these knowledge gaps need to be closed sooner rather than later.

In a call for a better understanding of IRES and their vital role in nature, a large international team, led by Dr. Thibault Datry, a freshwater ecologist working at IRSTEA, Lyon, France, has initiated the “Science and Management of Intermittent Rivers and Ephemeral Streams (SMIRES)” project. Their grant proposal, as approved for funding by the European framework COST, is published in the open science journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO).

This COST Action brings together hydrologists, biogeochemists, ecologists, modellers, environmental economists, social researchers and stakeholders from 14 countries from around the continent. The aim of the interdisciplinary team is to develop a research network for synthesising the fragmented knowledge on IRES. In turn, improved understanding of IRES will translate to a science-based, sustainable management of river networks.

Along with networking between scientists and stakeholders, the Action will accommodate a whole set of good practices, including data sharing, technology development and citizen science.

The Calavon River, a Mediterranean IRES, during flowing (left) and dry phases (right).
The Calavon River, a Mediterranean IRES, during flowing (left) and dry phases (right).

Amongst the goals of the project are the creation of two meta-databases providing open data about IRES research activities and flow stations with intermittent flows; a proposal for novel indicators and technologies to assess changes and associated ecological responses in IRES; and the development of a European-scale network of citizen scientists to monitor, locate and map river flow states with the help of smartphone technology.

Having been ignored in conservation policies and initiatives, IRES are being degraded at an alarming rate. Water extraction, flood harvesting, river impoundment, channel modification, land-use change and mining are only part of the threats faced by IRES across Europe. In many areas, they are even used as disposal areas. For others, they are channelled underground or connected to larger water bodies as a means of flow augmentation, which could potentially lead to the spread of invasive species.

The researchers point out that lack of recognition and understanding lead to the rapid degradation of IRES.


Original source:

Datry T, Singer G, Sauquet E, Jorda-Capdevilla D, Von Schiller D, Subbington R, Magand C, Pa?il P, Miliša M, Acuña V, Alves M, Augeard B, Brunke M, Cid N, Csabai Z, England J, Froebrich J, Koundouri P, Lamouroux N, Martí E, Morais M, Munné A, Mutz M, Pesic V, Previši? A, Reynaud A, Robinson C, Sadler J, Skoulikidis N, Terrier B, Tockner K, Vesely D, Zoppini A (2017) Science and Management of Intermittent Rivers and Ephemeral Streams (SMIRES). Research Ideas and Outcomes 3: e21774.

Biodiversity data import from historical literature assessed in an EMODnet Workshop Report

While biodiversity loss is an undisputable issue concerning everyone on a global scale, data about species distribution and numbers through the centuries is crucial for adopting adequate and timely measures.

However, as abundant as this information currently is, large parts of the actual data are locked-up as scanned documents, or not digitized at all. Far from the machine-readable knowledge, this information is left effectively inaccessible. In particular, this is the case for data from marine systems.

This is how data managers who implement data archaeology and rescue activities, as well as external experts in data mobilization and data publication, were all brought together in Crete for the European Marine Observation and Data network (EMODnet) Workshop, which is now reported in the open access journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO).

“In a time of global change and biodiversity loss, information on species occurrences over time is crucial for the calculation of ecological models and future predictions”, explain the authors. “But while data coverage is sufficient for many terrestrial areas and areas with high scientific activity, large gaps exist for other regions, especially concerning the marine systems.”

Aiming to fill both spatial and temporal gaps in European marine species occurrence data availability by implementing data archaeology and rescue activities, the workshop took place on 8th and 9th June in 2015 at the Hellenic Center for Marine Research Crete (HCMR), Heraklion Crete, Greece. There, the participants joined forces to assess possible mechanisms and guidelines to mobilize legacy biodiversity data.

Together, the attendees reviewed the current issues associated with manual extraction of occurrence data. They also used the occasion to test tools and mechanisms that could potentially support a semi-automated process of data extraction. Long-disputed in the scholarly communities matters surrounding data re-publication, such as openly accessible data and author attribution were also discussed. As a result, at the end of the event, a list of recommendations and conclusions was compiled, also openly available in the Workshop Report publication.

Ahead of the workshop, curators extracted legacy data to compile a list of old faunistic reports, based on certain criteria. While performing the task, they noted the time and the problems they encountered along the way. Thus, they set the starting point for the workshop, where participants would get the chance to practice data extraction themselves at the organised hands-on sessions.

“Legacy biodiversity literature contains a tremendous amount of data that are of high value for many contemporary research directions. This has been recognized by projects and institutions such as the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), which have initiated mass digitization of century-old books, journals and other publications and are making them available in a digital format over the internet,” note the authors.

“However, the information remains locked up even in these scanned files, as they are available only as free text, not in a structured, machine-readable format”.

In conclusion, the participants at the European Marine Observation and Data network Workshop listed practical tips regarding in-house document scanning; suggested a reward scheme for data curators, pointing out that credit needs to be given to the people “who made these valuable data accessible again”; encouraged Data papers publication, for aligning with the “emerging success of open data”; and proposed the establishment of a data encoding schema. They also highlighted the need for academic institutions to increase their number of professional data manager permanent positions, while also providing quality training to long-term data experts.


Original source:

Faulwetter S, Pafilis E, Fanini L, Bailly N, Agosti D, Arvanitidis C, Boicenco L, Capatano T, Claus S, Dekeyzer S, Georgiev T, Legaki A, Mavraki D, Oulas A, Papastefanou G, Penev L, Sautter G, Schigel D, Senderov V, Teaca A, Tsompanou M (2016) EMODnet Workshop on mechanisms and guidelines to mobilise historical data into biogeographic databases. Research Ideas and Outcomes 2: e9774. doi: 10.3897/rio.2.e9774

Open Science environment Unicorn allows researchers and decision makers to work together

Given that the most important societal needs require multidiscipli­nary collaboration between researchers and decision makers, a suitable environment has to be provided in the first place. A proposal, prepared by a Finnish consortium and published in the open access journal Research Ideas and Outcomes, suggests a new, open virtual work and modeling platform to support evidence-based decision making in a number of areas, while also abiding by the principles of openness, criticism and reuse.

The Finnish consortium, led by Prof. Pekka Neittaanmäki, University of Jyväskylä, and bringing together Timo Huttula and Janne Ropponen, Finnish Environment Institute, Juha Karvanen and Tero Tuovinen, University of Jyväskylä, Tom Frisk, Pirkanmaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, Jouni Tuomisto, National Institute for Health and Welfare, and Antti Simola, VATT Institute for Economic Research, acknowledge that, “it is not enough that experts push data to politicians.”

“There must be practices for mutual communication: experts must answer policy questions in a defendable and useful way; decision makers must more clearly explain their views using evidence; and there must be ICT tools to support this exchange,” the authors explain. “The focus is on end-users.”

Unicorn is to combine shared practices, tools, data, working environments and concerted actions in order to aggregate open information from multiple databases, and create tools for efficient policy studies.

The consor­­tium have already developed and tested prototypes of such practices and tools in several projects, and insist that they are now ready to apply their experience and knowledge on a larger scale. They are also certain that open data and models are deservedly the “mega trend” nowadays.

“Unicorn directs this trend to paths that are the most beneficial for societal decision making by providing quick, reliable and efficient decision support,” they say.

“Significant saving of resources will be mani­fested with improved data collection, analyses and modeling. Also, the quality and amount of assessments that can be done to support work.”

“The major challenges related to evidence-based decision making actually are about changing the practices of researchers and dec­­ision makers,” according to the authors. Therefore, they see their project as a demonstration of the needed shifts.

Although the approach is applicable in all areas, the researchers are to initially implement them in environment, human health, and regional economy, “as they are com­plex and chal­lenging enough to offer a good test bed for general development.”

Having already been submitted to the Strategic Funds of Academy of Finland in 2015, the Unicorn environment proposal has been rejected due to overambitiousness and low commercial potential. However, the authors are confident that the Unicorn environment along with its growing community of developers can, in fact, meet a great success. They are currently looking for further funding suggestions and forming new consortiums.


Original source:

Neittaanmäki P, Huttula T, Karvanen J, Frisk T, Tuomisto J, Simola A, Tuovinen T, Ropponen J (2016) Unicorn-Open science for assessing environmental state, human health and regional economy. Research Ideas and Outcomes 2: e9232. doi: 10.3897/rio.2.e9232