Friday, December 20, 2013

Scandinavian Barcodes

More than a thousand new species –nearly one-quarter of which are new to science – have been discovered in Norway since the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative began in 2009. This unique effort to find and name all of the country's species  is one of just two government efforts worldwide where research has been funded solely to find and catalog the country's species diversity.

The Norwegian initiative is focused on describing poorly known species groups across the country's varied habitats, which range from alpine plateaus to the arctic. Scientists believe that there are roughly 55 000 species in Norway, but until now only 41 000 of them have been discovered. The 1165 new species discovered by the initiative over the last four years are thus an important addition to this number. Among them are new insect species, lichens, molluscs and cold-water sponges. 

A sub-set of the material collected by the Taxonomy Initiative has been made available for DNA barcoding in collaboration with the Norwegian Barcode of Life network (NorBOL). To date, NorBOL has registered barcodes from approximately 3 800 species in Norway, over half of which have come via the Taxonomy Initiative. This progress likely helped to convince the Research Council of Norway to provide more funding towards national DNA Barcoding. They just announced that NorBOL has been granted about $4.2 to develop the network into a national research infrastructure. 

The project starts in January 2014 and will focus on knowledge transfer and capacity building in all NorBOL member institutions in addition to continue to build a DNA Barcode library for the Norwegian fauna and flora (including fungi). 

Congratulations to the colleagues in Norway - it would be great if other nations would follow this example.

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