US researchers call for repository for Antarctic biodiversity | Polarjournal
The idea of the U.S. working group is that all institutions that have previously kept data on Antarctica to themselves will store it centrally, creating a place where anyone doing work with Antarctica as part of the question is welcome. Image: Michael Wenger

Antarctica has been declared a place of peace and science by treaty. This is because numerous globally important processes take place here. At the same time, Antarctica is also considered one of the few remaining places in the world where biodiversity is huge. But research here is costly, time-consuming and material-intensive, making it difficult for many scientific institutions to collect data here at all. A group of U.S. researchers have developed a proposal to solve this problem and have now published it.

In an open letter, the team led by Dr. Kristin O’Brien (University of Alaska Fairbanks) and Dr. Elizabeth Crockett (Ohio University) calls for the creation of an international network of so-called biotheques, where data from Antarctic samples are centrally stored and easily and quickly accessible to the research community, “to answer the most important questions of Antarctic science, improve human welfare and mitigate the effects of climate change,” the team writes in the paper. To do this, they are calling on all institutions that have collected and stored such organisms, samples and data to work together to develop a virtual hub and store in it all the knowledge about the southern continent’s biodiversity that has been collected to date. The team published the call in early December last year in the journal Proccedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The authors of the appeal point to the fact that countless samples, whole, specimens, preparations and data of Antarctic organisms are stored in numerous institutions worldwide, such as museums, research institutes, universities and laboratories, having been collected at some point over decades and now awaiting analysis. “Collections of organisms, environmental and tissue samples, and data derived from them represent a resource of exceptional value to science and society and contribute to our understanding of environmental pollution, biological invasions, and the effects of climate change” the team writes in their paper. They believe that many researchers and institutions are not even aware of this diversity stored in their warehouses, drawers and hard drives, although some countries even know legal requirements on how to handle samples, data and specimens and even at the national level such databases already exist.

In many places in Antarctica, research work is no longer conceivable or even possible without the cooperation of institutions. However, in the storerooms of many countries that have been conducting research in Antarctica for a long time, there are still countless samples that could be helpful to other, especially newer nations in Antarctica, in their work and that should therefore be stored in a central database. Image: Michael Wenger

Creating a network of biotheques around the globe would create benefits in many ways and strengthen international cooperation, one of the cornerstones of the Antarctic Treaty, the authors are convinced. “A network of Antarctic biotheques would promote collaboration, coordination, and communication among partners, and enable broader and more effective use of Antarctic samples for research, education, outreach, and conservation,” the authors explain. The team also counts a reduction in logistical hurdles and costs and less impact of research teams on the Antarctic environment among the benefits. After all, the amount of field work would definitely be reduced if samples are already available. In addition, such a network would help lead to better techniques for preserving and storing the samples and specimens, some of which are historically important and scientifically valuable. This would also benefit the general public, who could then marvel at such exhibits.

According to the team of authors, countries new to Antarctic research (here a Thai researcher) would also benefit from a biotheque network, making further important contributions to our understanding of Antarctica. Image: Handout

Another advantage of a network that should not be underestimated would be the better integration of new nations that have just started Antarctic research. As Antarctica is increasingly becoming the focus of scientific interest, especially due to its connection to climatic processes on Earth, more and more institutions are planning to include Antarctica in their research. Such countries could be greatly assisted by a biotheque network, according to the authors, thus better integrating them into the research community. “We envision more opportunities not only for researchers in Antarctica, but also for researchers new to Antarctic research by enabling research even when field seasons are not logistically possible or practical,” the team writes. Cooperation through collaboration with less pressure on the Antarctic environment, after all, would be right in line with the Antarctic Treaty.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

Link to study: O’Brien et al (2022) PNAS 119 (50) The time is right for an Antarctic biorepository network;

More on the topic

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
error: Content is protected !!
Share This