The freshwaterecology.info database contains taxonomic and ecological information and is a "living document". It was first set up for the purposes of the EU funded AQEM project (» www.aqem.de), which aimed at the development and testing of an integrated assessment system for the ecological quality of rivers throughout Europe using benthic macro-invertebrates. The eight project member countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden) developed a multimetric assessment system for different stream types, which is applicable through a computer software (ASTERICS assessment software, to be downloaded at » www.aqem.de). As the assessment system requires ecological information on the taxa it was essential to gather information on both, taxa occurrence within the partner countries and ecological information on these taxa for a consistent and reliable database. The following steps were performed:
- Selection of experts for the individual taxagroups: acknowledged and approved national and European experts were selected for checking the taxalist regarding species validity, species nomenclature and synonymy (see » Experts/Taxonomic experts).
- Selection of responsible persons for the national checklists: from each partner country one person was selected responsible for gathering the national distribution data of the species; in cases of restricted information availability, only operational taxalists were integrated into the database (see » Experts/Country checklist experts).
- Compiling the database: the data were compiled into a MS Access database, using the proofed structure of the Austrian computer software ECOPROF (» www.ecoprof.at).
- Compiling the autecological information: as a first base ecological classifications from the Fauna Aquatica Austriaca, the Bavarian List and other national existing lists were used; these classifications were amended by some ecological classifications for selected species by project partners and experts.
- The autecological data were number coded using a 10 point, a single category or a presence/absence assignment system (depending on the ecological parameter). For furhter information about the coding systems see » Abbreviations.
In the succeeding EU funded STAR project (» www.eu-star.at) that aimed for the standardisation of river classifications, the AQEM macro-invertebrate taxa and autecology database was extended with national checklists from Denmark, France, Great Britain, Latvia, Poland and Slovakia. Furthermore, additional ecological parameters were included.
The database was then further improved within the EU funded project Euro-limpacs (» www.eurolimpacs.ucl.ac.uk), which dealt with the evaluation of impacts of Climate Change on European freshwater ecosystems. The focus of the database work during Euro-limpacs was to compile information on parameters, which are of relevance for assessing the impact of climate change on freshwater inhabiting organisms. These cover data on ecoregional distribution (e.g., taxa in high mountain areas may be particularly sensitive), life cycle parameters (e.g., increased water temperature may particularly effect species hatching in spring), temperature preferences or current preferences (e.g., current resistance might be important, if discharge patterns will change in future). Steps within Euro-limpacs:
- Extension of the national checklists for macro-invertebrates: for the countries Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Norway, Romania, Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine specific taxagroups were added.
- Ecological parameters: parameters that might be sensitive to direct or indirect impacts of climate change were added to the database. This information was compiled for selected invertebrate groups: Trichoptera (caddisflies), Plecoptera (stoneflies), Ephemeroptera (mayflies) and Chironomidae (non-biting midges).
- Fish data: country and catchment distribution of fish as well as ecological parameters orginating from the FAME (» http://fame.boku.ac.at) and EFI+ (» http://efi-plus.boku.ac.at) projects were added.
- Diatom data: taxa names originating from OMNIDIA, as well as ecological parameters from different sources were added.
After that the database was mainly powered by the EU funded project WISER (» www.wiser.eu): To achieve recent European policy targets WISER has developed tools for integrated assessment of the ecological status of European surface waters (rivers, lakes, marine ecosystems) with different biological quality elements (fish, macro-invertebrates, macropyhtes, phytoplankton). Macrophyte and phytobenthos taxalists, both originating from the EU funded Rebecca project (» www.rbm-toolbox.net/rebecca) as well as ecological information regarding these two groups were added and complemented. Further, two different tools were developed:
- The Taxa Entry Tool - TET to enable creating standardised taxalists throughout Europe for all the organism groups. The Taxa Entry Tool is available via the menu (» Taxa Entry Tool).
- The Taxa Validation Tool - TVT to enable validation of taxalists for all the organism groups. The tool also includes an export function for ecological parameters. The Taxa Validation Tool is available via the menu (» Taxa Validation Tool).
During recent years two other EU funded projects, REFRESH (» www.refresh.ucl.ac.uk) and BioFresh (» www.freshwaterbiodiversity.eu) were the main money sources to keep the database alive. During these projects ecological data on Odonata were collected and information on several existing organism groups was extended. To easily get an overview which ecological information is avialable for which organism group we added an information-icon for each parameter and an additonal content overview page (» Content overview).
With version 7 we offer to access another important trait database established by Henri Tachet (Tachet H., Bournaud M., Richoux P. & Usseglio-Polatera P. (2010): Invertébrés d'eau douce - systématique, biologie, écologie. CNRS Editions, Paris, 600 p.) through freshwaterecology.info.
Current developments and future activities
Currently the maintainance of the database is supported through the MARS project (» www.mars-project.eu). Freshwaterecology.info is a member of the Freshwater Information Platform (» www.freshwaterplatform.eu).Future amendments of freshwaterecology.info will include:
- provision of ecological parameters for Odonata
- review of the ecological parameters for fish
- integration of new research results like temperature affinity and dispersal capacity of macro-invertebrates
- harvesting of the IUCN Red List status for selected taxagroups
- linking with the Freshwater Biodiversity Data portal and FADA (Freshwater Animal Diversity Assessment)
- linking with Encyclopedia of Life
Access and citation
At present, there are two levels of accesss for freshwaterecology.info:
- without login: for the different taxagroups the taxalists (including distribution of taxa in European countries, if available) can be queried. Additionally the » Taxa Entry Tool (TET) can be used.
- with login: all available ecological parameters can be queried. Additionally the » Taxa Validation Tool (TVT) with parameter export function can be used.