An organized overview of all multicellular flora and fauna in the Netherlands and the infrastructure to identify them semi-automatically. This is what the ARISE megaproject wants to achieve in five to ten years’ time. The Dutch Research Council (NWO), Naturalis Biodiversity Center, the University of Amsterdam, the University of Twente and the Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute are investing a combined total of over 18 million euros. Koos Biesmeijer, leader of the consortium, is very pleased: 'ARISE will give a big boost to our understanding of food webs and ecosystems and in the status and trends of our biodiversity'.
The ARISE project aims to construct an infrastructure, the only one of its kind in the world, in order to identify and monitor every species of multicellular flora and fauna in the Netherlands. This infrastructure will combine information from eDNA, visual/audio recognition and radar data to yield a comprehensive picture of the country's biodiversity. The international community is following the project with great interest as well.
The ARISE project may prove highly valuable as a means to supply policymakers, water authorities, provinces and other stakeholders with more reliable input in the field of biodiversity.
Edwin van Huis, General manager of Naturalis Biodiversity Center, views this as an important step. 'The loss of biodiversity is one of the chief threats to humanity's survival. For this reason, we urgently need better instruments for species identification and for monitoring biodiversity. Because only if we know what is, we can make an effort to preserve it.'
According to Annemarie van Wezel, scientific director of the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED/UvA), ARISE will lay the foundation for a new era of systematic ecological research into biodiversity. 'Together with scientific partners, we will be demonstrating the added value of this infrastructure at demo sites. We'll be able to better understand patterns of biodiversity and changes in those patterns, which in turn will help us improve efforts to manage that biodiversity.'
Joost Kok, dean at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Twente, is enthusiastic about the unprecedented opportunities this project offers. 'The proposed infrastructure brings together many new insights in the fields of artificial intelligence and data science. This wouldn't have been feasible even ten years ago.' Pedro Crous, director of the Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute, adds: 'ARISE will make it possible for researchers to identify every species they come across, even if it's one that was previously undiscovered.'
The Netherlands has long had a leading role in international collaborative partnerships relating to species identification and biodiversity. Because ARISE integrates a variety of techniques, the project is extremely advanced and the only one of its kind in the world. The ARISE project will make it possible to identify species quickly and semi-automatically based on the reference collections of Naturalis and the Westerdijk Institute. The University of Amsterdam is supplying expertise with regard to how ecosystems function and the University of Twente is contributing knowledge of state-of-the-art data science and artificial intelligence. Each of these parties was already exploring the use of sensors, eDNA, image recognition, radar, audio and data science for the purpose of species identification.
This integrated infrastructure and facility will provide Dutch researchers, nature conservation organizations, government bodies and the business community with access to the most advanced near-real-time identification service for monitoring biodiversity and species detection. This, in turn, will yield new opportunities for understanding how ecosystems function, identifying trends and better integrating attention to biodiversity into solutions for major societal challenges such as the circular economy, nature-inclusive cities and the agricultural cycle.