The loss of biodiversity is one of the main threats to humanity's survival. But only if we know what is there, we can make an effort to preserve it. For this reason, we urgently need better instruments for species identification and for monitoring biodiversity. The ARISE project aims to construct an infrastructure for doing exactly this, for every species in the Netherlands (eukaryotic species only - for now). This infrastructure will be the first of its kind, and combine information from eDNA, AI-based recognition of both images, audio, and radar data, generated in new and existing monitoring programs, to yield a comprehensive picture of the country's biodiversity. It will also bring together many new insights in the fields of artificial intelligence and data science.
This integrated infrastructure and facility will provide Dutch researchers, nature conservation organizations, policy makers, industry, regional water authorities, infrastructure developers, and many more with access to the most advanced near-real-time identification service for species detection and monitoring biodiversity. This, in turn, will yield new opportunities for understanding how ecosystems function. It will identify trends, and ensure that biodiversity recovery receives the necessary attention in solutions for major societal transitions such as towards nature-inclusive cities and agriculture.
That sounds good! I want this!
So, what will the infrastructure look like?
ARISE will create a solution for rapid species detection. Any type of sample - be it a single specimen, an image, a sample of environmental DNA or a sound recording - the infrastructure will tell us which species are present. Such an infrastructure does not currently exist anywhere, and we trust that ARISE will be an example for many similar infrastructures all over the world.
The primary component is the Dutch Species Reference Database. For every (multicellular) species, it will contain validated genetic information, taxonomic information, data on the geographical distribution and literature. If available, it will also feature images and audio recordings. The Netherlands have a wide network of partly volunteer-run biology associations, who can play a large role in gathering field data and samples. Combined with the taxonomic knowledge and collection data from Naturalis and the Westerdijk Institute, this dataset will be the core of the national species identification platform. A new sequencing facility for both specimen and environmental DNA will be an essential part of this platform as well.
A Species Identification Service will align new data with the data already in the Reference Database. International databases will be used automatically as well, where possible. Continuous input of new data, as well as validation by top scientists will make the AI’s ability to identify species better and better.
In order to get to a complete database, based on reference material from roughly 300.000 specimens, ARISE will also include a Biobank, where we will keep samples, and information on reference specimens.
A special ICT-layer called the Biocloud will couple these different aspects of the infrastructure, and make using it easier and more relevant for end users in both the scientific world and those working in sustainable nature management.
Data flow in the ARISE infrastructure
Each of the partners in the ARISE Consortium has its own role. Naturalis Biodiversity Center will house the sequencing facility. It provides expert knowledge on plant and animal diversity, and its experience in using AI to recognize it. Naturalis’ scientific director prof. dr. Koos Biesmeijer is the lead researcher of the ARISE project.
The University of Amsterdam Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics will supply expertise with regard to ecosystems functioning, and demonstrate the added value of this infrastructure at demo sites.
The University of Twente contributes knowledge of artificial intelligence for species determination, and knowledge of state-of-the-art data science for building the Biocloud.
The Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute has an impressive and high-quality collection of living fungi and related metadata, and expertise on fungi that are invaluable in the Dutch Species Reference Database.