Got or want data? Check out the new database on intermittent river biodiversity

By Catherine Leigh

And it’s not just your average database. The Intermittent River Biodiversity Analysis and Synthesis (IRBAS) database is the first of its kind made specifically to store and provide access to biodiversity and environmental data collected from intermittent rivers all over the world. And guess what, it’s free!

Photo: Intermittent rivers come in all shapes and sizes and are found all over the world. They support a diverse range of life forms, from aquatic to terrestrial, microscopic to mega, and are important environmentally, economically, socially and culturally. This one in southeast Queensland, Australia, only flows when it rains. Credit: C. Leigh.

Why is this such big news?

Well, not all rivers and streams flow all year round. In fact, most rivers don’t.

Yet these intermittent rivers and the many and varied forms of life that inhabit them are among the most understudied and underprotected in the world.

This is a major problem given we are putting our water resources under ever increasing pressure and the biodiversity of fresh waters is in crisis.

But as we saw in my last blog there is hope. Knowledge about the biodiversity and ecology of intermittent rivers and their biodiversity is growing. Fast.

The problem though, is the data are scattered across the world, here, there and everywhere. You might even have some yourself!

Making use of this scattered data is tricky unless something like the IRBAS database comes along to gather it all together and make it accessible.

In the era of big data, the need for data collation, synthesis, and access to facilitate scientific networking, discovery, and innovation is more important than ever

So how do you access the IRBAS database?

Figure: A quick guide to contributing and accessing data from the IRBAS database. This figure appeared in Leigh, Laporte, Bonada, Fritz, Pella, Sauquet, Tockner and Datry, “IRBAS: An online database to collate, analyze, and synthesize data on the biodiversity and ecology of intermittent rivers worldwide” Ecology and Evolution, doi:10.1002/ece3.2679.

A new open access article (yes, it’s free too!) published in Ecology and Evolution by myself and a team of colleagues from around the world explains step by step how to contribute and extract data.

Contributing data, and providing data in the standardized formats generated by the IRBAS database, not only increases data visibility but also useability

The IRBAS database collates the contributed data into standardized formats and makes them freely available to users. It currently houses over 2000 data samples collected from six countries across three continents, mainly on aquatic invertebrates from flowing intermittent rivers. So there is much room for it to expand, and as the study of intermittent rivers continues this will happen.

In the meantime, you can help this process right now.



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