In three years, information about the species in Sweden will be available free of charge on a single Internet portal called Life Watch, announced the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) who are supporting a $6 million (SEK 45 million) project to distribute facts about the nation's biodiversity.

Besides access to data, scientists, analysts, agencies and interested individuals, can obtain species information in the form of maps, charts and models. The council has granted $4.9 million (SEK 36 million) to ArtDatabanken at the Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU) that will be complemented with about $1.35 million (SEK 10 million) apiece from Umeå, Lund and Göteborg Universities, the Swedish Museum of Natural History, the Swedish Meteorological Institute (SMHI) and the Swedish Board of Fisheries (Fiskeriverket) to implement the project.

"As examples, with a few keystrokes, one will be able to determine whether a species has decreased or increased, what happens if the climate or water quality changes, or what environmental factors are most important for forest species in Bengal," said Ulf Gärdenfors, Professor at ArtDatabanken and the initiator and leader of the project.

Researchers will be able to perform advanced analyses and create models using free computer tools without first having to put great efforts into compiling and reformatting data from different sources. In future additions, data about genes and habitats will also be online.

"Life Watch, which will have units in each country, is part of a planned pan-European distributed research infrastructure for biodiversity and the environment. The Swedish part is the the first in Europe to be granted funding, and we expect to comprise an important backbone for the entire European configuration," explained Lars Börjesson, Secretary General of the research infrastructure at the Swedish Research Council.

"This major IT infrastructure construction will offer unique opportunities for research on biodiversity and environmental relationships," foresees Lisa Sennerby Forsse, dean of SLU.