SciLifeLab join European effort to map and conserve biodiversity
A collection of top European scientists are planning to use DNA data to tackle the ongoing biodiversity crisis. As Biodiversity Genomics Europe (BGE) partners, SciLifeLab and Uppsala University researchers will participate in a large EU-funded project that involves using genomic methods to study the human impact on biodiversity.
As of today, the newly formed consortium (BGE) begins its pioneering work in applying genomic research, which has already revolutionized human medicine, to conservation biology and biodiversity research.
One in four existing species is threatened with extinction, with serious impacts on water, food supplies, ecological cycles, and as a result, the very foundations for human life.
Despite this, we lack important knowledge about how life on earth is connected, which makes the consequences incalculable. Genomics gives us tools to access that knowledge, and BGE will represent a quantum leap forward for research across the continent.
“SciLifeLab and its sequencing and bioinformatics platforms have become a central part of Swedish research in recent years. Through BGE, we will be able to convey our knowledge to the rest of Europe and form a long-term collaborative network. This will enable us to consolidate our leading position in international genomics research,” explains SciLifeLab scientific lead in Planetary Biology Olga Vinnere Pettersson, leader of one of BGE’s subprojects.
Mapping the unknown
BGE estimates that 80 percent of the earth’s species remain to be described. The picture is complicated by unknown species interactions, which in turn affects the known species, leading to an incredibly complex web with implications all the way up to a planetary level.
“We are responsible for one of the sub-studies that show the societal benefits of this project,” says SciLifeLab researcher Leif Andersson (UU). “We will carry out a detailed genetic mapping of different populations of mackerel and coal mule (also called blue whiting) where the long-term goal is to contribute knowledge that can be used for sustainable fishing of these species”.
The consortium believes that genomics may represent our best hope to understand these interactions and their consequences, before it is too late. By bringing together European excellence in two critical areas – genome sequencing and DNA barcoding – BGE will facilitate the spread of these methods across Europe.
The BGE and their partners have two main goals, the first is to map European species diversity with genetic methods (so-called barcoding), and the second part is to sequence entire genomes from as many European species as possible.
There are researchers from Sweden participating in both these projects, with prominent roles played by SciLifeLab and Uppsala University in the production and practical application of reference genomes in nature conservation research.
“It is not enough to just map diversity and sequence reference genomes. Knowledge must also be put into practice. We at Uppsala University are involved both in sequencing high-quality genomes, but also in developing methods and working methods to use the knowledge in practical nature conservation”, says scientific co-lead for planetary biology at SciLifeLab, Jacob Höglund.
Read more about the initiative in the press release from Uppsala University.
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