We are in a completely normal Swedish coniferous forest, and that is the important point. This is just a small part of a global project that is expected to discover thousands of new species.
– We try to understand the forces that shape life. 80 percent of all species are still unknown, says Tomas Roslin, professor at the Swedish Agricultural University.
Already in a preliminary study, researchers have discovered twice as many species of mushrooms as previously known. Today, more than 500 people are mapping nearly 200 areas of Earth in great detail – from Greenland in the north to Antarctica in the south. Climate change and numerous endangered species are determining factors.
– The spread of life and living conditions change. What if we don't understand the relationship between climate and where different species are found; How then can we understand what happens when we change everything?
Only permits have taken two years
It took two years to obtain authorizations in all countries for thousands of cameras, microphones, spore and insect sensors. Now you empty the memory cards every week and collect genetic samples of the life you find.
There will be enormous amounts of data that can only be DNA sequenced and systematically interpreted using new methods and artificial intelligence. They are therefore also more computer engineers than ecologists.
– So far we have recorded 1 billion minutes of sound and are currently developing AI methods to identify all birds. And instead of sorting each insect, we send everything to a laboratory where they sequence all the DNA at the same time. This alone saves us 100,000 hours of work.
For at least six years, life will be mapped, but researchers are already seeing surprising trends. Areas located in completely different locations. but with a similar climate, its species composition is approximately the same, which is important for the future. And there are other benefits to this giant project, says one of the teams from species-rich Madagascar visiting the coniferous forest.
– In Madagascar, many natural areas are threatened with devastation, but paying attention to the new species we find can protect important ecosystems for the future, believes Tsiry Igkwandwa.
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