One of the main objectives proposed by the European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy (EDIT) in 2006 was to establish an international network formed by scientific institutions and individual experts with the task of making taxonomy (the science of describing and classifying living organisms) more accessible and applicable to many scientific disciplines that depends on it.
In this sense, EDIT plays a key role in bringing reality from an isolated time and often hidden from public view, to science museums and botanical gardens, and make taxonomy more accessible to everyone (experienced or not).
The EDIT’s effort has resulted in a large involvement of the scientific community in the implementation of the Biodiversity Inventory (All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory), which is the main application for discovering taxonomy in this territory. The taxonomy, in fact, is the basis for all other sciences because it allows you to give a name to every living thing, thus becoming crucial to the management of biodiversity, public health, agriculture and many other aspects of social life.
From the EDIT and the contribution of the Piano Integrato Transfrontaliero (PIT) , more than 350 researchers have contributed to a better understanding of the Maritime-Mercantour cross-border territory, doing field work, and collaborating to identify species in their laboratories.
The experts come from 20 countries: professional taxonomists, thesis writers and collaborators from Denmark, Spain, Austria, but mainly from France (37%), Italy (25%), and Germany (12%). Most of them are affiliated with academic institutions (Table 1), while 11% are self-employed or retired taxonomists who still want to research.
Several researchers have worked in groups to join forces and investigate large portions of the territory, including collaborating across borders and a number of taxonomists and academics have conducted their investigations with the collaboration of talented MSc and PhD students.
The many expert taxonomists and ecologists have provided data on hundreds of new species for the Maritime Mercantour territory, enriching the Biology Inventory especially with regards to historically poorly studied taxonomic groups (such as spiders, mosses, lichens and many insect families) and for areas where the first parks had very little information.
The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory has not only presented an opportunity to increase knowledge about the species present in the border region, but also acts as a fundamental starting point to understand the functioning of ecosystems and their conservation status, following climate change and land use due to human activities (tourism use, agro-forestry-pastoral exploitation of resources for energy purposes).
Some testimonies of those involved with the Biodiversity Inventory... researchers
I work as research fellow at the Life Sciences and Systems Biology Department of the University of Turin. In the framework of the ATBI project I studied diatom communities colonizing some of the most important aquatic ecosystems in the Marittime Natural Park. In particular I analysed benthic diatom communities inhabiting rivers, springs and peat bogs with a focus on species which live attached to aquatic flora or on rocky surfaces. The research provided a checklist of diatom taxa colonizing the investigated aquatic ecosystems, pointing out the presence of rare and endangered species and providing information on their ecology.
Marco Isaia, Università degli Studi di Torino, Italia
Marco Isaia worked in the ATBI as leader of the Arachnology group, based at Turin University. He and his research team carried out more than 150 surveys in the Park of Alpi Marittime, working in most of all of the habitats of the Park, from caves to pasturelands, to high altitude rocky lands. Researches focused both on specific ecological (effects of anthropic activities on biodiversity) and faunistical aims (nearly 300 species recorded, including several species new to science). Researches are still in progress, especially concerning the completion of the Park spider check-list and ecological studies on the impact of global change on Alpine arthropod communities.
I work to carry out the inventory of macrophytes (aquatic plants visible to the naked eye) in surface water environments (rivers, lakes, and small wetlands) in the PArc National du Mercantour. The aquatic vegetation reflects the physical-chemical characteristics of the water and environmental conditions, as well as their time variations. They are, therefore, an excellent biological indicator to characterize and describe how aquatic environments work. They are also complementary to other biolgocial indicators such as aquatic invertebrates, amphibians or fish.
I work with caterpillars that live and feed at ground level that are well-represented in the Mediterranean region. I was able to collect several specimens of several species, one species of which: Idaea ochrata is relatively common in the Maritime Alps, now that I have larval material from Italy I can make comparisons with the Spanish subspecies: I. o. albida, this might mean that it is actually a species in its own right.
Cees van Achterberg, Leiden Museum, Olanda.
As a specialist of hymenopterous parasitoids I was very interested to see how an area as Alpi Marittime N.P. with a high amount of endemic taxa differs from similar habitats in the Balkans, which I mainly study. Participation in the ATBI project showed me that Alpi Marittime N.P. is exceptionally rich in Hymenoptera in general and has several peculiar taxa of parasitoid Hymenoptera. It is much richer than comparable areas, e.g. Mt. Durmitor N.P. in Montenegro.
Gianfranco Liberti, specialista (Coleotteri: Cantharidae, Malachiidae e Dasytidae)
...as I get older, time becomes increasingly more scarce to me: I do not if I am an antelope or a lion, but I know that I have to run. However, year after year, I dream of spending a little time in the Alps of Cuneo and Imperia. I was glad when the Park inspired me to contribute to the study of its biodiversity: I had such a great reason to come back. But, decades that I have spent on the Maritime Alps have passed: let’s hope that I can think of another good “excuse” to continue to return to them!.
The form the working group specialized in micro-algae, with Alain Couté studying the subject for over 40 years. He explores the world in search of new species that colonize, among others, extreme environments, in order to increase the knowledge of the biological world. For two years, he has worked on the inventory of microscopic algae in the Parc du Mercantour. The first results concentrate solely on the Roya Valley, concerning 182 species, with a dominance of blue-green algae. The researches have as an objective the exploration of all the valleys in the Park, in order to obtain an overall picture of algal biodiversity.
Nicolas Van Vooren, Associazione Ascomycete.org, Francia
A passionate mycologist, over the years I have specialized in the study of Ascomycetes and, in particular, Pezizlaes and Helotiales. Through the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, I was involved in the ATBI project to organize an inventory of the Ascomycetes in the Parc du Mercantour. I established a small team of specialists in June 2010 from various groups for a search campaign in Colmar-les-Alpes This missions has allowed us to highlight the potential of the park in the mycological scope for this group of Ascomycetes, even if there is still fragmented knowledge due to the operations short duration.
Marianne Meyer, Société Mycologique de France
Our participation as Société Mycologique de France with the inventory has been the addition of the myzomycetes (mucilaginous funghi of which little is known to date) in the Parc du Mercantour, has focused on the species associated with snowy environments. Our team looked at several sites that had natural habitats at various altitudes. While it is not an exhaustive list because it will take several years and carrying out surveys at different times of the year needs to be possible, the research has been extremely fruitful and reported at least 80 species, many of which are rare.