NA2RE Project: The New Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe

(by Neftalí Sillero>

A precise knowledge of the spatial distribution of taxa is essential for decision-making processes in land management and biodiversity conservation, both for present and under future global change scenarios. This is a key base for several scientific disciplines (e.g. macro-ecology, biogeography, evolutionary biology, spatial planning, or environmental impact assessment) that rely on species distribution maps. The Societas Europaea Herpetologica (SEH) published in 1997 the first atlas of European amphibians and reptiles with 50×50 km resolution maps and ca. 85,000 grid records. Since then, more detailed species distribution maps covering large parts of Europe became available, while taxonomic progress has led to a plethora of taxonomic changes including new species descriptions.

For these reasons, the SEH decided in 2006 through its Mapping Committee to implement the New Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe (NA2RE: http://na2re.ismai.pt) as a chorological database system. Initially designed to be a system of distributed databases, NA2RE quickly evolved to a Spatial Data Infrastructure, a system of geographically distributed systems. Each individual system has a national focus and is implemented in an online network, accessible through standard interfaces, thus allowing for interoperable communication and sharing of spatial-temporal data amongst one another. A Web interface facilitates the access of the user to all participating data systems as if it were one single virtual integrated data-source. Upon user request, the Web interface searches all distributed data-sources for the requested data, integrating the answers in an always updated and interactive map. This infrastructure implements methods for fast actualisation of national observation records, as well as for the use of a common taxonomy and systematics. Using this approach, data duplication is avoided, national systems are maintained in their own countries, and national organisations are responsible for their own data curation and management. The database could be built with different representation levels and resolution levels of data, and filtered according to species conservation matters. This system is implemented using only open source software: PostgreSQL database with PostGIS extension, Geoserver, and OpenLayers.

The NA2RE system uses the data compiled by the Mapping Committee of the SEH until 2013. We used different data sources: published in books and websites, ongoing national atlases, personal data kindly provided to the SEH, the 1997 European Atlas, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Databases were homogenised, deleting all information except species names and coordinates, projected to the same coordinate system (WGS84) and transformed into a 50×50 km grid. The newly compiled database comprises more than 384,000 grid and locality records distributed across 40 countries. We calculated species richness maps as well as maps of Corrected Weighted Endemism and species distribution types (i.e. groups of species with similar distribution patterns) by hierarchical cluster analysis using Jaccard’s index as association measure. We also identify taxonomic and geographic gaps of knowledge that need to be filled, and we highlight the need to add temporal and altitudinal data for all records, to allow tracking potential species distribution changes as well as detailed modelling of the impacts of land use and climate change on European amphibians and reptiles.

Congress Collaborators

  • Emanuele Fasola
  • Sara Costa
  • Bárbara Santos
  • Isabel Damas
  • Inês Bulhosa
  • Iolanda Rocha
  • Ariana Moutinho
  • Cátia Venâncio
  • Nuno Costa
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