Because the correct use of names is essential for biodiversity management, the availability of taxonomically validated standardised nomenclators (name databases) is fundamental for data infrastructures. A range of initiatives has been taken within the European Research Area (ERA) to develop information systems assembling and integrating biological species information for various purposes. Among these is SpeciesBase, attempting to provide accumulated species data sets in one web interface, as the European contribution to the Global Species Information Systems (GSIS). The Life Watch initiative will monitor Europe's biodiversity by bringing together observational and collection data in a single research system. Species2000 prepares comprehensive catalogues of species names by incorporating the results of an array of autonomous federated taxonomic databases. A prerequisite of these initiatives is the support of scientists and infrastructures that provide standardised and authoritative taxonomic information. PESI will coordinate the delivery of this information through the inter-operation of the existing data infrastructures and networks of experts.
PESI is the next step in integrating and securing taxonomically authoritative species name registers that underpin the management of biodiversity in Europe. PESI will integrate the three main all-taxon registers in Europe, namely the European Register of Marine Species, Fauna Europaea, and Euro+Med PlantBase in coordination with EU based nomenclators and the network of EU based Global Species Databases . It is a standards based, quality controlled, expert validated, open-access infrastructure for research, education, and data and resource management. The activities of PESI are organised in five themes:
- International cooperation: A crucial part of this project will be the involvement of the expert community to work collaboratively on the PESI tasks following common work formats accepted for the integrated European taxonomic workforce in the European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy (EDIT). The development of national and regional focal point networks assures the efficient access to local expertise. PESI also makes a start with the geographic expansion of the European networks to eventually cover the entire Palaearctic biogeographic region. As an important first step, the cooperation is intensified with partners from Turkey, Georgia, Ukraine and Russia.
- Pooling resources: PESI integrates four major European taxonomic networks and their respective knowledge infrastructures, namely those of marine life, terrestrial plants, fungi and animals. The intensified cooperation within and among taxonomic expert networks results in an upgrade of the content and functionalities of important existing taxonomic information systems.
- Standardisation: PESI will develop highly scrutinised taxonomic metadata standards by working along several lines, including a) methodological upgrading of the established pan-European checklists, b) the validation of the taxonomic data according to appropriate criteria, c) cross-reviewing against additional global and local resources and d) ensuring the commitment of international taxonomic societies to take responsibility for pertinent data files. Incorporation of European taxonomic metadata standards in the global and European taxonomic e-infrastructures will follow the running initiatives for the creation of a Global Names Architecture for the efficient and unambiguous cross-referencing of taxon names, the progress on a joint Internet Platform for Cybertaxonomy within EDIT and the set up of a virtual workbench for web-based taxonomy. PESI will look after the participation of nomenclators, which are recognised as cornerstones of these developments.
- Sustainability: The long-term maintenance of the taxonomic knowledge infrastructures is a major concern. The Society for the Management of Electronic Biodiversity Data (SMEBD) was established to develop sustainable approaches to the databases themselves, the expert networks and the intellectual property rights of electronic taxonomic resources. The PESI initiative provides the necessary impetus and resources to realise these tasks.
- Accessibility: The content of the major European taxonomic infrastructures will become accessible through a joint public web portal. Access to taxonomic information is further improved by including popular names of animals and plants and by adding sophisticated end-user services.
It is intended that PESI forms a component of a broader initiative to be known as 'EU -nomen' that will service the long-term needs of the biodiversity community in Europe on taxonomic data standards and by ensuring an integrated access to European and Palaearctic authoritative taxonomic digital resources, starting with the three main pan-European all-taxon registers.
Coordinator: Dr Yde de Jong, Zoological Museum Amsterdam