LifeWatch was established as part of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructure (ESFRI) and can be seen as a virtual laboratory for biodiversity research.
The concept behind LifeWatch was developed in the 1990s and early 2000s, with the support of EU Networks of Excellence related to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
This - amongst others - included the MarBEF project, which was the driving project behind the creation
of the European Register of Marine Species (ERMS) - the predecessor of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS).
Belgium contributes to LifeWatch with varied and complementary "in-kind" contributions. These are implemented under the form of long lasting projects
by different research centers and universities spread over the country and supported by each respective political authority. Within LifeWatch,
the Flanders Marine Institute - host of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) - has taken on the responsibility to develop the
LifeWatch Species Information Backbone.
The mission of LifeWatch is to advance biodiversity research and to provide major contributions to address the big environmental challenges,
such as knowledge-based solutions to environmental managers in the framework of preservation or dealing with long-standing ecological questions
that could so far not be addressed due to a lack of data or - more importantly - a lack of good and easy access to data.
The LifeWatch mission is being achieved by giving access to data and information through a single infrastructure which (virtually) brings together
a large range and variety of datasets, services and tools. Scientists can use these tools and services to construct so-called Virtual Research Environments (VREs),
where they are able to address specific questions related to biodiversity research, including e.g. topics related to preservation.
The construction and operation of the LifeWatch e-infrastructure is revolutionizing the way scientists can do biodiversity research.
They are not only offered an environment with unlimited computer and data storing capacity, but there is also transparency at all stages of their research process
and the generic application of the e-infrastructure open the door towards more inter- and multidisciplinary research.
LifeWatch Species Information Backbone
The Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) is responsible for the set-up of the LifeWatch Species Information Backbone,
as a central part of the European LifeWatch Infrastructure.
The backbone aims to (virtually) bring together different component databases and data systems, all of them related to taxonomy, biogeography, ecology, genetics and literature.
By doing so, the backbone standardises species data and integrates biodiversity data from different repositories and operating facilities and is the driving force behind the species information services
of the Belgian LifeWatch.be e-Lab and the Marine Virtual Research Environment (Marine-VRE) that are being developed.