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Pflanzenbibliothek (Foto: Hansjörg Küster)

The World Biodiversity Council estimates that almost one million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction. Precise statistics are lacking, so the situation could be even worse. The L3S is involved in a project that aims to improve the data basis by evaluating articles in scientific journals. For "Digispezies: Digitisation of records of the occurrence of plant and animal species to document the extent of biodiversity loss", Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH) has now received a grant of 785,800 euros from the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture. The funding comes from the "Niedersächsisches Vorab" of the Volkswagen Foundation.

The project works on an interdisciplinary basis: Besides Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Nejdl (L3S) and Prof. Dr. Sören Auer (L3S and TIB Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology), Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Küster (Institute of Geobotany) is one of the applicants. The Institute of Geobotany of LUH houses one of the world's largest historical collections of species occurrences since the 19th century, including the extensive collection of evidence of occurrence from the estate of the German botanist and plant sociologist Reinhold Tüxen. This includes around 100,000 printed articles with millions of data points on plant distribution, mainly from Lower Saxony and neighbouring areas.

The project team wants to digitise such scientific articles and extract tables documenting plant species' occurrence at different places and at different times. These data sets can then be combined with other data sets provided, for example, by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation on the distribution of species. "Extracting and interpreting the diversity of tables contained in such articles is a major challenge. Also, the geobotanical vocabulary, which has changed over the years, needs to be compared," explains Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Nejdl from L3S. The extracted data should be made available as knowledge graphs for further research. "In this way, we are making an important contribution to the conservation of biodiversity in Lower Saxony and Germany," says Nejdl.