number of records:  30871
number of sequences:  23953
number of species:  3279
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         It has been argued that the effects of climatic change will first be obvious in Polar Regions, but how will we monitor impacts on biodiversity if we only have fragmentary knowledge of organismal diversity in these regions? Polar biodiversity and climate-related changes tend to be explored most often among the vertebrates (the so-called “charismatic megafauna”), but even for these animal groups, there are large gaps in our understanding of population structure, subspecies, and even species affiliations.

PolarBOL Geographic Coverage

The situation is significantly worse for the animal life that is numerically dominant in polar regions, as elsewhere around the globe: the invertebrates (e.g. Piepenburg 2005). Additionally, there are huge gaps in our knowledge of polar plant, fungi, and protist biodiversity, and there are indications that previous diversity estimates of arctic plants are too low (Grundt et al. 2006). Several reasons for this lack of knowledge can be named, but our past reliance on morphology for species identification and the recognized taxonomic impediment (as reported by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity) are major contributing factors. Indeed, even in well-studied temperate regions, biodiversity studies of invertebrates often lack species-level identifications for most taxa, making finer assessments of species distributions and biology impossible.

    As a response to these challenges under the current taxonomic impediment, an initiative to coordinate barcoding efforts in polar regions was initiated by Paul Hebert, Torbjørn Ekrem, and Elisabeth Stur in 2007. Funded by Canadian and Norwegian research councils, two PolarBOL workshops were held. These meetings resulted in the establishment of the PolarBOL as an international network of researchers and projects with the goal of providing the most efficient and accurate tool for mapping and monitoring polar biodiversity.

    The development of a comprehensive DNA barcode library for all polar organisms will permit effective large-scale biomonitoring of the polar fauna and flora for the future. Given the current climate change, a need for such action is obvious and we welcome more experts and biodiversity projects to become involved in DNA barcoding of polar life. Moreover, as more data is gathered, comparative biogeographical analyses of species with circumpolar (and other relevant) distributions will become possible.

    We realise that all prospective participants in the Polar Barcode of Life network have their own research agendas and deliverables set forth by their institutions and funding agencies. Therefore, PolarBOL aims to provide the logistics necessary for these individual research agendas to be coordinated in terms of taxonomic and geographical coverage, to enhance communication between participants in the PolarBOL network and to initiate new DNA barcoding projects in polar regions. Moreover, support in the form of free or subsidized DNA sequencing costs is available, as appropriate, due to the position of PolarBOL within the iBOL initiative.

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