The SUMHAL project, Sustainability for Mediterraean Hospost integrating LifeWatch ERIC, is part of the ERDF programme of actions related to the pan-European distributed e-Science infrastructure LifeWatch ERIC, with headquarters in Andalusia-Spain.
Its main objective is to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity in natural or semi-natural systems in the western Mediterranean, based on high-tech infrastructures, and the association between highly specialised research personnel and the public.
It also seeks to establish a technologically efficient and scientifically robust system that combines field work, virtual research environments (VREs) for the recording, storage, analysis and dissemination of the conservation status and threats of Andalusian biodiversity and the most frequent ecosystems, offering virtual tools, not only to researchers, but also to society and conservation agencies, for the assessment of the current situation after considering the past, making informed decisions and taking adaptive management actions, in order to reduce future vulnerability and the loss of natural heritage.
The centres and institutes involved in this project are the Doñana Biological Station, the Institute of Microelectronics of Seville, the Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology of Seville, the Zaidín Experimental Station, the Institute of Earth Sciences and the Experimental Station of Arid Zones.
This scientific project is structured around nine work packages (WP). Of these nine work packages, seven are so-called “Challenge Work Packages” focusing on selected aspects of biodiversity and environment in Andalusia, addressing specific scientific and societal issues, and exploring together different dimensions and approaches to provide a composite picture of how science can support good decision-making for a sustainable future. The remaining two work packages are the “Cross-cutting Work Packages”, which provide coordination, coherence, connection and infrastructure; both internally (within the project) and externally (with Lifewatch ERIC and other related initiatives).
Since natural systems are extremely complex and need deep specialisation and innovative methodologies and large facilities, this European project offers the opportunity to pool its staff, facilities and expertise to cover and integrate a wide variety of case studies, methodological approaches and spatial and temporal scales.
The fact that Andalusia is a clear example of the situation of natural systems in the SW Mediterranean Basin gives it the possibility to be used as an important case study, very different from the dominant Central European regions.
The degradation, loss and fragmentation of typical Mediterranean landscapes and habitats, where drought is one of the main threats, and a multitude of endemic species living in small populations, as well as alien species that disrupt the balance of natural systems, make it urgent to develop a science-based conservation strategy targeting the particular human-dominated landscapes typical of Mediterranean regions. The development of a strategy for the preservation of biodiversity and the sustainable management of highly heterogeneous and fragile natural systems involves both a “conservation assessment” and a “threat assessment”. Such a strategy will not be fully developed without the participation (assistance and education) of citizens. Societies need to develop easy and inclusive systems to engage citizens in routine science and provide rigorous information to interact with administrators and policy makers.
The integration of available data sources together with newly collected data can help address global challenges related to biodiversity conservation.