It’s hard work keeping count in Norway. Especially when it comes to species.
When you hear the word ‘species’, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? A bird? A lion? A wolf?
Many people consider species to be a group of organisms that can breed and produce fertile offspring. This means that donkeys and horses are species, while mules on the other hand are not. The dog is a single species, but exists as many different breeds. E. coli is a single species, but comes in many strains (most of them are actually harmless). Even though there are 7 billion human beings on this planet, we are but just one species.
So just how many species are out there? In short: nobody really knows. The number is said to range between 3 and 100 million, but how can we make a guess on something we don’t know? New species are still being classified today and this rate of discovery does not appear to be slowing down.
In Norway, the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre (or Species Data Bank, translated from Norwegian artsdatabanken) contains information on species observations across the country, as well as documentation on red listed and introduced species. Over 44,000 different species have been observed in Norway and almost 2 million individual records have been registered on this service.
Searching for the Atlantic puffin, for example, tells us there are 8,234 records, with each observation containing additional information such date and location. This sort of data can tell us if puffin distribution has changed over the past few decades, or whether other factors such as climate or human activity might be influencing where they choose to nest in spring. The Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre will prove to be an asset if we are to better understand how to take care of our 3 to 100 million species that inhabit this planet, whether it be a bird, lion or wolf! It just comes to show that hard work really does pays off.