Biodiversity Data Journal : Data Paper (Biosciences)
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Data Paper (Biosciences)
Digging for historical data on the occurrence of benthic macrofaunal species in the southeastern Mediterranean
expand article infoIrini Tsikopoulou, Aglaia Legaki§, Panagiotis D. Dimitriou, Evangelia Avramidou|, Nicolas Bailly, Stamatina Nikolopoulou
‡ University of Crete, Heraklion, Greece
§ University of Ahtens, Athens, Greece
| Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece
¶ Institute of Marine Biology, Biotechnology and Aquaculture, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), Heraklion, Greece
Open Access

Abstract

Background

The benthic macrofaunal biodiversity of the southeastern Mediterranean is considerably understudied compared to other Mediterranean regions. Monitoring biodiversity in this area is crucial as this region is particularly susceptible to biological invasions and temperature alteration. Historical biodiversity data could provide a useful baseline for monitoring potential changes and provide informarion to support a better understanding of the possible effects of anthropogenic activities on marine benthic communities.

New information

In this study, performed under the LifeWatchGreece Research Infrastructure, we present historical benthic occurrence data obtained from the sampling expedition carried out in 1933 by Adolf Steuer in the coastal area around Alexandria, Egypt, eastern Mediterranean. The occurrences were geo-referenced to more than 170 stations, mostly located in the area of Alexandria, and the nearby coasts and lakes. All records were digitized and species names were cross-checked and taxonomically updated using the World Register of Marine Species. The outcome clearly shows that such initiatives can reveal an unexpected amount of highly valuable biodiversity information for “data-poor” regions.

Keywords

marine biodiversity, macrofauna, Egypt expedition, eastern Mediterranean, historical dataset, data digitization, data rescue

Introduction

At the beginning of the 20th century, the importance of recording marine biodiversity was already recognized. Numerous expeditions had been organized with the aim of investigating “local fauna and flora” in various areas of the world. In 1924, Cambridge Expedition at the Suez Canal recorded the fauna of the Red Sea (Fox 1926), while Danish Oceanographical Expedition in 1908-1910 provided biological and hydrographical information for the Mediterranean and Adjacent Seas (Schmidt 1912). During these scientific expeditions, local biodiversity of various taxonomic groups was collected, recorded and the outcome was published in many scientific volumes. These historical occurrence data could provide a useful baseline for monitoring potential alterations, although they are often fragmented and found only in hard copy and grey literature. Such information is invaluable and needs to be digitized as it can provide the historical context for present observations and facilitate the process of setting correct reference conditions (Borja et al. 2012); it can also support predictive modeling of the consequences of human activities for the environment and biodiversity (Costello et al. 2013a). Additionally, historical datasets often contain descriptions of new species that are important for taxonomy as the first description of a species has legal priority for the name of this species (Costello et al. 2013b).

In this study, we present occurrence data which were digitized from 14 publications on the Egypt Expedition under the general report "The fishery grounds near Alexandria" made by Adolf Steuer and his colleagues and published between 1935-1940. Twelve of these publications included occurrence data on twelve macrofaunal groups and two of them were preliminary reports which described the sampling protocols that were followed during the expedition (Table 1). The digitization of "The fishery grounds near Alexandria" - Egypt Expedition - is a part of a broader strategy for the LifeWatchGreece Research Infrastructure, which aims at the digitization of historical datasets that contain biodiversity information from the Mediterranean region.

Taxa and related published volumes and information included in "The fishery grounds near Alexandria" dataset

Taxon name in original dataset Accepted Taxon name Volume Author Date Title Download URL
- - 8 A.Steuer 1935 I. - Preliminary report http://ipt.medobis.eu/resource?r=egyptexpeditionpreliminaryrepor
- - 9 A. Vatova 1935 II. A bottom sample taken at Alexandria http://ipt.medobis.eu/resource?r=egyptexpeditionbottomsampler
Cirripeds Cirripedia 10 H. Broch 1935 III. - Cirrepeds http://ipt.medobis.eu/resource?r=egyptexpeditioncirripeds
Hydroidea Hydrozoa 13 A. Billard 1936 VI. - Hydroidea http://ipt.medobis.eu/resource?r=egyptexpeditionhydroidea
Decapoda Decapoda 15 H. Balss 1936 VII. Decapoda http://ipt.medobis.eu/resource?r=egyptexpeditiondecapoda
Pantopoda Pantopoda 16 H. Helfer 1936 VIII. - Pantopoda http://ipt.medobis.eu/resource?r=egyptexpeditionpantopoda
Amphipoda Amphipoda 18 A. Schellenberg 1936 X. - Amphipoda Benthonica http://ipt.medobis.eu/resource?r=egyptexpeditionamphipoda
Annelides Polychetes Polychaeta 19 P. Fauvel 1937 XI. - Annelides Polychetes http://ipt.medobis.eu/resource?r=egyptexpeditionpolychaeta
Echinoderma Echinodermata 21 Th. Mortensen & Ad. Steuer 1937 XIII. - Echinoderma http://ipt.medobis.eu/resource?r=egyptexpeditionechinoderma
Cumacea, Stomatopoda, Leptostraca Cumacea, Stomatopoda, Leptostraca 26 A. Steuer 1938 XVI. Cumacea, stomatopoda, leptostraca http://ipt.medobis.eu/resource?r=egyptexpeditioncumaceastomatopodaleptostacaea
Ascidiacea Ascidiacea 28 H. Harant 1939 XVii. Ascidiacea http://ipt.medobis.eu/resource?r=egyptexpeditionascidiacea
Sipunculoidea, Phoronidea, Brachiopoda, Enteropneusta, Arcania Sipuncula, Phoronida, Brachiopoda, Enteropneusta, Arcania 30 A. Steuer 1939 XVIII. - Sipunculoidea, Phoronidea, Brachiopoda, Enteropneusta and Arcania http://ipt.medobis.eu/resource?r=egyptexpeditionsipunculoideaphoronidaebrachiopodaenteropneustaacrania
Mollusca Mollusca 33 A. Steuer 1939 XIX. - Mollusca http://ipt.medobis.eu/resource?r=egyptexpeditionmollusca
Tanaidacea, Isopoda Tanaidacea, Isopoda 35 H. J. Larwood 1940 XXI. Tanaidacea and Isopoda http://ipt.medobis.eu/resource?r=egyptexpeditiontanaidaceaisopoda

Project description

Title: 

Digitization of historical dataset - Egypt Expedition

This dataset combines the benthic macrofaunal data obtained from the floristical and faunistical survey of A. Steuer in the coasts near Alexandria in 1933. The results of this expedition were published in 38 volumes between 1934 and 1940. In this study, we present the digitized data of 14 volumes concerning macrofaunal taxa (1935-1940). In rare cases, occurrence data for planktonic species were available in these volumes and were included in the digitized datasets.

Personnel: 

The datasets were digitized by the LifeWatchGreece data management team. Irini Tsikopoulou (data manager), Stamatina Nikolopoulou (data, database and webgis application manager) and Aglaia Legaki (data manager) were the resource creators, Panagiotis D. Dimitriou (data manager) and Evangelia Avramidou (data manager) were content providers. Nicolas Bailly has checked difficult taxonomic cases.

The original data were collected by Dr. Adolf Steuer, professor at the University of Innsbruck, who organized and led the sampling expedition to the coasts near Alexandria, Egypt. After sampling, all collected specimens were preserved and sent to several experts for taxonomic identification. Each expert was responsible for the publication of his macrofaunal report.

Study area description: 

The study area of the Egypt Expedition is located between the Western and Eastern harbors of Alexandria, including nearby localities such as Abukir Bay, the Suez Canal and the lakes Edku and Mariout (Fig. 1). The majority of the sampling stations do not exceed the isobath of 200 meter. The coasts that were investigated were in part shallow and sandy, in part steep. Information concerning the sediment characteristics and vegetation of the studied area was also available and included in the digitized dataset.

Figure 1.

Stations as they were mapped in Steuer's preliminary report (1935).

Design description: 

Data rescue/digitization

Funding: 

The digitization of this historical dataset was supported by the LifeWatchGreece Research Infrastructure, funded by the Greek Government under the General Secretariat of Research and Technology (GSRT), ESFRI Projects, Structural Funds, OPCE II.

Regarding the Egypt expedition, the Egyptian Ministry of Finance funded the whole sampling campaign and provided Dr Steuer with the expedition vehicle of the Marine Laboratory of Alexandria, a 15 m long motor boat named “El Hoot”. Additionally, the Ministry of Finance provided access to the Marine Laboratory of Alexandria located within the harbor area of the Alexandria city, as well as a small row boat, an automobile and the sampling equipment.

Sampling methods

Sampling description: 

Sampling took place at 172 locations in the marine area off Alexandria, in the Suez Canal, in the Nile river and in two lagoons (Lake Mariout and Lake Edku). Adolf Steuer was in charge of the sampling which lasted from April to November of 1933. A motor-launch (small military vessel) 15 m long, named "El Hoot", belonging to the Marine Laboratory, was used for the one-day trips at sea. Since it was difficult to sail too far from the shore, only two stations (station 26 and station 64) surpassed the 200 m isobath. In some cases a small rowing boat was also used. The collection of benthic samples was done almost exclusively by using a dredge with an opening of 20x70 cm. In only one case sampling was performed with a large otter trawl (bottom trawling) in the eastern part of Bay of Abukir, at a depth of 20 meters. A bottom sampler (Petersen's grab) of 0.2 m2 surface was also used once in the Eastern harbor due to difficulties in its manipulation (Vatova 1935). In shallow water, where no other equipment could be used, the samples of benthos were taken by diving. The sites where the sampling was performed along the coast were: the mouth of the Nile near Rosetta (Rashid), Lake Mariout and Lake Edku. Concerning planktonic samples, vertical hauls were operated using a medium sized net with buckets of celluloid with a gauge bottom.

Quality control: 

Every single dataset was digitized manually from scanned documents. Some publications were in French or in German, depending on the author, and therefore the information was translated to English. Species names and sampling location names in the digitized datasets were kept same as in the original paper. Afterwards, all scientific names were cross-checked and taxonomically updated using the Taxon Match tool of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) (WoRMS Editorial Board 2016). Station coordinates were produced by georeferencing maps from Fauvel (1937) using a Geographic Information System (GIS). The digitized datasets are presented in a standardised way, using Darwin Core terminology, informations on taxonomy, locality, sampling date, sampling protocol and individual measurements where they were available.

Step description: 

Digitization process

The digitization of the historical publications concerning the Egypt Expedition is a challenging process due to their complexity and the variety of the format across the different faunistic reports. Information on the sampling protocol and the sampling sites were digitized mainly based on the preliminary reports of Steuer (1935) and Vatova (1935) enriched with information from maps and the main text in the rest of the publications. Occurrence data were digitized based on the individual faunistic reports. The data digitization was made using the Darwin Core terminology.

The digitization process of the Egypt Expedition datasets included several steps that are described below:

  1. Data managers read and comprehended individual faunistic publications, in order to overcome difficulties originating from the heterogeneity in the format and the content among the historical papers. The original authors did not follow a specific format for the presentation of their results. Some of them included species distribution maps, some reported species list, sampling dates and depths, while others also recorded individual species counts. If there was a species list in the historical papers, species were recorded according to their taxonomical classification. Respectively, if there was a station list, stations were reported chronologically.
  2. A spreadsheet was created for each faunistic report and were populated with original species names found at each location. In this stage of digitization process, obvious typographic errors were corrected. The spreadsheets also contained information on the sampling depth (minimum and maximum depth), sampling date (year, month, day), sampling protocol and habitat (substrate type and vegetation). For benthic samples, station depth and sampling depth were matched. In some faunistic reports, station depths were given in fathoms (i.e. approximately 1.8 meters). In these cases, station depths in the datasets were converted to meters. For some taxonomic groups, additional information such as sex, lifestage, individual counts or body length measurements were available, either on a species level or on a specimen level. Accepted taxon names and taxonomic classification, as derived from the World Register of Marine species, were also included in the spreadsheets.
  3. After the digitization of all available information contained in the main text and tables in the publications, sampling stations were georeferenced using the species distribution maps in every faunistic report. Since there were no stations coordinates, latitude, longitude and coordinates uncertainty were estimated using a GIS based on the distribution maps in each publication and in Fauvel (1937). In cases, where a station was only referred to as a specific locality in the text, and not accompanied by a symbol on a map, a new station with higher uncertainty was created based on the locality description.
  4. In the next step, a code (fieldNumber) was created for each sampling event. A unique event was defined as a sampling event that took place in a specific station at a specific time and sampling depth using a specific sampling protocol. In some cases several samples had been taken in a location without defining the sampling station but only the wider area. To represent these, a new station ID was created, accompanied by an respective location remark. A code (occurrenceID) was also created for each species occurrence record.
  5. The outcome of the above digitization steps was twelve spreadsheets with 56 columns containing occurrence data of twelve benthic macrofaunal taxa. These tables were combined in the MedOBIS PostgreSQL database in order to correct mistakes originating from differences in the information or absence of information derived from Steuer's preliminary report (1935) and individual faunistic reports. In cases of corrections, original information was always kept as a remark in the dataset.
  6. The final step was the publication of the data through the MedOBIS Data Repository (MedOBIS IPT - http://ipt.medobis.eu/) and the MedOBIS Geoportal (http://medobis.portal.lifewatchgreece.eu/viewer). The Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT) (Wieczorek and Braak 2015, http://www.gbif.org/ipt) is a free open source software tool and is used to publish and share biodiversity datasets through the GBIF network (http://www.gbif.org/). It uses Darwin Core (http://rs.tdwg.org/dwc/terms/) and Ecological Metadata Language (EML) standards. All datasets are distributed as Darwin Core Archives, a compressed file that contains: one or more data files with details for event, occurrence and measurements in a comma-separated or tab-separated list, an archive descriptor (meta.xml) file describing the individual data file columns used and a metadata file on EML describing the entire dataset. The datasets concerning different taxonomic groups were published separately with their metadata and individual URLs (Table 2). Since the repository does not currently support species measurements such as body and carapace length, this information is added in the supplementary files of the present paper (Suppl. material 1), following the recently developed Environmental data and Event schema of OBIS (De Pooter et al., in prep). The datasets are also available on MedOBIS Geoportal (a virtual lab on LifeWatchGreece Research Infrastructure), where all the taxonomic groups are visualized on a map. The Geoportal allows users to search and download marine species datasets from all over the Mediterranean in several different formats (CSV, KML, WFS, WMS). In addition, a MedOBIS mobile application has been developed on playstore (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Hcmr.LifeWatch).

List of sampling stations, their locality, habitat characteristics and species richness

a/a Station Name Locality Latitude Longitude Coordinates uncertainty Habitat Number of species Number of phyla
1 1 North of Abu Qir Bay 31,363663 30,016892 200 mud and stones, Halimeda 19 4
2 2 North of Pharo, Alexandria 31,288853 29,896681 200 Halimeda, sand, mud 35 4
3 3 North of Pharo, Alexandria 31,344246 29,902678 200 muddy, Halimeda, Caulerpa 22 6
4 4 Eastern Harbour, Alexandria 31,209188 29,884443 200 sand, Caulerpa 24 4
5 5 Eastern Harbour, Alexandria 31,207894 29,890154 200 Caulerpa, Codium, sand 29 5
6 6 Eastern Harbour, Alexandria 31,211206 29,901575 200 stony, Caulerpa 5 3
7 7 Close to Alexandria Harbour 31,198758 29,826388 200 small stones, Caulerpa 38 5
8 8 Close to Alexandria Harbour 31,189335 29,807257 200 small stones, Caulerpa, Halimeda 14 5
9 9 Western Harbour, Alexandria 31,162977 29,854056 200 mud with plants 14 2
10 10 Western Harbour, Port-Quest, Alexandria 31,176319 29,855383 200 Caulerpa, sand, mud 16 4
11 11 Western Harbour, Alexandria 31,191908 29,874419 200 smelling, black mud without algae 19 4
12 12 Western Harbour, Alexandria 31,183076 29,853813 200 Caulerpa, Posidonia, sand, some mud, Codium ground 14 3
13 13 Western Harbour, Alexandria 31,18791 29,867852 200 sand, some mud 34 2
14 14 Western Harbour, Alexandria 31,190708 29,859228 200 sandy, black mud with little Caulerpa and brown algae 11 1
15 15 Western Harbour, Alexandria 31,184171 29,862664 200 sand 8 2
16 17 Western Harbour, Port-Quest, Alexandria 31,168573 29,848745 200 little Caulerpa, sand, black mud 14 4
17 18 Western Harbour, Alexandria 31,165604 29,848059 200 very little Caulerpa, black mud 5 1
18 19 NW of Al Meks, Egypt 31,150471 29,835153 200 Caulerpa, sand 4 1
19 20 Off Al Meks, Egypt 31,150471 29,835153 200 Posidonia, Cymodocea 6 3
20 21 Near Dekheli, Egypt 31,137658 29,795965 200 Caulerpa, Posidonia, Amphioxus, brown algae 22 6
21 22 Great Pass, Alexandria 31,163205 29,82179 200 Posidonia, Caulerpa, brown algae, rocks, yellow sand 19 4
22 23 Margin of the Great-Pass, Alexandria 31,169944 29,810483 200 yellow Amphioxus sand, Halimeda, Udotea 10 5
23 24 Off Fort Ada 31,219602 29,876927 200 stony, Caulerpa, Halimeda 8 4
24 25 Infront of Fort Ada, Alexandria 31,207443 29,87276 350 Caulerpa, Halimeda, brown algae, seagrass 11 4
25 26 North of Al Max, Alexandria 31,386934 29,817017 200 soft and yellow mud with Pteropodes 11 3
26 27 North of El Anfushi Beach, Alexandria 31,36923 29,862703 200 mud with mollusc shells 27 5
27 28 Close to East Harbour, Alexandria 31,227026 29,905195 200 stones, Caulerpa, Halimeda 37 5
28 29 Close to East Harbour, Alexandria 31,221752 29,908885 200 stony, Caulerpa 6 3
29 30 Close to East Harbour, Alexandria 31,219315 29,910256 200 stones, Caulerpa 14 6
30 31 East Harbour, Port-Quest, Alexandria 31,203972 29,892629 200 sand, Caulerpa 14 3
31 32 Eastern Harbour, near entrance 31,210863 29,89358 200 coarse sand with stones and very little mud, Caulerpa 37 5
32 35 Off Sidi Bishr, Egypt 31,280191 29,960736 200 Caulerpa, Posidonia, Halimeda, rough sand with stones, Amphioxus, brown algae 51 6
33 36 Sidi Bischr 31,263725 29,976631 200 fine sand 10 3
34 37 Sidi Bischr 31,269151 29,971206 200 sandy, Caulerpa 4 2
35 38 NW of Abu Qir 31,340535 30,002044 200 Halimeda, Caulerpa, stony, brown algae 8 5
36 39 NW of Abu Qir 31,342819 30,025172 200 Caulerpa, sand, little mud 9 4
37 40 Abu Qir Bay 31,383222 30,173793 200 sand, stones, Amphioxus bottom 11 4
38 41 Crags at the eastern coast of Abu Qir Peninsula 31,323736 30,073142 200 crags with Cystoseira, Padina, little Caulerpa 15 4
39 42 Abu Qir, eastern coast 31,307793 30,082184 200 gray sand, mud, sea grass meadows 15 4
40 43 Western side of Abu Qir 31,326115 30,059817 200 crags, sand, brown algae, Posidonia, Caulerpa 8 3
41 44 Abu Qir Bay 31,473356 30,208724 200 fine rich slime 4 3
42 45 Abu Qir Bay 31,433191 30,2171 200 little sand, much mud 7 5
43 47 Abu Qir Bay 31,34753 30,232328 200 sandy with little mud 7 3
44 48 Lake Edku, seaside, sandy beach near the channel, in open water and upon stones of the bridge 31,273053 30,166655 200 shallow sand 27 3
45 49 Lake Edku, at the Bridge, near the canal with the Bay of Abu Qir, on shallow see-weed-bottom of the lake 31,254493 30,202109 800 shallow seagrass meadows 9 3
46 50 Off Abu Qir 31,359903 30,07219 200 sandy, stony, Amphioxus bottom 20 5
47 51 Abu Qir Bay 31,401544 30,082422 200 sandy ground, Amphioxus ground 18 4
48 52 North of Abu Qir 31,459032 30,065433 200 mud, Phoronis bottom 24 5
49 53 Off Abu Qir- Montazah 31,413346 29,992907 200 yellow mud, bottom with Enteropneustes 24 5
50 54 Northwest of Abu Qir Bay 31,456747 29,955787 200 17 4
51 55 Northwest of Abu Qir Bay 31,396785 29,963211 200 mud 25 4
52 56 Abu Qir Bay 31,343009 30,128584 200 coarse Amphioxus sand, little Caulerpa 9 4
53 57 Abu Qir Bay 31,331588 30,13715 200 fine sand, Caulerpa 21 3
54 58 Abu Qir Bay 31,307793 30,165227 200 sandy ground with algae (Caulerpa) and seaweed (Cymodocea) 23 4
55 60 North of Sidi Bishr 31,363948 29,950933 200 mud, bottom with Enteropneustes 8 4
56 61 North of East Port of Alexandria 31,390218 29,906104 200 stones, mud, algae (one empty shell) 60 5
57 62 North of Pharo, Alexandria 31,323117 29,931517 200 mud, Caulerpa bottom 27 5
58 63 NW of Agami island 31,313848 29,722266 200 stony coarse sand and mud 31 5
59 64 NW of Agami island 31,325667 29,710205 200 muddy ground mixed with coarse sand 23 6
60 65 North of Agamy 31,267858 29,790125 200 sand, mud, little Caulerpa 1 1
61 66 North of West Port of Alexandria 31,238162 29,853228 200 sand, mud, Caulerpa 18 3
62 67 North of West Port of Alexandria 31,274425 29,845804 200 sand, mud 22 4
63 68 North of West Port of Alexandria 31,328684 29,84538 200 Caulerpa, mud 14 4
64 69 North of West Port of Alexandria 31,345125 29,842823 200 Caulerpa, mud 15 4
65 71 North of East Port of Alexandria 31,275718 29,900393 200 stony, Caulerpa, Halimeda 2 2
66 72 North of Pharo, Alexandria 31,317692 29,894112 200 muddy, sandy, Caulerpa 16 2
67 73 North of East Port of Alexandria 31,352527 29,890114 200 Caulerpa, Halimeda, mud 13 5
68 74 North of Sidi Bishr 31,32226 29,964924 200 mud, Caulerpa, bottom with Enteropneustes 18 6
69 75 North of Pharo, Alexandria 31,305289 29,932008 200 sand, mud 12 4
70 76 Infront of East Harbour, Alexandria 31,220876 29,891905 200 stony, sandy, Caulerpa, Halimeda 15 4
71 77 North of Eastern Harbour, Alexandria 31,227577 29,884024 200 Caulerpa, stones, Halimeda 18 6
72 78 Close to West Harbour of Alexandria 31,202031 29,856423 200 Caulerpa, Halimeda, Posidonia, stony, brown algae 29 6
73 79 Close to West Harbour of Alexandria 31,20761 29,850944 200 Caulerpa, Halimeda, stony, rough sand 3 3
74 80 North-West of Harbour, Alexandria 31,211893 29,845233 200 sandy, stony, Caulerpa, Halimeda 1 1
75 81 Outer side of Fort El-Ayana 31,150983 29,784888 200 rocky Amphioxus sand, Posidonia 3 2
76 82 Outer side of Fort El-Ayana 31,146723 29,783032 200 Halimeda and brown algae 4 3
77 83 Inner side of the Fort el Ayana 31,14451 29,785435 200 crags with Padina pav., shallow Posidonia bottom 6 2
78 84 Isle Agami, inside shoal beach 31,14708 29,789195 200 Posidonia, little Caulerpa, shoall beach with stones, brown algae 2 2
79 85 Isle Agami, inside 31,149531 29,796785 200 Caulerpa, Posidonia 4 3
80 86 Isle Agami, outside 31,154137 29,803791 200 coarse sand, Amphioxus, Posidonia, Caulerpa 4 4
81 87 Close to El Dukhaylah Beach, Egypt 31,146876 29,811992 200 Caulerpa, gray sand 3 2
82 90 North of Agami island 31,167349 29,78213 200 Caulerpa, mud 12 3
83 91 North of Agami island 31,198758 29,778132 200 muddy, Caulerpa, Cymodocea 7 2
84 92 North of Agami island 31,238162 29,778132 200 Caulerpa, mud 10 3
85 93 North of Port of El-Dekheila 31,159281 29,794416 200 coarse Amphioxus sand, Caulerpa, Halimeda, Posidonia 3 3
86 94 North of Port of El-Dekheila 31,160433 29,801688 200 stony, Caulerpa, Halimeda, Sargassum, Posidonia 7 4
87 95 North of Port of El-Dekheila 31,160486 29,806092 200 stony, Caulerpa, Halimeda, Sargassum, Posidonia 3 1
88 97 close to Port of El-Dekheila 31,159765 29,822968 200 Caulerpa, Halimeda, Posidonia, stony, Amphioxus bottom, brown algae 3 3
89 98 West of the Western Harbour of Alexandria 31,174891 29,840631 200 fine sand, Posidonia, Caulerpa 8 3
90 99 Close to Western Harbour of Alexandria 31,187071 29,841725 200 stones, sand, Posidonia, Caulerpa, Halimeda 6 3
91 100 West of the Western Harbour of Alexandria 31,178453 29,821961 200 Caulerpa, Halimeda, mussel-sand 9 2
92 101 Near Agami island 31,141831 29,772552 200 Caulerpa, Posidonia, Halimeda, brown algae, sand 7 3
93 102 Close to Agamy Beach 31,099868 29,725917 200 Cystoseira (brown algae), Caulerpa-Halimeda (green algae), stonny 18 3
94 103 North of Agamy Beach 31,14127 29,728202 200 Caulerpa, sand, mud 12 2
95 104 North of Agamy Beach 31,123853 29,726488 200 coarse sand, Amphioxus sand, Halimeda, Caulerpa 4 3
96 105 Close to Abu Talat, Egypt 31,053897 29,660244 200 dark sand, rotten, Posidonia with Cystoseira 11 3
97 106 Close to Abu Talat, Egypt 31,08245 29,658531 200 coarse sand 1 1
98 108 North of Abu Talat, Egypt 31,117571 29,660244 200 Halimeda, Caulerpa, brown algae, sand, stones 5 3
99 109 North of Abu Talat, Egypt 31,149836 29,665955 200 sand, stones, Dasycladus, Halimeda, Cystoseira 2 2
100 110 Near Agami island 31,134132 29,770613 200 crags with shallow sand bottom 2 1
101 111 Near Agami island 31,143174 29,76633 200 stony, Caulerpa, Halimeda, Posidonia 10 5
102 112 Near Agami island 31,149361 29,763475 200 Caulerpa, Halimeda, finer sand, little mud, Amphioxus bottom 7 4
103 113 Near Agami island 31,174488 29,733589 200 Caulerpa, sand, mud 3 3
104 114 North of Abu Talat, Egypt 31,176106 29,672808 200 stony, sand, mud, Caulerpa, Halimeda 20 4
105 115 North of Abu Talat, Egypt 31,19438 29,666526 200 stony, Caulerpa, Halimeda 7 4
106 116 North of Abu Talat, Egypt 31,219888 29,659635 200 Caulerpa, Halimeda, sand, mud, brown algae 12 5
107 117 North of Abu Talat, Egypt 31,257007 29,660777 200 mud, stones, Caulerpa, Halimeda sitting on calcareus algae 3 3
108 119 Great Pass, Alexandria 31,170344 29,820762 200 yellow sand, stones, mud, Amphioxus sand, Caulerpa, Posidonia 23 5
109 121 West of the Western Harbour of Alexandria 31,176454 29,833154 200 yellow coarse sand, stony, Amphioxus sand, Caulerpa, Halimeda 7 4
110 122 West of the Western Harbour of Alexandria 31,173256 29,827215 200 coarse sand, Caulerpa, Amphioxus 4 4
111 124 Close to Western Harbour of Alexandria 31,167546 29,841435 200 fine sand, Caulerpa 1 1
112 125 West of the Western Harbour of Alexandria 31,166974 29,825788 200 Halimeda, Caulerpa, yellow sand, stones, brown algae, Amphioxus bottom 32 5
113 126 West of the western Harbour of Alexandria 31,162749 29,832755 200 Caulerpa, Posidonia, dark sand 1 1
114 128 Port Al-Dikheila, Egypt 31,140061 29,803234 200 sand, mud, Caulerpa, Posidonia 2 2
115 134 East of Dekheila Port 31,148857 29,827965 200 Posidonia, Caulerpa, rough sand, little mud, Amphioxus bottom 8 3
116 135 Close to El Dukhaylah Beach 31,142015 29,825911 200 stony, sandy, Caulerpa, Halimeda, Posidonia 13 4
117 136 Close to El Dukhaylah Beach 31,14311 29,82553 200 Caulerpa, Posidonia, Amphioxus bottom 10 4
118 137 Close to El Dukhaylah Beach 31,139371 29,818676 200 dark sandy bottom, Caulerpa, little brown algae, Cymodocea 4 2
119 138 Close to El Dukhaylah Beach 31,140703 29,819652 200 Caulerpa, brown-algae, Posidonia, Amphioxus bottom 3 2
120 139 NW of Al Meks, Egypt 31,148629 29,832619 200 Caulerpa, Posidonia, rough sand 5 2
121 140 Entrance of Western Harbour, Alexandria 31,156752 29,841035 200 Caulerpa, Posidonia, stones, Amphioxus bottom, rough sand 19 5
122 141 Western Harbour, Port-Quest, Alexandria 31,173987 29,857049 200 sand, black mud 3 2
123 142 NW of Al Max 31,154798 29,831545 200 mud 1 1
124 143 North of Port of El-Dekheila 31,170407 29,799984 200 Halimeda, stony, Amphioxus bottom 6 3
125 144 North of Agami island 31,174202 29,791552 200 Caulerpa, Halimeda, rough sand, mud 9 4
126 145 NW of West Port of Alexandria 31,219734 29,833656 200 light gray mud, little Caulerpa 7 4
127 146 Off the Eastern Harbour, Alexandria 31,216802 29,89358 200 Caulerpa, Halimeda, Posidonia, Dasycladus 15 5
128 147 Nile mouth 31,453993 30,375344 2000 mud 8 2
129 148 Off Rosetta 31,397124 30,426265 1000 sandy 1 1
130 12IX Lake Mareotis, near the Mex Experimental station or in open water 31,134285 29,855493 600 mud 4 2
131 13d Western Harbour, arsenal basin 31,192419 29,863142 500 muddy, sand 1 1
132 14IX Lake Mareotis, eastward, near the fresh-water fish-market, at the coast and towards the middle of the lake 31,168891 29,906109 1000 mud 4 2
133 25a Infront of Fort Ada, Alexandria 31,209214 29,870289 200 Amphioxus sand, Caulerpa, Cymodocea 2 2
134 25c Infront of Fort Ada, Alexandria 31,206832 29,873395 200 sand with Cystoseira, red algae, Caulerpa, Ulva 5 2
135 25d Infront of Fort Ada, Alexandria 31,206085 29,874797 200 near the land sandy seagrass meadows, Ulva 4 2
136 28IX Lake Mareotis, on the mole extending from the Mex Experimental station to the south, on floating sea weed and in open water and on stalks of reed in mud 31,113726 29,858768 1000 mud 12 4
137 33a Head of the pier of Silsila, Alexandria 31,215089 29,904621 200 Caulerpa 4 3
138 33b Off Silsila 31,212615 29,907514 200 sandy ground with Cypraca 9 3
139 34a East Harbour, Silsila corner 31,20934 29,905116 200 shallow sandy, Codium, Caulerpa 18 4
140 34b East Harbour, off Silsila 31,211206 29,903745 200 sand with Caulerpa 5 4
141 59a North of Sidi Bishr 31,307127 29,977202 200 coarse sand, begrown with Caulerpa and Halimeda 6 3
142 59b North of Sidi Bishr 31,299703 29,987196 200 coarse Amphioxus sand with algae 12 5
143 aquarium Aquarium of Laboratory, Alexandria 31,212715 29,884665 200 2 1
144 BA Off the Barracks of Ras el Tin, Po, Anfouchi Bay 31,205991 29,870975 200 Foraminifera sand in Posidonia meadows 1 1
145 coastAbuQir-near Rosetta At the coast of the Bay of Abu Qir, washed ashore near Rosette 31,412646 30,34421 200 sand 8 3
146 D1 Lake Edku, near isle Derfil 31,269663 30,254223 200 black mud 10 3
147 D2 Lake Edku, near the village 31,294851 30,309155 600 mud, stones, sand 8 2
148 eastharbour1 Eastern Harbour: under the hull of a ship or epifauna or on the body of a ship or infront of bath and laboratory or Kayed Bay 31,208182 29,894361 1300 Ulva and coralline zone, Caulerpa 31 6
149 FortAda Fort Ada 31,210875 29,875577 200 crags 5 1
150 L Eastern Harbour, off the Laboratory,near the laboratory, before the laboratory 31,211614 29,884181 200 Ulva-coralline zone, rocks, Caulerpa 17 3
151 LacMarioutcenter Lake Mayrut, in the middle of the lake, mud between the reeds on the bank 31,153046 29,898617 6000 mud 2 1
152 LakeEdku_marine beach Lake Edku,marine beach 31,271933 30,17621 200 sandy beach 1 1
153 LakeEdkubridge Lake Edku, bridge, under the stones and among sea weeds, near Edku Channel 31,267557 30,179252 400 mud, stones 4 1
154 nearbath Eastern Harbour, near the bath, Alexandria 31,212364 29,885371 200 Caulerpa, stones, sand 24 4
155 offSidiBishr Off Sidi Bishr 31,271107 29,98531 200 1 1
156 Pharo Pharo, outerside or Kayed Bay outside in Kalkagen 31,2145 29,88479 200 calcareus algae 12 3
157 plankton1 Off Dekhela 31,170397 29,743697 200 6 3
158 plankton10 Plankton station X, Alexandria, at st. 26 31,386934 29,817017 200 2 2
159 plankton12b Lake Edku, near isle Derfil 31,26878 30,253991 200 mud 1 1
160 plankton14 Plankton station XIV, Alexandria, at st54 31,456747 29,955787 200 2 1
161 plankton16 Plankton XVI, Alexandria, at st.64 31,325667 29,710205 200 2 2
162 plankton17 At st. 117, North of Abu Talat, Egypt 31,257007 29,660777 200 sandy, muddy, Caulerpa, Halimeda 2 2
163 plankton3 Off the Eastern Harbour 31,22687 29,892666 200 3 2
164 plankton4a North of Abu Qir Bay 31,363663 30,016892 200 stony mud bottom 2 2
165 plankton6 Lake Mareotis, near the Mex Experimental station 31,143538 29,854457 1500 1 1
166 plankton7 Lake Mareotis, eastward, near the fresh-water fish-market, at the coast and further away from the coast in the plankton 31,178765 29,91436 1500 1 1
167 Po Posidonia bottom, near the Ras El Tin Barracks 31,204189 29,869984 200 Posidonia 6 3
168 POK Crags outside the Barracks of Ras El Tin, off the posidonia bottom 31,207036 29,86802 200 crags, Caulerpa, Halimeda, brown algae 22 4
169 SidiBishr Sidi Bishr 31,26592 29,98614 500 zone of algae on rocks 18 3
170 Silsila Beach of Silsila 31,211061 29,909446 200 sand 1 1
171 Trawl(T) Trawl in Abu Qir Bay 31,427605 30,23248 6000 muddy ground with algae 16 4
172 westernharbour1 Western Harbour, Arsenal Basin, West Harbour epifauna 31,194964 29,874831 800 7 3

Difficulties regarding data digitization

During the digitization process, several issues with the data were encountered. The majority of these problems were similar across datasets. In the following paragraphs, we will highlight the most common ones and explain how they have been dealt with.

  1. Data on the same sampling event were scattered and repeated in different publications. This created inconsistencies both across and within publications. Information on stations characteristics and sampling protocol were often repeated with small differences, missings or typographic errors due to different languages in the publications as well as in the preliminary reports. Within each faunistic report, occurrence records were often presented in two different ways, once as a list of species by station and again as a list of stations by species, leading to small differences or typographic errors. For practical reasons, we decided to consider as correct the information on sampling protocol that was obtained from the preliminary reports and the information on species distribution obtained from species list rather than station list. In any case, different information was always kept as a remark in the datasets.
  2. The final number of stations recorded was 172: a total of 150 benthic stations reported in the Steuer’s preliminary report (1935) enriched with 10 planktonic stations derived from the 12 faunistic reports and with 10 new stations generated during the digitization process. Some stations described only verbally in the faunistic reports were not on a map. For example, some species referred to be collected from the “eastern harbour, on the body of a ship” or “eastern harbour, epifauna” without displaying on the map. In such case, a new station was created (e.g. easterharbour1), in order to include all available information. Other examples were LacMarioutCenter and westernharbour1 stations. In addition, new station IDs had to be created by the data management team because some stations were reported in the historical maps without a station name. For example, a sampling position “near the bath” was mentioned and mapped in many reports without a specific station name. Other stations without a station name were coastAbuQir-nearRosetta, LakeEdku_marinebeach, LakeEdkubridge, offSidiBishr and Silsila.
  3. Besides general difficulties, described above, some sampling stations needed extra consideration.
    • For station D2, the sampling date was not recorded in mollusks report (Steuer 1939b). Nevertheless, this gap was corrected using the 1st of October 1933 (1/10/1933) as the sampling date because all the trips were one day trips and in all papers D2 was visited only on that day.
    • Another problematic station was station 104. This station was reported in four faunistic reports: two of them without sampling date and the rest with different dates, 1/11/1933 in Sipuncula and 8/11/1933 in Polychaeta. Eventually, the date 8/11/1933 was considered as correct instead of 1/11/1933 and used for all the reports. This decision was made, because, as mentioned above, stations were reported in chronological order and station 104 was reported under the ones of 7/11 and before the ones of 9/11.
    • Some stations were reported with subdivisions. One of them was station 105 that was divided into 105a and 105b in some faunistic reports, but they were not mapped separately. In this case, we used the coordinates of station 105 with higher uncertainty for both subdivisions. In the report on mollusks, and specifically regarding the species Cerithium vulgatum and Tricolia pullus, the stations 105a and 105b were displayed on two maps in opposite locations (Steuer 1939b, figures 5 and 8 in pp.15 and 24).
    • Station 13 was also referred as 13b in the report on mollusks (Steuer 1939b) but it was mapped as station 13 and as a result we used the coordinates of station 13.
  4. In some planktonic hauls it was difficult to distinguish sampling and station depth. For example, “…over about 15 fathoms 3 vertical hauls out of depths of 20 m” was the description of station plankton4a in the Sipuncula report (Steuer 1939a). Thus, it was assumed, in accordance with preliminary reports, that station depth was 15 fathoms (about 28 m) and sampling depth was 0-20 m.
  5. In a few cases, specimens that were reported in the historical publications could not be taxonomically updated due to missing species name authorship or due to ambiguous names. For example, Heliacus moniliferus was recorded in the Mollusca report (Steuer 1939b), but actually this name is used for a fossil, not a living animal as reported in Steuer (1939b).
  6. Original sampling date and sampling depth were not recorded in the historical papers concerning Echinodermata and Ascidiacea. During the digitization of all the datasets concerning the Egypt Expedition, it was clear that in most of the cases, sampling dates and sampling depths were the same as in other datasets of Egypt Expedition and as a result date and depth information were taken from other faunistic reports and the preliminary report.
  7. Finally, maps were only available as a .pdf in the preliminary report so they were converted to a .jpg or .tiff, in order to proceed to integration in GIS and be georeferenced. Maps recorded the geographical information of the sampling stations. Maps were not ideally suited for georeferencing: they were not accurate, had no scale or map projection system, and the accuracy of the scanner which had created the digitized version was unknown. The original map had to be aligned with their actual geographical location, by linking each point to its equivalent on a modern, accurate digital map (Rumsey and Williams 2002). In the end, Geographic Coordinate System: GCS_WGS_1984 and Datum: D_WGS_1984 was defined as the geographical coordinate system for the maps and the stations were digitized in a new feature class in GIS on a scale of 1:250.000. However it is impossible to perfectly align old maps due to landscape changes over the decades. For example, both the harbor of Alexandria as well as Lake Mariout were significantly extended over the course of the 20th century. A coordinates uncertainty of around 200 meters was estimated by the root mean square (RMS) - this is the georeference error. This value describes how consistent the transformation is between the different control points. In some cases, where the sampling stations were not well defined on the maps (lack of station name, landscape changes) new points were placed on the map manually, with higher uncertainty. The planktonic stations were also placed manually on the map.

Geographic coverage

Description: 

The Egypt expedition covered, with 162 benthic and 10 planktonic stations, the area along the coasts of Alexandria, the Suez Canal, the Nile river and the lakes Edku and Mariout (Fig. 2).

Figure 2.

Georeferenced map of all stations from "The fishery grounds near Alexandria" macrofaunal reports.

Coordinates: 

31.054 and 31.473 Latitude; 30.426 and 29.658 Longitude.

Taxonomic coverage

Description: 

This set of historical data includes distribution information for 571 marine macrobenthic species belonging to 10 phyla, 21 classes and 257 families (Fig. 3). Malacostraca was the most speciose class with 26% of total species found, followed by Polychaeta (21%), Gastropoda (20%) and Bivalvia (14%) (Fig. 4). The family with the highest number of species richness was Syllidae (17 species), followed by Trochidae (14 species) and Veneridae (11 species). For the rest of the families, more than half of them (146 of 257) were represented by a single species.

Figure 3.

Percentage of macrofaunal species per phylum.

Figure 4.

Number of macrofaunal species per class.

These macrofaunal species were distributed in 172 stations located in the marine area off Alexandria, Egypt (Table 2). Species richness at the different sampling stations was very heterogenous. The most species rich stations were station 61, located above the isobath of 50 fathoms (90m), station 35, off Sidi Bishr and station 7 located close to the Eastern Harbour of Alexandria. The ten most common species in the study area are presented in Table 3. These species were found in more than 10% of the total number of stations.

List of the most common species found in more than 10% of the stations

Scientific Name Scientific Name accepted Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Number of stations
Dentalium (Antalis) dentale forma inaequicostatum Antalis inaequicostata Animalia Mollusca Scaphopoda Dentaliida Dentaliidae 41
Branchiostoma lanceolatum Branchiostoma lanceolatum Animalia Chordata Leptocardii Branchiostomatidae 25
Chlamys glabra Flexopecten glaber Animalia Mollusca Bivalvia Pectinida Pectinidae 21
Pilumnus hirtellus Pilumnus hirtellus Animalia Arthropoda Malacostraca Decapoda Pilumnidae 21
Columbella rustica Columbella rustica Animalia Mollusca Gastropoda Neogastropoda Columbellidae 19
Abra ovata Abra segmentum Animalia Mollusca Bivalvia Cardiida Semelidae 19
Glycymeris pilosus var lineatus Glycymeris bimaculata Animalia Mollusca Bivalvia Arcida Glycymerididae 19
Beguina (Glans) trapezia Glans trapezia Animalia Mollusca Bivalvia Carditida Carditidae 17
Murex (Truncularia) trunculus Hexaplex trunculus Animalia Mollusca Gastropoda Neogastropoda Muricidae 17
Nassarius (Hinia) incrassatus Tritia incrassata Animalia Mollusca Gastropoda Neogastropoda Nassariidae 17
Taxa included:
Rank Scientific Name
phylum Annelida
phylum Mollusca
phylum Arthropoda
class Hydrozoa
phylum Echinodermata
phylum Sipuncula
class Ascidiacea
phylum Phoronida
phylum Brachiopoda
class Enteropneusta

Temporal coverage

Data range: 
1933 4 01 - 1933 11 18.
Notes: 

Sampling started at April 1st 1933 and ended at November 18th 1933.

Usage rights

Use license: 
Creative Commons Public Domain Waiver (CC-Zero)

Data resources

Data package title: 
Digitization of historical dataset - Egypt Expedition
Number of data sets: 
1
Data set name: 
The fishery grounds near Alexandria
Character set: 
UTF-8
Download URL: 
Data format: 
Text
Description: 

This publication consists of 12 individual datasets containing different taxonomic groups as published by the original authors between 1935 and 1940 and 2 metadata only (Vatova 1935, Steuer 1935). All datasets are available via the IPT (http://ipt.medobis.eu/), serving as the Mediterranean node of the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (MedOBIS). Datasets will also be available on OBIS website in winter 2016. Individual download URLs for each dataset are available in Table 1. Table 4, Table 5 and Table 6 describe events, occurrences and measurements or facts, respectively.

Column description of 'Darwin Core Event' table

Column label description
id Same as eventID
type The nature or genre of the resource (dataset etc)
eventID An identifier for the sampling event (event=sampling that occurs at a place,time, specific protocol and depth)
parentEventID An identifier for the broader Event at a specific station, that groups this and potentially other Events
samplingProtocol The name of, reference to, or description of the method or protocol used during an Event
eventDate The date-time or interval during which an Event occurred
year The four-digit year in which the Event occurred, according to the Common Era Calendar
month The original month in which the Event occurred
day The original day in which the Event occurred
habitat A category or description of the habitat in which the Event occurred
fieldNumber The sample name
eventRemarks Comments or notes about the Event
locationID Station name
locality The name or description of the place
minimumDepthInMeters The lesser sampling depth of a range of depth below the local surface, in meters
maximumDepthInMeters The greater sampling depth of a range of depth below the local surface, in meters
locationRemarks Comments or notes about the station where the sample occurred
decimalLatitude The geographic latitude (in decimal degrees) of the station
decimalLongitude The geographic longitude (in decimal degrees) of the station
coordinateUncertaintyInMeters The horizontal distance (in meters) from the given decimalLatitude and decimalLongitude describing the smallest circle containing the whole of the Location

Column description of 'Darwin Core Occurrence' table

Column label description
id Same as occurrenceID
type The nature of the resource (e.g. dataset)
institutionCode The name in use by the institution having custody of the object(s) or information referred to in the record
collectionCode The name, coden, or initialism identifying the collection or data set from which the record was derived
basisOfRecord The specific nature of the data record
occurrenceID A unique identifier for the Occurrence
catalogNumber An identifier for the record within the data set or collection
occurrenceRemarks Comments or notes about the Occurrence
individualCount The number of individuals represented present at the time of the Occurrence
sex The sex of the biological individual(s) represented in the Occurrence
lifeStage The age class or life stage of the biological individual(s) at the time the Occurrence was recorded
eventID An identifier for the sampling event (event=sampling that occurs at a place,time, specific protocol and depth)
identifiedBy A list of names of people, groups, or organizations who assigned the Taxon to the subject
identificationReferences A list of references (publication, global unique identifier, URI) used in the Identification
scientificNameID The lsid from WORMS
scientificName The full scientific name. When forming part of an Identification, this should be the name in lowest level taxonomic rank that can be determined
kingdom The full scientific name of the kingdom in which the taxon is classified
phylum The full scientific name of the phylum or division in which the taxon is classified
class The full scientific name of the class in which the taxon is classified
order The full scientific name of the order in which the taxon is classified
family The full scientific name of the family in which the taxon is classified
genus The full scientific name of the genus in which the taxon is classified
subgenus The full scientific name of the subgenus in which the taxon is classified. Values should include the genus to avoid homonym confusion
specificEpithet The name of the first or species epithet of the scientificName
scientificNameAuthorship The authorship information for the scientificName formatted according to the conventions of the applicable nomenclaturalCode
nomenclaturalCode The nomenclatural code under which the scientificName is constructed
taxonRemarks Comments or notes about the taxon or name

Column description of 'Darwin Core Extended Measurement or Facts' table

Column label description
eventID An identifier for the sampling event (event=sampling that occurs at a place, time, specific protocol and depth)
measurementID An identifier for the MeasurementOrFact
measurementType The nature of the measurement, fact, characteristic, or assertion
measurementValue The value of the measurement, fact, characteristic, or assertion
measurementUnit The units associated with the measurementValue
occurrenceID A unique identifier for the Occurrence
measurementMethod A description of or reference to (publication, URI) the method or protocol used to determine the measurement, fact, characteristic, or assertion
measurementDeterminedBy A list of names of people, groups, or organizations who determined the value of the MeasurementOrFact
measurementTypeID An identifier for the measurementType (global unique identifier, URI)
measurementAccuracy The description of the potential error associated with the measurementValue
measurementRemarks Comments or notes accompanying the MeasurementOrFact

Additional information

Conclusions

Data rescue is an increasing need with expected effects on the scientific and societal perception of biodiversity. Despite the many challenges encountered during the digitization process of historical datasets (e.g. taxonomic updates, georeferencing, misspellings of taxa and places, compiling overlapping information from different publications), the outcome clearly shows that such initiatives are invaluable in making accessible previously unavailable biodiversity data.

Concerning the Egypt expedition, this paper is the first step for the digitization of the whole set of publications from "The fishery grounds near Alexandria". In Eastern Mediterranean, these data could be used to set the reference conditions for checking the invasion of alien species through the Suez Canal or to compare past species occurrences with current ones. In addition, the availability of these historical data through public databases (such as LifewatchGreece Research Infrastructure and MedOBIS) provides useful tools for present observations or monitoring potential change in benthic communities. Through virtual labs, scientists or other users could search, visualize on a map, combine and download species occurrences from all over the Mediterranean in several different formats.

Digitizing historical datasets offers also valuable information on functional species traits, as they usually contain individual characteristics, such as maturity and body length, and habitat characteristics, such as sediment type and vegetation. Information on functional species traits is required in describing species patterns and assessing future evolution of benthic communities.

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the LifeWatchGreece infrastructure, funded by the Greek Government under the General Secretariat of Research and Technology (GSRT), ESFRI Projects, Structural Funds, OPCE II. The authors would like to thank Sarah Faulwetter for her invaluable assistance, training throughout the digitization process and manuscript revision and Christos Arvanitidis for comments on the manuscript. Thanks are also due to 2 reviewers hor helpful comments and critisism on the manuscript. Finally, we thank the European Marine Observation and Data Network – Biology (EMODnet Biology) WP4 partners for inspiration regarding data rescue.

Author contributions

I. Tsikopoulou and S. Nikolopoulou contributed equally to this work. I. Tsikopoulou, S. Nikolopoulou and A. Legaki were resource creators and content providers. P.D. Dimitriou and E. Avramidou were content providers. I. Tsikopoulou and S. Nikolopoulou wrote the first version of the manuscript. Nicolas Bailly has checked difficult taxonomic cases. All authors contributed to revisions.

References

Supplementary material

Suppl. material 1: Extended Measurement or Facts
Authors:  Irini Tsikopoulou, Stamatina Nikolopoulou, Aglaia Legaki
Data type:  Measurements
Brief description: 

Body length measurements are available for the following datasets:

1. EgyptExpeditionCumaceaStomatopodaLeptostacaea

2. EgyptExpeditionPolychaeta

3. EgyptExpeditionAmphipoda

4. EgyptExpeditionTanaidaceaIsopoda

5. EgyptExpeditionMollusca

Carapace length measurements are available for the dataset EgyptExpeditionDecapoda