Imagine looking at a Google Maps-like satellite image of the Amazon forest and with a mouse click find out what lives in that bit of forest - what tree and plant species are there, what animals, birds and insects.
You could even look at the DNA of the microbes that live on those insects in this amazing, futuristic online "macroscope of life" on planet Earth.
The information about these Amazonian species, their habitats and even their DNA already exists in most cases. But it is scattered like dry leaves all over the world in dusty museum basements, science labs, libraries and hundreds of electronic databases.
This week, scientists are launching a 10-year global effort to gather and compile the world's vast storehouse of knowledge about biodiversity into a single online, interactive information system for life on Earth that will take its place alongside the world meteorology data network that pools information to predict the weather.
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