More than a thousand new species –nearly one-quarter of which are new to science – have been discovered in Norway since a unique effort to find and name all of the country's species began in 2009.


Enlarge / Looks like a comma: A crawfish that lives on the seabed along the Norwegian coast, Campylaspis costata is one of the 76 known species of crawfish found in Norwegian waters that we now know more about as a result of inventories conducted for the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative. Credit: Henrik Glenner, University of Bergen

The Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative is one of just two government efforts worldwide where scientists are being funded to find and catalogue the country's true species diversity.

The Norwegian initiative is focused on describing poorly known species groups across the country's varied habitats, from its alpine plateaus to the northernmost reaches of the island archipelago of Spitsbergen.

The finds range from  of insects and lichens to new species of molluscs and cold-water sponges. The information gives scientists and policymakers a better platform for understanding of the complexity and function of Norway's ecosystems.

"These are very good results that provide new knowledge of both individualspecies and ecosystems," says Ivar Myklebust, director of the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre, which is coordinating the taxonomy initiative on commission from the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment.

Scientists believe that there are roughly 55 000 species in Norway, but until now only 41 000 have been discovered. The 1165 new species discovered by the taxonomy initiative over the last four years are thus an important addition to this number. However, it will take time before the species that are thought to be new to science can be added to this list. These newly discovered species must first be given a scientific name and a description of the species must be published in a scientific publication.

"Norway's land, seas and coastal areas have a unique variety of landscapes and ecosystems with great variation over short distances, which is rare in a global context," said Tine Sundtoft, Norway's Minister of Climate and the Environment. "This gives us a rich and varied flora and fauna. The Government will take our management responsibilities seriously."

Many new insect species

The biggest discoveries have been made in the major species-rich groups where previous knowledge has been poor – including in the groups that include wasps, flies and mosquitoes.

Scientists believe that there are thousands of species in Norway yet to be discovered in these groups. The figures from the taxonomy initiative shows that nearly 60 per cent of the new species are insects or other small terrestrial invertebrates (729 species), including 667 new species of insects, 17 new spider species and 18 new springtail species.

A boost in knowledge about fungi

Fungi represent another large and species-rich group in Norway. Since 2009, scientists have found 227 new fungi species as part of the taxonomy initiative.

Some of these fungal species have been discovered using DNA analysis to clarify the relationship between species. This has led scientists to split some species into two, or to increase the species numbers from 14 to 31, as was the case for coral fungi.

New marine species

Norway's rich marine environment supplied 157 new species, including sponges, snails, slime worms, bristle worms, fish parasites, molluscs and starfish. Another 16 new species were discovered in brackish and fresh water, primarily fish parasites and small crustaceans.

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