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A virtual book of all life on Earth is being created by UK and US scientists.
The online reference work will create a detailed world map of flora and fauna and track changes in biodiversity.
The database, dubbed a "macroscopic observatory", will be populated with data about local species gathered by members of the public.
Early elements of the giant database, such as automatic species identification systems, are already under construction.
Within 10 years, expect its backers, all aspects of the database will be available. Some parts of the system, such as images of species, maps of the seas and gene sequences to help with DNA barcoding, are already in use.