Genetic diversity in the Balkans is the subject of a conference (“Balkans – Hot Spots of Ancient and Present Genetic Diversity”, 17-20 June 2009) currently underway in Sofia, Bulgaria. Organized jointly by several Bulgarian forestry agencies and institutions, scientists from over 20 European countries are gathered to hear updates on the latest research being undertaken in the region.

I am here at the conference, sweltering in a very warm Sofia (temperatures reaching 40 degrees C), to present a paper on knowledge bases in climate change information. No-one can have failed to notice the huge explosion in papers published relating to climate change, from around a couple of hundred in the early 1990s to over 5000 currently (see graph which is based on publications listed in CAB Abstracts).

Climateliterature Keeping up to date with current developments in the face of such a deluge of information is presenting its own set of challenges to scientists working in the field and I was interested to hear how scientists were using a variety of methods to keep track of recently published work such as table of contents alerts from their favourite journals, searches of bibliographic databases and perusing Current Contents.

Not surprisingly, many of the papers being presented are on forest tree species with a particular emphasis on spread and ecological diversification following the last glaciation. Techniques used to assess genetic diversity include the use of molecular markers such as RFLPs, SNPs, microsatellites and AFLPs.  However, some of the work reported deals with other taxa such as beetles, brown bears and even humans (X chromosome diversity in Armenians).

The Balkan peninsula (the area bounded by the Black Sea, Adriatic and the Ionian Seas) has a high biodiversity, in particular genetic diversity. This is due to a number of reasons including a southern location combined with high mountains, the influence of rich biogeographic regions nearby, and also due to the fact that the Balkans were almost unaffected by the last glaciations, making it a site of several glacial refugia. Climate change projections for this region suggest more extremes of temperature and severe droughts in summer which will place pressure on the flora and fauna with increased incidence of forest fires and habitat fragmentation. Several studies presented at the conference examined the changes in biodiversity resulting from palaeoclimatic changes which may give an indication of how populations will fare in the future.

The conference and associated meetings at institutions nearby in Sofia and Plovdiv have been incredibly useful giving me the opportunity to obtain valuable feedback from researchers and librarians on CABI’s information resources such as CAB Abstracts and Environmental Impact. There was a great deal of interest in Environmental Impact with many researchers being impressed by the wide range of content such as the bibliographic database (1.1 million records), reviews, articles, E-books, etc. I have also been collecting a considerable amount of Bulgarian conference proceedings, journals and monographs for inclusion in the CABI Full Text repository. This repository allows us to link full text PDFs to the corresponding bibliographic records in our databases. Researchers have been eagerly contributing material for inclusion in the repository to reach a global audience for the work of Bulgarian scientists active in the fields of forestry and ecology.

For more information on the Full Text project please click the link:

For more information on the Environmental Impact internet resource please click the link:


  1. boat model on 1st March 2010 at 4:50 am

    I found the CABi report very useful for my study. Are they planing to arrange the same conference this year in June? Thanks.
    – Mathew J.

  2. Halina Dawson on 1st March 2010 at 8:57 am

    Hi Mathew,
    I don’t know whether they are planning another conference – probably best to contact the conference organizer, Peter Zhelev, to ask him directly at

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