BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 09:53 GMT
First look at vast 'book of life'
By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News

Screenshot of page from Encyclopaedia of Life (EOL)
The encyclopedia is scheduled for completion in 2017
The first 30,000 pages have been unveiled of a vast encyclopedia which aims to catalogue every one of our planet's 1.8 million species.

The immense online resource is designed to greatly enhance our understanding of the world's diminishing biodiversity.

The creators of the database say it could have an impact on human knowledge comparable to that which followed the microscope's invention in the 1600s.

It is designed to be used by everyone from scientists to lay readers.

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) - described as the "ultimate field guide" - is to encompass all six kingdoms of life, and even viruses - which many researchers do not consider to be living organisms.

We think it is important to serve information on organisms that are doing okay, but also those that have been recently extinct