We describe an integrated database on European macrobenthic fauna, developed within the framework of the European Network of Excellence MarBEF, and the data and data integration exercise that provided its content. A total of 44 datasets including 465 354 distribution records from soft-bottom macrobenthic species were uploaded into the relational MacroBen database, corresponding to 22 897 sampled stations from all European seas, and 7203 valid taxa. All taxonomic names were linked to the European Register of Marine Species, which was used as the taxonomic reference to standardise spelling and harmonise synonymy. An interface was created, allowing the user to explore, subselect, export and analyse the data by calculating different indices. Although the sampling techniques and intended use of the datasets varied tremendously, the integrated database proved to be robust, and an important tool for studying and understanding large-scale long-term distributions and abundances of marine benthic life. Crucial in the process was the willingness and the positive data-sharing attitude of the different data contributors. Development of a data policy that is highly aware of sensitivities and ownership issues of data providers was essential in the creation of this goodwill.
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