To address challenges affecting ‘National Biodiversity Monitoring Programs’ in Europe, 350 experts are drafting a proposal for the transnational monitoring of Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems.
National biodiversity monitoring programs in Europe face many challenges: too little coordination, inadequate technical and financial resources, and unclear targets. This is the conclusion of an initial policy report by the Europe-wide project Europa Biodiversity Observation Network (EuropaBON). The analysis includes data from more than 350 experts in policy, science and environmental protection. The team is also drafting a proposal for the transnational monitoring of Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems.
The European data landscape is highly fragmented in the area of biodiversity. Countries use a variety of methods for data collection and analysis, often making it impossible to compare information.
Meeting biodiversity monitoring
“In addition, many countries have difficulty even meeting the minimum biodiversity monitoring required by the European Commission,” says Professor Henrique Pereira, who conducts research at Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, and also heads the EuropaBON project.
The reasons for this vary: too little funding, insufficient technical capacities, a lack of support from long-term political goals, the inability to access data from the agricultural, energy and fisheries sectors, and a certain skepticism about changing existing methods.
Finding a common approach
Data monitoring could significantly help shape policies and guidelines in an evidence-based way, as the first policy report of the EuropaBON project shows. The pan-European project was launched in November 2020 with the task of developing a unified, comprehensive, and equally practical approach to monitoring Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems.
Since then, the team has conducted surveys, interviews and workshops with more than 350 representatives from science, policy, and conservation. The aim was to understand previous monitoring measures and the challenges associated with them, and also to find initial approaches toward a common standard.
“We are very happy about the stakeholder responses that paint a comprehensive picture of the current situation in many European countries. These now serve as the basis for a joint design of a new, multi-national biodiversity monitoring network in Europe with stakeholders from policy, science and society across Europe,” says Professor Aletta Bonn, Principal Investigator for the policy report, from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, and iDiv.
2030 Biodiversity Strategy
Consistent, high-quality biodiversity data is needed to meet the goals of the EU’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. As part of this strategy, member states commit to restoring threatened or already destroyed ecosystems by 2030 and halting biodiversity loss.
“The EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy is currently at the core of the integrated policies. But to achieve its goals, European countries and the European Commission need more robust, comparable data at all scales,” says Dr. Ian McCallum, from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria and co-lead for the report.
He adds that such data would help policymakers and scientists develop evidence-based targets and progress reports for conserving and restoring ecosystems and their services.
Biodiversity, Ecosystem Variables
One method shows real promise for harmonizing the different approaches in Europe: the identification of so-called “Essential Biodiversity Variables” and “Essential Ecosystem Service Variables”. In its report, the “EuropaBON” team presents a list of the 15 highest ranking variables that could be used in a common approach.
These range from bird and marine fish biodiversity, to plant and invasive species distribution to land-use change. However, most of these 15 variables are not being monitored at all or are not monitored adequately in Europe.
The project “EuropaBON” aims to develop a transnational system for monitoring biodiversity and ecosystems in Europe.
It is led by MLU and iDiv and involves 15 partner institutions from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The EU is funding the project with three million euros.
For more information: https://europabon.org/
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