National biodiversity monitoring programs in Europe face many challenges, according to the first report of the Europe-wide EuropaBON project released today. The analysis includes data from more than 350 experts from policy, science, and environmental protection practice. The team is also drafting a proposal for a transnational monitoring of Europe's biodiversity and ecosystems.

The European data landscape is highly fragmented in the area of biodiversity. A variety of different methods for data collection and analysis often makes it impossible to compare the information obtained across countries.

"In addition, many countries have difficulty even meeting the minimum biodiversity monitoring required by the European Commission," explains Henrique Pereira, a researcher at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, who also heads the EuropaBON (Europa Biodiversity Observation Network) project.

“The reasons for this are manifold: too little funding, insufficient technical capacities, a lack of support from long-term political goals, inaccessibility of data from the agricultural, energy, and fisheries sectors, but also a certain skepticism about changing existing methods,” adds Juliette Martin, a researcher jointly associated with the IIASA Equity and Justice and Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation research groups.

Yet monitoring data would have great potential to help shape policies and guidelines in an evidence-based approach, as the first policy report of the EuropaBON project shows.

The pan-European project was launched in November 2020 to develop a unified, comprehensive, and equally practical approach to monitoring Europe's biodiversity and ecosystems. It involves 15 partner institutions from across Europe, including IIASA. Since then, the team has conducted surveys, interviews and workshops with more than 350 representatives from science, policy, and conservation practice. Specifically, the aim was to obtain an overview of previous monitoring measures and their associated challenges, as well as to find initial approaches towards a common standard.

"The responses paint a comprehensive picture of the current situation in many European countries and now serve as the basis for the design of a new, multi-national biodiversity monitoring network in Europe," says IIASA Novel Data Ecosystems for Sustainability Research Group Leader, Ian McCallum.

Consistent, high-quality biodiversity data is needed to meet the goals of the EU's 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. In it, member states commit to restoring threatened or already destroyed ecosystems by 2030 and halting biodiversity loss.

"The EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy currently represents the core of integrated policies. To achieve its goals, however, European countries and the European Commission need more robust, comparable data at all scales," says Aletta Bonn of the University of Jena, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). She adds that such data would help policymakers and scientists develop evidence-based targets and their progress assessments for conserving and restoring ecosystems and their services.

One particular method shows real promise for harmonizing the different approaches across Europe: the identification of so-called "Essential Biodiversity Variables" and "Essential Ecosystem Service Variables”.

In the report, the EuropaBON team presents a ranked list of the 15 highest scoring variables that could be used for a common approach. These cover a wide range from bird and marine fish biodiversity to plant and invasive species distribution to land-use change. However, most of these 15 variables are currently not monitored at all or not adequately monitored in Europe.

The findings from this report will support EuropaBON in selecting a consolidated list of essential biodiversity and ecosystem service variables going forward. In addition, it will help identify monitoring gaps in existing processes and to co-design workflows with many different stakeholders, ranging from observations to knowledge products that address bottlenecks and consider novel technologies to maximize the benefits for everyone that cares about reversing biodiversity loss in Europe.

Click here to access the full report.

If you wish to engage with EuropaBON and receive future outputs, please consider joining here.

Reference

Moersberger H., Martin J.G.C., Junker J., Georgieva I. et al (2022): EuropaBON: User and Policy Needs Assessment. EuropaBON/German Centre of Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Leipzig. DOI: 10.3897/rio.coll.145

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