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EU-wide monitoring framework for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

EU-wide monitoring framework for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

EuropaBON aims to design an EU-wide monitoring framework for biodiversity and ecosystem services.  Building the EuropaBON framework requires engaging stakeholders at all stages of the design process. This continuous process starts with identifying user and policy needs for biodiversity monitoring, as laid out in this report. The next step in the EuropaBON design process will consist of assessing current monitoring efforts to identify gaps, as well as data and workflow bottlenecks. The process will conclude with co-designing a new monitoring system that integrates existing data streams with models to produce relevant biodiversity indicators tailored to policy and management.

This report reflects the needs and opinions expressed by the stakeholders who were able to participate in the various engagement events described below. The results of this initial assessment of the biodiversity data and policy landscape in Europe will serve to guide and inform the further work that EuropaBON will undertake over the next two years and should not be regarded as final results of any upcoming EuropaBON tasks. While this report provides information on user data needs for addressing open policy questions, EuropaBON is currently investigating which user-identified policy questions can be addressed with existing data, and how modelled biodiversity variables can help to fill remaining data gaps. These and other tasks form part of the Work Packages (WP) on assessing existing monitoring capability in Europe (WP3) and co-designing the proposed European monitoring system (WP4), the results of which will be released to the EuropaBON community for open review at a later stage of the project.

To define the various user needs, we engaged stake holders in four key steps. We held an initial public stakeholder workshop attended by 246 participants from policy, practice, and research. After the workshop, we collected information through a survey on biodiversity data use and policy needs addressed to experts from all European countries and EU agencies. This was followed by an expert meeting with national focal points of the European Environment Information and Observation Network (Eio-net), representatives of eight relevant EU agencies and experts involved in national/regional biodiversity monitoring from 18 European member and non-member states.

We also conducted semi-structured interviews with selected stakeholders to complement the survey responses. A majority of the  stakeholders represented the agencies dealing with the Nature Directives, while there were few stakeholders representing agencies working on freshwater and marine issues. Therefore, the results of this report focuses mainly on terrestrial biodiversity monitoring, while freshwater and marine monitoring are equally important. The results of this assessment shows a fragmented bio-diversity data landscape that cannot easily answer all relevant policy questions. The quantity and quality of baseline biodiversity datasets differ across countries, ranging from non-existent biodiversity monitoring due to capacity issues, to intermittent and regular monitoring of ecosystem state and processes.

Monitoring schemes focus mainly on species and protected areas. Habitats and ecosystems are covered to a lesser extent, and genetic diversity is even more rarely monitored. The most intensively monitored taxonomic groups by European countries are birds, mammals, and plants. More than two-thirds of biodiversity datasets listed by survey respondents are currently used to report to the Habitats and Birds Directives, while less than one-third were reported to be used to inform other EU Directives (e.g., Water Framework Directive WFD, Marine Strategy Framework Directive MSFD) and policies (e.g., Common Agriculture Policy, Common Fisheries Policy, Invasive Alien Species Regulation), pointing to potential data bottle necks. For the WFD, the monitoring is conducted for all major taxonomic groups (biological quality elements) in a large number of rivers, lakes, transitional and coastal waters.

Several countries indicated their struggle to fulfil monitoring obligations for EU Directives, which is due in part to limited resources as well as differing taxonomies and habitat classifications. EuropaBON is mapping monitoring efforts and how successful they are in task 3.1 (WP3), which will give a more accurate picture.With exceptions such as some bird species and some priority habitat types, monitoring schemes do not cover the full range of genetic, taxonomic and ecosystem diversity within the respective countries. The coverage of different species and ecosystems is biased, as many of the national monitoring activities are mainly influenced by the reporting obligations of the Birds and Habitats Directives, and therefore focus on species listed in the Directives and endangered species. Similar biases exist in taxa monitored by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and citizen scientists. These well-monitored taxa, however, may not always address urgent national and European policy needs, and many unknowns remain. Countries across different regions of Europe ranked biodiversity monitoring challenges differently.

For example, the lack of long-term policies is seen as a major challenge in southern and western Europe, while limited financial resources were ranked as a more important constraint in southern and eastern Europe. Roadblocks to monitoring by national agencies include lack of support to establish coordinated monitoring programs and insufficient technical capacity. They also include lack of guidance in identifying monitoring priorities; lack of authoritative and standardised monitoring protocols; hesitation to change existing monitoring practises;  unavailability of data from sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, and energy; and limited in-house knowledge and technical infrastructure to adequately mobilise and access biodiversity data. A positive example is the Water Framework Directive (WFD), for which all countries haveestablished both surveillance and operational monitoring programmes following the WFD article 8 and using the WFD monitoring guidance and the standardised sampling and analysis methods.

Source – EuropaBon

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