How can we improve biodiversity monitoring?


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

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

“In addition, many countries have difficulties in fulfilling the minimum biodiversity monitoring required by the European Commission,” explains Henrique Pereira, scientist at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle – Jena-Leipzig, who also leads the EuropaBON (Europa Biodiversity Observation Network) project.

“The reasons for this are manifold: insufficient funding, insufficient technical capacity, 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 affiliated with the IIASA Justice and Justice and Biodiversity, Ecology and Conservation research groups.

However, surveillance data would have great potential to help shape strategies and policies in an evidence-based approach, as the EuropaBON project’s first policy report shows.

The Europe-wide 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, politics and conservation practice. Specifically, the aim was to get an overview of previous monitoring measures and the associated challenges and to find initial approaches for a common standard.

“The responses paint a comprehensive picture of the current situation in many European countries and are now serving as the basis for designing a new, multinational biodiversity monitoring network in Europe,” says IIASA Novel Data Ecosystems for Sustainability Research Group Leader, Ian McCallum.

In order to achieve the goals of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030, consistent, high-quality biodiversity data are required. In it, the member states undertake to restore threatened or already destroyed ecosystems by 2030 and to stop the loss of biodiversity.

“The EU 2030 biodiversity strategy currently represents the core of integrated policies. However, in order to achieve their goals, European countries and the European Commission need more robust, comparable data at all levels,” says Aletta Bonn from the University of Jena, the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). She adds that such data would help policymakers and scientists develop evidence-based goals and their assessments of progress for the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and their services.

One method in particular is promising 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 ranking of the 15 highest-scoring variables that could be used for a common approach. These cover a wide spectrum, from bird and marine fish biodiversity to the distribution of plants and invasive species to land use change. However, most of these 15 variables are currently not or not sufficiently monitored in Europe.

Findings from this report will assist EuropaBON in selecting a consolidated list of key biodiversity and ecosystem service variables for the future. Additionally, it will help identify monitoring gaps in existing processes and co-design workflows with many different stakeholders, from observations to knowledge products that address bottlenecks and consider emerging technologies to maximize benefits for all who engage care about reversing the loss of biodiversity in Europe.

If you are interested in getting involved with EuropaBON and would like to receive future results, please consider joining here.


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

About IIASA:

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international scientific institute that conducts research on the critical issues of global ecological, economic, technological and social change that we are facing in the 21st century. Our findings offer policymakers valuable options to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by renowned research funding agencies in Africa, America, Asia and Europe.

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