A new EU-funded project aims at developing a transnational system for monitoring biodiversity and ecosystems in Europe, including the UvA researchers Daniel Kissling and Judy Shamoun-Baranes from the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics. The results of the project will inform the political decisions of the European Commission and other decision-makers. The EU provides three million euros funding for the project.
In May of this year the European Commission presented the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. The strategy aims to restore threatened or already degraded ecosystems in Europe by the year 2030 and to halt biodiversity loss. Numerous studies and data on biodiversity in Europe are currently collected, but the data are often limited in time and space, not immediately accessible, or only available for specific taxonomic groups. There is thus a gap between the biodiversity data needs of policy-makers and authorities responsible for policy implementation on the one hand and the existing reporting streams and data sources on the other hand. The new project aims to bridge this gap by designing a European Biodiversity Observation Network.
‘This is a huge opportunity and at the same time an immense responsibility’, says Dr Daniel Kissling, Associate Professor at UvA and work package leader in the project, being responsible for the co-design of the monitoring system. ‘We are asked to provide a cost-efficient framework for the future monitoring of biodiversity across Europe, including suggestions for data collection and data management protocols, relevant workflows, and a coherent framework for the analysis and reporting of data and trends of biodiversity change in key ecosystem types’, explains Kissling. Up to now, it has often been difficult to compare the various data, and a systematic, up-to-date information system reflecting the status of Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems is therefore urgently needed. The project will involve not only researchers of the UvA Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystems Dynamics but also a network of 14 other partner institutions from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Spain.
This European research alliance called ‘EuropaBON’ will be coordinated by Professor Henrique Pereira and Dr Jessica Junker from the Martin Luther University (MLU) Halle-Wittenberg and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). One of the goals is to develop a new standard for monitoring biodiversity and ecosystems. Another aim is to harmonise the data that have already been published on these issues. This includes data on biodiversity and other factors, such as water quality, as well as satellite data and data from government agencies, long-term trials, and other scientific sources. Often these data were collected with the intent of answering a specific research question and are difficult to compare. Clarifying how this can nevertheless be achieved and the data be integrated is a key goal of the project.
One of the contributions that the UvA researchers will make is the use of weather radar to monitor bird migrations. Operational weather radar networks are usually used to make weather forecast, but they also detect signals of mass migration of birds and insects. ‘The operational weather radar network in Europe is already being used in some countries to monitor and forecast biomass flows of avian migrants for research, aviation safety and wind energy, but many technical challenges remain before weather radar data can be used operationally throughout Europe to monitor aerial biodiversity’, explains Judy Shamoun-Baranes, Professor of Animal Movement Ecology at UvA. ‘We will illustrate how existing infrastructure designed for meteorological observations can provide important information for monitoring flows of migratory birds across Europe, especially in period of peak autumn migration’, explains Shamoun-Baranes.
The project will focus not only on aerial biomass flows but on developing and tracking a range of so-called Essential Biodiversity Variables that will provide a coherent overall picture of Europe’s biodiversity and form the basis for political decisions. The project involves a range of stakeholders, will assess existing monitoring efforts, and use a set of policy-oriented showcases to demonstrate how the multiple dimensions of biodiversity change can be better monitored in the future, from genetic composition over species distributions to ecosystem function. By the end of the project, various options for a European network will have been established for monitoring biodiversity and ecosystems. Using concrete case studies, the team will examine the feasibility of the concepts - from data acquisition and management to reporting to the European Commission. In the future, the system should also make it possible to retrospectively assess the effect of individual nature conservation measures.