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EuropaBON is an EU-funded project that works with a large number of stakeholders to identify the user and policy needs for biodiversity monitoring across Europe. It assesses the current gaps and future needs for sampling, data integration and computational workflows, analyses the cost-effectiveness of different schemes, and investigates the feasibility of setting up a European centre to coordinate biodiversity monitoring activities in a more efficient way.

Essential biodiversity variables

W. Daniel Kissling is EuropaBON lead of the project’s Work Package 4. It co-designs the cost-efficient framework for the future monitoring of biodiversity across Europe. Including relevant workflows for essential biodiversity variables (EBVs), and a coherent framework for the analysis and reporting of data and trends of biodiversity change in different ecosystems.

“Our workshop specifically focused on co-designing the EBV workflows that are needed for a more integrated biodiversity observation network to close current gaps and reduce bottlenecks”, explains Kissling. “For the first time, workflows will be proposed for a wide range of EBVs at the European scale, covering terrestrial, marine and freshwater systems. And they also specify which data to collect, how to standardise and harmonise them, and which types of models are needed to analyse them.”

“Great example of co-design”

Kissling and his colleague, postdoctoral researcher Maria Lumbierres, organized the workshop with the aim to obtain input from participants on details of the workflow steps for the proposed EBVs. A total of 520 participants from 49 countries had registered for this 3-day workshop, including scientists from academia as well as stakeholders from governmental organizations, NGOs, and private industry.

To Kissling, it was very interesting to see that so many people were eager to contribute to co-designing the future European biodiversity observation network. “This was the biggest workshop I’ve been running in my career. We were absolutely amazed by the massive interest in this workshop and by the huge commitment and fantastic contributions of the participants during the workshop”, says Kissling. In a short time and with a lot of expert knowledge, the workshop made huge progress. “This was a great example for the co-design process and stakeholder involvement that EuropaBON is built on, and a crucial step for developing a European Biodiversity Observation Network that integrates data streams to support policy.”

Input on 70 variables

Of course, it was a challenge to really involve so many participants. “We had many preparatory meetings before the workshop and we involved a large team from our EuropaBON partner organizations to make this event possible”, says Maria Lumbierres who was preparing workshop material. “We designed 70 Google sheets for the workshop participants so that they could provide input for each EBV workflow, including information on current initiatives, emerging products, and future needs, and for different workflow steps, such as data collection and sampling, data integration and modelling.”

They also worked with Miro boards, which are online whiteboards where many users can simultaneously work together to creative ideas and content with the help of sticky notes and other drawing capabilities. Lumbierres: “We chose to spread the workshop throughout three days, with 2-hour sessions around midday, starting with a plenary and then splitting up into virtual break-out rooms. This format allowed many people to actively contribute, so that we could obtain detailed information for almost all EBVs.”

Towards a more coordinated biodiversity monitoring

EuropaBON is a coordination and support action funded by the European Commission. The EC has a large interest to improve the reporting of biodiversity monitoring because the biodiversity data landscape in Europe is comprised of thousands of different schemes, programs, agencies and infrastructures that operate across Europe at international, national, regional or local scales. They often geographically overlap with little coordination between them, and sometimes share similar mandates or missions, yet few synergies are actively sought out.

The EuropaBON project therefore also works on the terms of reference for a Biodiversity Monitoring Coordination Centre in Europe. Such a centre could implement and oversee an EU Biodiversity Observation Network, and better coordinate biodiversity monitoring across Europe. The document that EuropaBON produces will inform the European Commission on their new biodiversity governance framework that is currently developed in the context of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. This is a comprehensive, ambitious and long-term plan to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems in Europe.

Dr. rer. nat. W.D. (Daniel) Kissling

Faculty of Science

Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics