Effective Biodiversity Monitoring Needs a Culture of Integration


Despite agreed national and international conservation targets, there is no evidence that the global loss of biodiversity is decelerating.

Despite agreed national and international conservation targets, there is no evidence that the global loss of biodiversity is decelerating.1 There have been repeated calls for large-scale biodiversity monitoring efforts,2 but considerable taxonomic, spatial, and temporal gaps remain.3,4 Understanding trends and drivers of biodiversity change is key for identifying appropriate conservation measures5 and for measuring progress toward these targets.6 For instance, many Aichi targets defined to measure progress toward the goals of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) require information that should ultimately be derived from robust and comprehensive biodiversity monitoring programs.7 This refers especially to strategic goal B “To reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use” and goal C “To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species, and genetic diversity.” Similarly, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals SDG 14 “Life below water” and SDG 15 “Life on land” require comprehensive monitoring to measure progress toward the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity in water and on land. In addition, the post-2020 CBD targets are imminent. Hence, a more effective approach for large-scale biodiversity monitoring is urgently needed.

Most often, the design of large-scale monitoring schemes is approached from a data-centric perspective. This often leads to idealized top-down-driven sampling schemes that optimize data quality.8 Practical implementation of such schemes on the national scale is, however, rare. When monitoring efforts are single sourced and single domained, they tend to be restricted in spatiotemporal and taxonomic coverage due to limited funding (usually from public budgets but also NGOs) and expertise.3 The monitoring of Natura 2000 areas across EU member states is one attempt of joint monitoring as reporting duty to the EU Habitats Directive, with involvement of state and non-state actors, including NGOs (sometimes contracted) and citizen science data.9 However, observations are restricted to protected areas and methodologies vary widely across EU member states. Moreover, biodiversity observation data often result from programs that initially had not been designed for monitoring, such as habitat mapping programs.10 Few countries have managed to allocate the necessary resources and political support to implement fully standardized, unified monitoring programs at a national scale (for exceptions see, e.g., Switzerland11 and New Zealand).12 For instance, the Biodiversity Monitoring Switzerland scheme comprises systematic sampling of plants, mosses, molluscs, aquatic insects, butterflies, and birds within grid cells. Such programs are unlikely to represent a generic solution to be adopted by many countries, especially due to limited coordination, funding, and political support. In addition, establishing similar programs in other countries may ignore a large range of on-going grassroots biodiversity monitoring efforts. While a backbone of large-scale standardized monitoring is important for robust inferences on change,13 a single top-down implemented monitoring program will often be insufficient to achieve sustainable biodiversity monitoring that will run over decades and address the broad range of questions that needs monitoring data.

Read more at: German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research

The participation of expert volunteers in Citizen Science projects (here at the Butterfly Monitoring Germany, a project of the UFZ) is a fundamental pillar of biodiversity monitorings in Germany, especially for species groups such as butterflies, beetles, hoverflies or cicadas. (Photo Credit: André Künzelmann/UFZ)