Biodiversity in Europe: MLU leads new pan-European project for joint monitoring
A new research project aims at developing a transnational system for monitoring biodiversity and ecosystems in Europe. It is being coordinated by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig. The results of the project are to inform the political decisions of the European Commission and other decision-makers. The EU is providing three million euros in funding for the project. A virtual kick-off meeting of the project partners will take place from 1 – 3 December.
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. „The problem is that we do not have a consistent picture of how biodiversity is changing across different species and taxonomic groups – for example mammals or amphibians – in the different regions of Europe,“ says Professor Henrique Pereira, a researcher at MLU and iDiv. There are numerous studies and data on biodiversity in Europe; however, the collected data are often limited to time and place, and to individual species or taxonomic groups. Therefore, it is often difficult to compare the data. „A systematic, up-to-date information system that reflects the status of Europe’s biodiversity and ecosystems is needed in order to establish informed policy measures. It must also be geared to the needs of policymakers,“ says Pereira.
This is where the European research alliance „EuropaBON“ comes in, which Pereira will coordinate together with Dr Jessica Junker. One of its 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 another goal of the project. Researchers and political decision-makers will collaborate on developing and tracking a range of so-called Essential Biodiversity Variables that will provide a coherent overall picture of Europe and form the basis for political decisions. „We want to synchronise the information requirements between politics and science,“ says Pereira in summary.
For this broad-based project, the team from Halle and Leipzig is drawing on a network of 14 partner institutions from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. „The data and the methods behind them are far too complex for one institution to handle alone. That’s why we are glad to have established this top-class scientific network,“ says Pereira.
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.