Habitat monitoring in Europe: a description of current practices
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- Lengyel, S., Déri, E., Varga, Z. et al. Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17: 3327. doi:10.1007/s10531-008-9395-3
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Monitoring of biodiversity at the level of habitats is becoming increasingly common. Here we describe current practices in habitat monitoring based on 150 schemes in Europe. Most schemes were initiated after 1990 in response to EU nature directives or habitat management/restoration actions, with funding mostly from European or national sources. Schemes usually monitor both the spatial distribution and the quality of the habitats, and they frequently collect data on environmental parameters and potential causes of changes. Many schemes are local or regional rather than national or international in scope, and sampling effort varies greatly across spatial and temporal scales. Experimental design is used in half of the schemes, however, data are rarely analysed by advanced statistics. Most schemes require two months or less per year in manpower and are typically run by professionals rather than by volunteers. Estimated salaries plus equipment costs average 650,000 Euro per year per scheme, and add up to 80 million Euros annually. Costs are particularly high for schemes based on European or international law and for schemes funded by European or national sources. Costs are also high in schemes in which sampling sites are selected subjectively rather than based on sampling theory, and in schemes that do not use field mapping or remote sensing to document spatial variation in habitats. Our survey demonstrates promising developments in European habitat monitoring but also underlines the need for better spatial coverage, documentation of spatial variaton, improved sampling design and advanced data analysis. Such improvements are essential if we are to judge progress towards the 2010 biodiversity targets.