A standardized procedure for surveillance and monitoring European habitats and provision of spatial data
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Both science and policy require a practical, transmissible, and reproducible procedure for surveillance and monitoring of European habitats, which can produce statistics integrated at the landscape level. Over the last 30 years, landscape ecology has developed rapidly, and many studies now require spatial data on habitats. Without rigorous rules, changes from baseline records cannot be separated reliably from background noise. A procedure is described that satisfies these requirements and can provide consistent data for Europe, to support a range of policy initiatives and scientific projects. The methodology is based on classical plant life forms, used in biogeography since the nineteenth century, and on their statistical correlation with the primary environmental gradient. Further categories can therefore be identified for other continents to assist large scale comparisons and modelling. The model has been validated statistically and the recording procedure tested in the field throughout Europe. A total of 130 General Habitat Categories (GHCs) is defined. These are enhanced by recording environmental, site and management qualifiers to enable flexible database interrogation. The same categories are applied to areal, linear and point features to assist recording and subsequent interpretation at the landscape level. The distribution and change of landscape ecological parameters, such as connectivity and fragmentation, can then be derived and their significance interpreted.