Data quality in monitoring plant species richness in Switzerland


The on-going Biodiversity Monitoring in Switzerland Programme (BDM) has monitored vascular-plant species richness since 2001. This long-term programme focuses on two indicators at different spatial scales. First, the local diversity indicator monitors changes of species richness within habitats or types of land use (within-habitat diversity). Second, the landscape diversity indicator is utilized to describe landscape diversity (i.e., within-habitat mosaic diversity). Here we examine if the reproducibility of the BDM methods is sufficiently precise to detect future changes in species richness. We demonstrate that systematic methodical errors are negligible. Random errors that make changes more difficult to detect are also small. We calculate the Minimum Detectable Difference (MDD) for selected BDM strata using the variance of measured values. Then we deduce the MDD values for paired samples using data from grasslands and forests in the Canton Argovia. With 2.4 and 1.6 species they are promisingly precise. We develop a simple scenario for possible changes in species richness and show that they surpass the deduced MDD values by a factor four to six. We conclude that the BDM methods are appropriate for detecting future changes in species richness.



Biodiversity Monitoring in Switzerland Programme


standard deviation


minimum detectable difference


Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape


local diversity indicator


landscape diversity indicator


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Correspondence to M. Plattner.

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Plattner, M., Birrer, S. & Weber, D. Data quality in monitoring plant species richness in Switzerland. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 5, 135–143 (2004).

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  • Baseline monitoring
  • Biodiversity
  • Data quality
  • Field methods
  • Reproducibility
  • Species richness
  • Switzerland
  • Vascular plants