European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results
Content archived on 2024-05-21

Biodiversity assessment tools


Problems to be solved
This project addresses the need to detect change in biodiversity, in particular the diversity of species. This requirement has long been recognised and is explicitly included in, amongst other places, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which the EU and all its Member States are parties to, the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the Ministerial Process for Protection of Forests in Europe. However, the major problem with monitoring biodiversity is that it is impossible to assess changes in the large number of species present in any place. Thus indicators able rapidly to assess changes in biodiversity are needed. An ideal indicator for assessing biodiversity provides an early warning of changes in biodiversity, particularly in relation to possible threats to biodiversity (such as pollution and alien species), specific initiatives intended to alleviate these threats (such as the CBD), and policy reforms which may affect biodiversity (such as the adjustments to the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, Transport Policy, etc.). Scientific objectives and approach The overall objective of this project is to develop indicators, or 'biodiversity assessment tools', for measuring changes in the biodiversity of terrestrial ecosystems in Europe. The approach of the project is first to consider the major factors, particularly policy-related factors, influencing biodiversity in Europe and, therefore, to assess where the greatest needs for indicators of biodiversity exists. This will be done in meetings and in an electronic conference with a wide range of stakeholders, leading to guidelines for the development of biodiversity assessment tools. From these guidelines, a series of indicators will be proposed, including those that can be measured remotely from aerial photographs, satellite and laser scanner. The proposed biodiversity indicators will then be tested across land-use gradients, from forests to intensively managed agricultural areas, in large test sites in Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Hungary, Ireland, Finland and the UK, involving scientists from these countries and from Germany and the Netherlands. Thus the approach of the project is also designed to measure the impact of land-use change on selected major components of biodiversity, including earthworms, ground-beetles, butterflies, plants, lichens and birds. Expected impacts The intended impact of this project is to improve the management of European biodiversity by producing sets of indicators, or 'biodiversity assessment tools', which will allow different stakeholders, including local and national governments, NGOs and the European Union, to monitor biodiversity.
1. Potential indicators.
After a consideration of the policy framework for the development of monitoring and indicators of biodiversity in Europe, the major biogeographic influences on biodiversity and the major key factors (or drivers) of biodiversity, and given that the project concentrated on indicators of the state of biodiversity, not indicators of drivers and pressures on biodiversity or policy responses to those drivers and pressures, the following categories of indicators were identified: a. diversity measures of: i. soil macrofauna, ii. soil Collembola, iii. ground beetles, iv. butterflies, v. plants, vi. lichens vii. birds b. landscape indices derived from remote sensing (earth observation).

2. Data on selected components of biodiversity.
Data on the abundance, diversity and composition of soil macrofauna and Collembola, ground beetles, butterflies, plants, lichens and birds were collected in 1km2 sites, or "land use units" in eight European countries - Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Hungary, Ireland, Finland and the UK. Six sites were established along land use intensity gradients, representing: a. old-growth forest b. managed forest c. forest / woodland-dominated landscape d. mixed-use landscape e. pasture-dominated landscape f. arable crop-dominated landscape. Data were obtained by standardised protocols to evaluate the potential indicators summarised above. These data also provided information for a quantification of the impact of biogeography, land use intensity, and a variety of environmental factors on biodiversity;

3. Biodiversity assessment tools:
A "biodiversity assessment toolkit" is a set of indicators, which provides information on trends on biodiversity for a range of stakeholders. This approach to monitoring acknowledges that a single measure of biodiversity is unlikely to satisfy most stakeholder needs, particularly those interested in trends in biodiversity at the European level. Choosing indicators for a particular "biodiversity assessment toolkit" will depend on the user's specific needs. However, in considering the potential indicators outlined above, the project demonstrated that the following should be borne in mind:
-Birds - potentially useful indicator, a significant predictor of the richness of butterflies, lichens and plants; not a good indicator of soil biodiversity.
-Butterflies - potentially useful indicator, a significant predictor of the richness of birds, lichens and plants; not a good indicator of soil biodiversity.
-Plants - potentially useful indicator, a significant predictor of the richness of birds, butterflies, and lichens; not a good indicator of soil biodiversity.
-Lichens - potentially useful indicator, a significant predictor of the richness of birds, butterflies and plants, although a poorer predictor of the richness of other groups of species than birds, butterflies and plants; not a good indicator of soil biodiversity.
-Macrofauna - the most promising of the three groups of soil (or soil-surface) dwelling organisms as an indicator of the richness of other taxa, showing weak correlations with butterflies and carabids and stronger correlation with plants; only two of the invertebrate groups that comprise soil macrofauna - soil Coleoptera and earthworms - evaluated, leaving the potential of this taxon least well understood
-Carabidae (ground beetles) - poor indicator, only showing a weak correlation with soil macrofauna.
-Soil Collembola - poor indicator, only showing a weak correlation with lichens.
-Landscape indices derived from remote sensing - several indices shown to be potentially useful indicators of the richness of single taxa and although no single index was correlated with the diversity of all components of biodiversity studied, a few indices correlated with more than one taxon: Total core area or disjunct core area density correlated with the richness of lichens, butterflies and ground beetles Patch richness correlated with the richness of birds and Collembola Landscape evenness correlated with the richness of birds and butterfliesDespite these promising results, the project also identified some of the crucial limits within which these potential indicators should be used. The presence of these limits implies that indicators of biodiversity must be cautiously applied. A network of biodiversity observation sites where detailed information on biodiversity was regularly collected would, amongst other things, permit the testing of indicators and, therefore, greatly increase the confidence in their application. 4 Reports, papers, web-site and other means to disseminate information Several papers have been published and many more are in preparation. A stakeholder conference was held in June 2003 and the results of the project have been and will be presented in many meetings, workshops and conferences.

Call for proposal

Data not available


EU contribution
No data
North Star Avenue, Polaris House
United Kingdom

See on map

Total cost
No data

Participants (24)