Monitoring programmes are required not only to detect and measure changes in biodiversity, but to evaluate the successes and failures of policies, strategies, plans and programmes set up to achieve the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Monitoring is also important to enable those who are custodians of biological resources to take appropriate action to conserve such resources.
The monitoring of biodiversity should further include: species and communities that are rare or threatened; that are of medicinal agricultural, or other economic value, that are wild relatives of domesticated or cultivated species; that are directly used for subsistence purposes (e.g. fuelwood, building materials); that have social, scientific or cultural importance; or that are important for research into the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, such as indicator species; and genomes and genes of social, scientific or economic importance.
Biodiversity monitoring should promote and coordinate the development of international, national, regional and local monitoring programmes and strategies to assess biological trends, the impacts of human activities on biodiversity, and the successes or failures of conservation and sustainable use programmes. Monitoring programmes will, where appropriate: a) develop and link up to the development of a national biodiversity information network; b) develop and implement cost-effective approaches such as the use of biodiversity indicator groups and other early warning stress indicators; c) update and review Red Data books, in line with appropriate international standards; and d) track changes in management responses to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
Unified biodiversity monitoring is required to carry out long-term dynamic monitoring of wild plant and animal species, nature reserves, unique ecosystems and the trade in wildlife. Monitoring should be conducted using a unified monitoring technical code and advanced technical means, such as stationary or semi-stationary monitoring, remote sensing, aerial surveys, lasers, geographical information system (GIS) and others. Building a wildlife monitoring system and developing the standards for surveying wildlife as well as monitoring biodiversity in agricultural ecosystems requires the monitoring, classification and storage of information about diversity in wildlife, crops, livestock, poultry and aquatic life.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities. Agenda 21 recommends developing methods of undertaking systematic sampling and evaluation on a national basis of the components of biological diversity identified by means of country studies.
Article 7 of the Convention for Biological Diversity, entitled, Identification and Monitoring, states: Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate, in particular for the purposes of Articles 8 to 10: (a) Identify components of biological diversity important for its conservation and sustainable use having regard to the indicative list of categories set down in Annex I; (b) Monitor, through sampling and other techniques, the components of biological diversity identified pursuant to subparagraph (a) above, paying particular attention to those requiring urgent conservation measures and those which offer the greatest potential for sustainable use; (c) Identify processes and categories of activities which have or are likely to have significant adverse impacts on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and monitor their effects through sampling and other techniques; and (d) Maintain and organize, by any mechanism data, derived from identification and monitoring activities pursuant to subparagraphs (a), (b) and (c) above.
At the Strategy Council meeting of the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS) on 20-21 April 1999 it was agreed by the Council to entrust to ECNC and EEA the task of development a European Biodiversity Monitoring Initiative. On 5 July 1999 ECNC, and the EEA, held a meeting in Copenhagen to discuss a workplan for the project. At this meeting it was agreed to suggest to STRA-CO to proceed in phases and to let the outcome of each phase determine the next. The relations to the next ministerial conference (Kiev 2000) would also be taken into account.
Many monitoring programmes under way in South Africa are of relevance to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Several biodiversity monitoring tools are based upon established inventories, including the Red Data Book series, with books on plants, terrestrial mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, freshwater fish and butterflies, and the fynbos and karoo biomes; the South African Bird Atlas project; and the Protea Atlas Project. Species-level action plans are additionally being developed at the national, continental and global scale. Several broader environmental monitoring programmes are also under way, including those relating to air and water quality, climatic change, fisheries, land reform, and ecological changes such as fire.
In the Ministerial Declaration from the UN/ECE 4th Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" (23-25 June 1998) (Ã…rhus Conference), it was decided to consider developing a European Biodiversity Monitoring Initiative. This followed a proposal by BirdLife/RSPB. The initiative would include a harmonized system for monitoring progress on implementation of biodiversity related agreements in Europe including PEBLDS. Until now, the EEA and its European Topic Centre on Nature conservation (ETC/NC) have run projects in preparing the ground for future monitoring by exploring the national and international experience in the field of biodiversity monitoring, in particular on site monitoring. The EEA intends to continue to elaborate monitoring initiatives in the foreseeable future.
The establishment of functional biodiversity monitoring system is still under consideration or development in Baltic States and is probably most advanced in Estonia. But even there it is not designed to provide data for biodiversity indicators. These two issues stand apart. The experience in Estonia shows the need to build up the biodiversity monitoring system as a separate and holistic programme, but connected to other environmental monitoring fields.