New toolkit for biodiversity conservation — SEBI 2010 set of indicators launched
Grazing under pressure
The pan-European initiative, SEBI 2010 (Streamlining European 2010 Biodiversity Indicators), was launched in 2004 to develop a European set of biodiversity indicators for assessing and informing about progress in halting biodiversity loss. The Agency has worked on developing this set since 2005, in collaboration with countries, international organisations, non-governmental organisations, the European Commission and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). What is now ready is a detailed description of each of the indicators, complete with methodological data, i.e. how to calculate and use them.
Some of the indicators such as the abundance and distribution of selected species directly track the impact on a part of Europe's biodiversity. Others reflect threats to biodiversity such as the presence of invasive alien species. Some, like the status of commercial fish stocks look at sustainable use of biodiversity resources and some, like fragmentation of natural and semi-natural areas, address the issue of ecosystem integrity. Taken as a whole, the set can help policy-makers assess the impact that various economic sectors and sectoral policies have on Europe’s biodiversity.
One challenge when developing the set of indicators has been to find indicators with good geographical coverage, that is to say indicators which can be calculated for many pan-European countries. Other challenges have been to boil the set down to a manageable number of indicators, and to choose the ones that are most helpful to reach policy objectives.
As the availability of data from public bodies varies, use has been made of data from non-governmental environmental organisations (NGOs). Monitoring, conservation and assessment of biodiversity depend to a much greater degree on NGO activities than what other environmental issues do. Funding for biodiversity monitoring also lags behind national investments in other environmental issues, like air and water quality, and air emissions. The Agency hopes that the existence of the set of biodiversity indicators and the recognition in the Biodiversity Declaration will motivate countries to improve their data collection.
Fifteen years after the adoption of the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992, the recognition of biodiversity loss has gained in political profile both at global, national and regional levels. This has resulted in commitments for action by heads of states, initiated in 2001 in the European Union. While at global level, the target is 'to achieve a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss', the one set at EU and pan-European level is even more ambitious, namely to 'halt the loss of biodiversity' by 2010.
The SEBI 2010 activities are relevant in several policy contexts:
- European Union: by implementing the biodiversity indicators, the EU follows up on the message from a major stakeholder conference in 2004 on what was needed to reach the 2010 objectives. This message was later endorsed by the EU Environment Council. The biodiversity indicators also support the Lisbon Agenda, the sustainable development strategy, the habitats and birds directives and the biodiversity strategy;
- Pan-European: as a follow-up to the 2003 Kiev Resolution on Biodiversity, SEBI 2010 supports the UNECE Environment for Europe process and the PEBLDS;
- Global: the EU biodiversity headline indicators are based on the CBD indicators, customized to the European needs. Therefore SEBI 2010 also responds to CBD Decision VII/30 on the future evaluation of progress with the convention;
- National: many countries have also developed indicators to monitor their biodiversity. SEBI 2010 proposes indicators that may be adopted at the national level if this has not yet been done, though there is no obligation for countries to do so.
- Technical report No 11/2007: Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010: proposal for a first set of indicators to monitor progress in Europe
- What are indicators? Environmental indicators: typology and overview