1. Introduction: Objectives of the Project

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1. Introduction: Objectives of the Project

In the field of nature conservation, one of the objectives of the European Environment Agency is to ensure assessment of biodiversity in Europe and to support implementation of the NATURA 2000 network.

The European Topic Center on Nature Conservation (ETC/NC) was set up in 1994 to assist EEA in fulfilling nature objectives of the EEA Work Programme.

Part of the assessment of biodiversity relates to the knowledge and information about ecology and geographical distribution of species as well as habitats and more particularly habitats and species from annexes of Birds and Habitats Directives. One of the major tasks was to begin to implement a European Nature Information System (EUNIS).

The identification and assessment of data sources is a full part of the implementation of EUNIS, as foreseen in the ETC/NC work-programme. This report contains the results of the first survey of data sources.


The survey was undertaken through questionnaires sent to National Focal Points or National Reference Centres of the 17 initial Member States of the European Environment Agency.

As the management of information on species and natural areas is very different in each country, information was difficult to collect and late in being transferred.

Therefore the possibilities of analysis of gaps in data sources were limited and the survey had to be completed with information from other data sources in Europe.

This analysis is based on answers received until 15 October 1995

Bearing in mind these difficulties, the European Topic Centre on Nature Conservation hopes that this report will help to complete the lack of information on data sources.

In order to assess how far data are comparable and how they can be aggregated to be used at a European level, the present survey aims at locating and describing these data sources (first phase of the study) in order to support an analysis of existing gaps in information about species, habitats and sites (second phase) and to establish contacts to relevant institutions.

Due to the late setting-up of the Topic Centre on Catalogue of Data Sources, there was no standard format for describing the sources, when the survey was initiated. Data were gathered according to a specific format defined by the Topic Centre on Nature Conservation. Transfer of test data have been done to the EEA CDS during its development phase.

The total number of data sources (*) is large and they are of varied types, containing data from geographical inventories and ecological conditions at local, national level or international level. They also differ in technical types. More and more become computerised (databases), but many exist in other forms (paper files, maps) and some such as collections consist of specimens.

(*) « The 4 main types of data sources are :

  • Institutions responsible for environmental data and information

  • Activities (data-collection, monitoring, data-management, research, information, standardisation of methods or terminologies)

  • Products (collections of data such as reports, databases and maps)

  • Stations and sites where data are collected » (PINBORG, 1994)

In this survey the ETC/NC has used the third type with the following definition :

data source: every homogeneous set of data collected for one or several objectives previously selected, and stored in a consistent structure with strict procedures. These sources may be either computerised or not and may be held in manual files, index, catalogue, computerised records or databases.

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