3. Analysis + 3.a. Review of Existing Information on Nature in Europe

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3.  Analysis of the Collected Data (Second Phase)

3.a. Review of Existing Information on Nature in Europe

Almost 200 data sources in Europe

92% of the sources identified were in computerised form.

Table 3 illustrates the number of data sources per country : between 1 and almost 60 data sources are recorded depending on the country.




4 (*)










3 (**)
































(*) Austria has provided a list of 10 data sources, but only 4 filled questionnaires have been returned
(**) other data pending (***) data pending

Table 3: Number of data sources in each country + Europe + International reported before 15-10-95

On 30 July 1996, several questionnaires had been returned to ETC/NC , but they are not taken into account in the analysis:

Austria: +5, Denmark: +6, Germany: +12, UK: +17, International: +1

The figures of Table 3 are not representative of the quantity of information available in each country. The sources may be more or less voluminous and more or less specialised in terms of studied species or habitats.

The differences are also due to the ways of describing data sources. For example, Denmark and Norway have many sources which are often held by the same organisation, but described as separate sources.

In France and Belgium, several inventories are contained in a single database described in its entirety.

We have to point out that, due to time-limit, some countries have chosen to describe only some of the most important data sources. It will be necessary to complete this survey according to criteria given by the ETC/NC.


The data sources may be general or specialised, depending on the country

Figure 1 presents a comparison of the number of records held in each country .

A record is the basic element of information of the database. For example, a database on species is generally composed of observations; each record specifies the name of the species, the author, the date and the place of the observation. In a database on sites, each record describes a site by its name, its area, its geographical position, types of habitats, etc...

For some countries, the conditions of figure 1 are reversed when compared with figure 2. Actually, Denmark, Greece, Norway and United Kingdom have many data sources with the mean number of records being quite low (figure 2). Most of these sources are very specialised and concern a single group of species, or perhaps a few species, as in Norway.

Germany, Belgium and France have few but voluminous data sources: they are very centralised and usually cover all groups of species.

In figure 1, the results for The Netherlands are explained by a huge database on birds.

Figure 1 : Total number of records in each country (calculated for 135 sources)


Figure 2 : Mean number of records in each data source (calculated for 135 sources)

For each source the main objectives of collection and use of data were specified:
survey of species, habitats or sites, ecological research, genetic information or policies.

The groups of species, the types of habitats and sites taken into account by these sources were also specified.

More than 40 % of data sources relate to species.

In figure 3, 42 % of sources relate, among other objectives, to species, 18 % to sites and 16 % to habitats.

Of 196 sources, 40 % sources concern exclusively species, 6 % habitats and 4 % sites; the other sources have multiple objectives.

At national level, map n° 1 illustrates a predominance of data bases relating to species and sites.

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Figure 3 : Main topics of data sources in Europe

Map 1

Main topics of data sources in Europe

Vertebrates: the most studied species group

More than 50 % of sources on species deal with Vertebrates among which 22 % are on Birds (figure 4).

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Figure 4 : Species groups taken into account by data sources in Europe


Data sources on species are very specialised (even if they are not exclusively related to species) 72 % of these deal only with one group of which 49 % relate to Birds, 12 % to Invertebrates and 13 % to Mammals.

At national level, data on Vertebrates are also predominant (map n° 2).


Map 2

Main species groups taken into acccount by data sources


Few sources on habitats but all main habitat types are equally taken into account

16 % of sources deal with habitats (figure 3; page 10) and take into account equally all main types of habitat (figure 5).

Nearly half of the data sources concern a single type of habitat and this is especially the case for coastal and marine waters.

Belgium, France and The Netherlands have no source specialising in habitats (map n°3).

In fact, most of the countries deal with information on habitats through sources on species and sites and it is often impossible to use search criteria on habitat type.

However it must be recognised that the habitat list provided in the questionnaire was too brief to allow a good analysis.

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Figure 5 : Habitat types covered by data sources in Europe

Map 3

A survey of sites : scientific objective

Figure 6 shows that 54 % of data sources on sites deal with monitoring programmes and scientific inventories.

32 % also hold legal information.

At national level, legal information exists in 10 countries and scientific inventories in 8 countries (map n° 4).

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Figure 6 : Site types covered by data sources in Europe

Map 4


Depending on the objectives of the sources, parameters used in the sources can be different. Three groups of parameters were defined in the questionnaire to be more specific about the three main objectives of the survey : species, habitats or sites.

The most detailed surveys always relate to Birds.

Nearly 70 % of 150 data sources on species which include parameter data, contain quantitative data (count data) and more than 50 % concern data on presence/absence (figure 7).

Among these 70 %, 43 sources out of 107 deal exclusively with Birds.


Site management and species data : the main parameters in sources on habitats

Between 60 and 70 % of sources on habitats (data calculated on 52 sources relate to this point) collect data on site management and on species.

Habitat management and quantitative data (surfaces) are third and fourth most important.

Information on habitats is thus collected more through survey of species and sites than by survey of habitats.


Types of information on sites

Data on sites concern aspects such as ownership, management and protection as well as species and habitats.

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Figure 7 : Parameters taken into account by data sources on species, habitats & sites


Data sources are mainly at national level

Countries were asked to describe data sources of national importance (fig. 8) but it did not mean that geographical coverage of data had to be limited to national level.

In fact, 11 % of sources have a broader coverage than their country. For example, some sources deal with all Scandinavian countries or with the marine environment. (Datasets held by international organisations or associations have not been taken into account here) ( map n° 5).

Data sources from local and regional levels could also be of European and national importance if they describe habitats or species of community interest.

Figure 8 : Geographical coverage taken in account by data sources in Europe


Map 5



Main dataholders are public organisations

In Europe, 51 % of data on nature topics is managed by public institutes, 24 % by governmental organisations and 16 % by associations.

Excluding the 57 Norwegian data sources (managed by 4 public organisations and 1 NGO), it becomes 39 % institutes, 26 % governmental organisations and 22 % associations (fig. 9).

According to map n°6, NGOs are important dataholders in Greece, Sweden, Netherlands and United-Kingdom.

Figure 9 : Main holders of data sources in Europe


Map 6


Collection of data is made by official staff, monitoring programmes and volunteers

34 % of data are collected by official staff*, 20 % by monitoring programmes and 19 % by volunteers (figure 10).


* official staff: data collected in the frame of staff work out of official programmes
monitoring programmes: data collected in the frame of official monitoring programmes
volunteers naturalists: data collected by naturalists or by in-house staff during their spare-time
literature: extraction of historical & recent records from published or unpublished sources
museum collections: historical data attached to specimens in a museum collection

Figure 10 : Sources of collected data


Map n°7 shows the main tendency at each national level.

Map 7



With few exceptions, all data sources are subject to deontological rules

One or more deontological rules apply to nearly all sources (fig. 11): data collection (27%), access to data (28 %), diffusion and publication (24 %), pricing criteria (19%).


Figure 11 : Deontology applied to data sources

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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