2. Work programme
As for the other Topic Centres, the 1996 ETC/NCs work programme included activities concerning three general tasks:
general management and co-ordination
development of the nature conservation aspects of EIONET
The European Environment Information and Observation Network embodies the EEA itself, which orchestrates the whole, together with the 18 National Focal Points (NFP), the National Reference Centres (NRC, national institutions responsible for specific themes) and the European Topic Centres
ad hoc technical support to the Agency
Furthermore, ETC/NC has carried out specific activities, in the framework of three main projects identified in the EEA Multi-Annual Work Programme for the period 1995-1997: MN1 (General Approach to Nature Conservation), though formally considered to be already finished in 1995, MN2 (State and trends of Biodiversity in Europe) and MN3 (Support to Natura 2000).
The activities concerning the two last projects were distributed to three specific tasks:
European Information System on Nature (EUNIS)
support to Natura 2000
information and reporting on Europes nature
The work in 1996 has been undertaken under two different subventions: the 1995 subvention, running from January 1996 to June 1996 and the 1996 subvention, running from July 1996 to March 1997.
2.1. Project Mn1 - General Approach to Nature Conservation
To contribute to the definition of the EEA strategy in the field of Nature Conservation, identifying the information needs for helping the implementation of the related European and national policies and measures.
EEA has to provide the most appropriate and reliable information, comparable at regional level, which permits an integrated European approach to the problem of maintaining biodiversity through an efficient nature conservation policy. To do so, a long-term strategy to collect and harmonise relevant data has to be defined. The first step in reaching this objective is to define the information needs in the field of nature conservation and other related issues in Europe, to compare them with the data available and to identify any major gaps.
On the basis of the first results from ETC/NC, the Agency, in close collaboration with its Scientific Committee, will produce in 1997 a document describing the EEAs European Information Strategy for Nature after a wider discussion within EIONET.
This Strategy shall be partially implemented through different tasks included in the current ETC/NC working programme, and it will be used to define future EEA priorities in the field of nature and biodiversity.
2.2. Project Mn2 - State and Trends of Biodiversity in Europe
To provide the conceptual framework, the appropriate tools and the relevant information for ensuring the integration of nature and biodiversity aspects in the EEAs general task of reporting about the state and trends of Europes Environment.
The importance of the monitoring of biodiversity and its features (species, habitats, landscapes, also genes) has been enhanced by the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, 1992). Until now, there is no agreed methodology for the monitoring and assessment of biodiversity in Europe. The EEA is aiming at developing a general frame for such a methodology in the ETC/NC work programme.
To assess the state and changes of biodiversity at European level, beyond a simple aggregation of national approaches, some common references have to be agreed. Three key aspects were identified by the Agency:
Geographical references: homogeneous units for the assessment of biodiversity are needed to ensure the comparability of results despite the high ecological heterogeneity of Europe.
Methodological references: a common methodology is needed to ensure the coherence of results after the exercise of integration at European level.
Nomenclature references: standardised procedures are needed to describe main components of biodiversity (species, habitats, sites).
For such purposes, a European Information System on Nature (EUNIS) has been designed in order to ensure data harmonisation and analysis in a standardised way.
The outcomes of the biodiversity assessment in Europe will be used for the EEA reporting activities. The next EEA State of the Environment reports due to be published in 1998: «Europes Environment» (Dobris +3) and «Environment in the European Union» (EU 98), as well as the nature-related aspects/chapters of some identified monographs, will benefit from the progress of this project.
2.3. Project Mn3 - Support to Natura 2000
To give technical support to the European Commissions DG XI D2 in handling and assessing data related to the proposed Sites of Community Interest for inclusion in the Natura 2000 Network.
The Habitats Directive committed EU Member States to ensure nature conservation mainly through designation of natural Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) to be integrated in the Natura 2000 Network.
To comply with this obligation, each EU Member State has to provide the Commission, as a first step, with a National List of proposed Sites of Community Importance (pSCIs). In close co-operation with the Member States, the European Commission will establish the Community List of SCIs which shall be designated by Member States and included in the Natura 2000 Network. Since 5. June 1994, the date of effect of the Habitat Directive, the Special Protected Areas (SPAs) designated under the Directive 79/409/CEE for the protection of birds are included automatically in the Natura 2000 Network.
At the request of the European Commission, the EEA Work Programme includes tasks for support to Natura 2000. ETC/NC is therefore involved in the Natura 2000 process through the three following activities:
Improvement of the Natura 2000 software
- to help Member States in the fulfilment of their obligations concerning the National List when using the Natura 2000 software;
- to detect and to correct the existing bugs;
- to identify possible improvements, and to implement them if appropriate.
Handling the Natura 2000 Database
- to integrate the National Lists provided by Member States in the pSCIs working database;
- to maintain permanently updated the Natura 2000 Database for the sites designated by Member States on the basis of official data. For the moment, this database contains only SPAs.
Assessment of NATURA 2000 proposals
- to assess the completion of the Natura 2000 official forms;
- to prepare (if necessary) the appropriate requests to the Member States to complete them.
- to check if the Member States proposals include, at national level, a representative sample of each type of concerned habitat type and species.
- to help verify the Community interest of sites proposed by Member States;
- to check whether the Community List includes or not, at each biogeographic level, sites of Community interest involving a sufficiently representative sample of each type of concerned habitat type and species;
- to assess the ecological coherence of the Natura 2000 network.