Why is it useful?
Providing information on biological diversity
The foremost goal of citizen science for biodiversity monitoring is to gather data / information in order to increase scientific knowledge to enable and enhance actions to preserve biological diversity. Citizen science plays a critical role in advancing knowledge about biodiversity, for example in relation to monitoring trends in occurrence, distribution, or status of species. The vast data volume that can be collected by a large number of volunteers dwarfs any professional capacity for monitoring. This is especially true for biodiversity monitoring spanning large spatial (e.g. Europe) and temporal extents (e.g. decades). For example, in March 2012, participants reported more than 3.1 million bird observations across North America in the eBird project. This had been based on citizen science reporting with more than 21 million records collected by 2009 (Sullivan et al., 2009). In Sweden, more than 36 million records have been reported to the Species Information System since 2000 (Swedish Information System, 2013).
Raising public awareness
Raising public awareness and understanding issues related to biodiversity is another important purpose for establishing citizen science reporting systems. Engaging the public to report observations requires that they are informed of the issues and aware of why their observations and reports are needed and their value. Involving people in monitoring gives them a basic understanding of the underlying threat to biodiversity and can facilitate a willingness to contribute to solving the problem.
Citizen science programmes can be a valuable tool for education at all levels. Citizen scientists learn in a hands-on way about biological diversity - to identify more species, learn about various species, population diversity and animal behaviours. Participants learn to use scientific methods and data analysis tools. This experience of contributing directly to environmental monitoring and research stimulates interaction with others with similar interests and may generate deeper engagement in local environmental issues (Dickinson et al., 2012).
- Dickinson J.L., Shirk J., Bonter D., Bonney R.L., Crain R.L., Martin J., Phillips T. and Purcell K., 2012, ‘The current state of citizen science as a tool for ecological research and public engagement’, Frontiers in Ecology and Environment, 10(6) 291–297.
- Sullivan, B. L., Wood, C.L., Iliff, M. J., Bonney, R. E., Fink, D. and Kelling. S., 2009, ‘eBird: a citizen-based bird observation network in the biological sciences’, Biological Conservation, (142) 2282–2292.
- Swedish Species Information Centre, 2013, Swedish Species Gateway accessed 14 February 2013.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe's environment.
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