Databases on Species, Habitats and Sites

Survey and Analysis 1995-96

Topic report 23/96


S. Condé, M. Roekaerts, M.P. Vignault and D. Richard

European Topic Centre on Nature Conservation


This report was prepared under the supervision of Ulla Pinborg, Project Manager,
European Environment Agency

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The European Environment Agency’s Topic Center for Nature Conservation in 1995 initiated a first analysis of datasources holding datasets on species, habitats and sites. Close to 200 datasets were described by respondents in 13 EEA Member States and in some international nature organisations. Only very few of the Member States had already existing Catalogues of Datasources to pull this information from, even though there always was a richness of initiatives on collecting information on nature.

Many of the oldest and present initiatives were and are still based on private or scientific interests in game or in birds and other select species groups. But in recent years the governmental nature monitoring and management and consequently also collection of nature data has gathered momentum.

The report presents the findings and the analysis of the overview and lists the title of all datasets identified by country. Not surprisingly the largest amount of data concerns mammals or birds, while other animal groups and plants or habitattypes are much less well documented. National datasets on populations and distribution of Annex II species of the Habitats Directive are shown to be very limited at present. However, these datasets will probably be enriched with on-going inventories in the framework of the NATURA 2000 process. Many datasets have limited comparability, because no taxonomic or habitat typology standards are used. The spatial units or references used are also different.

Surveys of data sources with good datasets should be kept updated regularly and contributors should be supported in harmonising terminology and typologies for the future benefit of users.

Table of contents

Executive Summary
1. Introduction: Objectives of the project
2. Work Undertaken Within the First Phase

2.a. Review of International and National Catalogues of Data Sources
2.b. Review of Redlists
2.b. Availability and Accessibility of Data Sources

3. Analysis of the Collected Data (Second Phase)

3.a. Review of Existing Information on Nature in Europe
3.b. Comparative Assessment According to the Needs of the Habitats Directive
3.c. Comparability of Data Sources
3.d. Main Gaps in Data

4. Recommendations
Annex 1
List of Acronyms
Annex 2
Structure of Data Base on Data Sources of the ETC/NC
Annex 3
Questionnaire about Catalouges of Datacources and Data Collections
Annex 4
Questionnaire on National and Regional Red Lists
Annex 5
Questionnaire on Data Availability and Accessibility on Species, Habitats and Sites

Annex 2 and 3 to the Questionnaire
Annex 6
List of Contacts
Annex 7
List of Data-sets Registered in Europe (15-10-95, updated 30-06-96)


One of the most important issues for the European Environment Agency is to set up an efficient process for collection of information on environment at European level, based on a stable and reliable network of institutions and on relevant data sources.

In the field of Nature, there are some specific difficulties due to the fact that data-holders are as well administrative bodies, research centres, NGOs, or individuals and that data sources range from local to European or international level.

The European Topic Centre on Nature Conservation is presently developing a European Nature Information System (EUNIS) aiming at identifying and organising access to existing information with the main purpose of reporting on the state and trends of nature and biodiversity in Europe in different periods of time as well as giving support to the Natura 2000 process.

It is therefore important to identify the existing sources of data and information, to select the most relevant ones to answer specific questions from customers but also to assess their availability, coverage and accessibility. Some data must be kept centrally, but for many types of data specific agreements will have to be developed between the Agency and the dataholders, mainly within the EEA European Information and Observation Network (EIONET).

The present survey is a first step in identifying relevant data sources. Not all National Focal Points have been able to reply to the request within the given deadlines but the process should go on. Further to the EEA’s interest in fulfilling its missions of harmonisation of data, the results of this survey should allow countries to compare their own initiatives with their neighbours and hopefully encourage exchanges of experiences.

Juan Manuel de Benito
Project Leader of the European Topic Centre
on Nature Conservation

Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle
57 rue Cuvier
75231 Paris cédex 05


Executive Summary

  • As part of the work on the nature conservation topic of the 1995 Annual Work Programme for the European Environment Agency the European Topic Centre on Nature Conservation performed a survey of data sources on nature in Europe. The work was undertaken by the National Museum of Natural History in Paris together with the core team of the Topic Centre.
  • The survey was based on a set of questionnaires. The process of the survey is described in this report. The information describing the data sources is termed meta-information.

  • Many sources containing data from geographical inventories and ecological parameters exist at European and national levels (databases, paper files, collections...). A survey is necessary to identify, describe and locate these data sources and to support an analysis of gaps in data.

  • The first part of the survey relates to the inventory of data sources; the second part consists in an analysis and assessment of gaps according to the potential needs of the European Environment Agency and the European Commission -DG XI (implementation of Natura 2000 Network)

  • Information gathered during the survey has been used during the development of the principles for the EEA Catalogue of Data Sources. A practical solution to the future co-ordinated organisation, maintenance and further development of meta-information on sources of important nature data in Europe is foreseen in the light of both the ETC/Nature Conservation and ETC/CDS work-plans.

  • As the management of information on species and natural areas is very different in each country, information was difficult to collect and consequently, the present inventory is not comprehensive even if the obtained number of data sources exceed by far the figures previously known. It needs to be carried on together with Member States and with relevant international institutions.

  • The main results of this study may seem obvious, without bringing new statements. But they are for the first time based on concrete data. They reflect the present ability of EIONET to obtain the necessary information at national level and therefore to meet the needs of EEA. It gives an indication of how far efforts should be developed within EIONET.

  • Almost 200 data sources in Europe were recorded up to 15 October 1995: 13 countries replied to the questionnaire developed and described 186 data sources on species, habitats and sites. This survey also includes 13 international and European sources.

  • Data were collected under 3 main headings: species, habitats and sites. More than 40 % of data sources relate, among other subjects, to species, 18 % to sites, and 16 % to habitats.

  • Vertebrates are the most studied group of species. More than 50 % of species sources relate to vertebrates of which 21 % to birds. The main habitat types are almost equally studied by the data sources but the questionnaire was not detailed enough with respect to habitat typology. Monitoring of sites, scientific objectives : 54 % of data sources on sites are related to monitoring programmes and scientific inventories.

  • Data on species populations are very rare and often limited to birds. The management of habitat information is often linked with data on species and sites and then illustrates a weakness in terms of quantitative data.

  • Public organisations are the main dataholders: the study shows that 51 % of dataholders on nature are public institutes, 24 % governmental organisations, and 16 % associations. But the methods for collecting the information for the survey are likely to have caused a degree of bias in the result.

  • Support to the implementation of Natura 2000: national data on populations and distribution of Annex II species of the Habitats Directive as well as quantitative data on habitats are very limited. However, these sources will probably be enriched with on-going inventories in the framework of the Habitats Directive.

  • Many data sources are of limited comparability: 33 % of sources on species do not use taxonomic standards and 43 % of sources on habitats have no standards concerning the habitat typology. There are also various spatial units.

  • Gaps were evaluated according to the potential needs for the implementation of the Habitats Directive.

  • Recommendations: standards for harmonisation of data should be developed. The current national and international initiatives should be supported in various ways. Deontological aspects should be taken into account.

  • This review should be completed by analysing more deeply some of the results and detailing some of them on the basis of a selection of the most interesting sources for the EEA purposes.

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