Major steps towards assessing and forecasting global biodiversity change
After two international workshops with world-leading experts, the EU horizon 2020 project GLOBIS-B project, coordinated by the University of Amsterdam, has made a major step towards building essential biodiversity variables to quantify global biodiversity change for conservation management and environmental policies. The future of biodiversity is of fundamental importance for society and humanity, but how we can assess and forecast biodiversity change at a global scale remains a major challenge.
Biodiversity – the natural world of living organisms and their ecosystems – is crucial for humanity, e.g. via the functioning of ecosystems, for food security, human health, and the provision of clean air and water. However, biodiversity is severely affected by environmental changes such climate change, habitat loss and other human pressures. It is not easy to understand and monitor these changes due to the complexity of nature and its interactions with the abiotic environment. Biodiversity change in species distributions and abundance, genetic variation, or species interactions such as pollination can happen at different scales, from bacterial interactions relevant for water quality up to insect-driven epidemics such malaria and the emerging Zika. Over the last few years, scientists have agreed upon a set of key variables to describe biodiversity, so-called Essentials Biodiversity Variables (EBVs), with the aim to monitor and measure biodiversity change. However, these EBVs are not yet widely tested because biodiversity data have been historically collected for different scientific purposes and it is not easy to combine and process different datasets to become relevant for measuring and understanding biodiversity change.
By organizing international workshops with world-leading experts, the EU horizon 2020 project GLOBIS-B (“GLOBal Infrastructures for Supporting Biodiversity research”) brings together international biodiversity scientists with experts from biodiversity research infrastructures and legal and policy backgrounds to advance the global implementation of EBVs. “It is really exciting to develop with experts from all over the world the steps needed to address this global environmental challenge”, says Dr. Daniel Kissling, associate professor at the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (UvA-IBED) and scientific coordinator of the GLOBIS-B project (www.globis-b.eu). Until now, research infrastructures are not really interoperable and the data are often not easily accessible. The GLOBIS-B project therefore works towards achieving an interoperable observation network that delivers enhanced and harmonized biodiversity information that can be used in decision making from local to global scales. “Our first two GLOBIS-B workshops have allowed us to generalize and agree on key workflow steps that are needed to automate the process from capturing biodiversity data over building EBVs to finally visualizing the trends of biodiversity change”, says Kissling. This is a major breakthrough towards assessing and forecasting biodiversity change across national borders.
GLOBIS-B works in close collaboration with the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON), the biodiversity arm of the Group on Earth Observation (GEO). GEO BON develops the concept of EBVs and related monitoring guidelines, and facilitates capacity building at the national and regional level. A major challenge is to establish interoperable biodiversity observation networks that can produce regular and interoperable data to assess progress towards achieving the targets set by the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Such data, information and knowledge is needed for governments, governmental experts, and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) to observe biodiversity changes across the world. The GLOBIS-B projects contributes to these goals by developing workflows and by testing their significance and reliability for building EBVs.