A global audit of biodiversity monitoring: October 2018 blog entry

18th March 2019

The following blog is written by Ian Burfield, Global Science Coordinator (Programmes), BirdLife International (Project lead for the CCI Collaborative Fund project ‘A global audit of biodiversity monitoring’)

The project continues to progress well and remains broadly on schedule, despite its ambitious scope. 

Soon after the inception workshop in November 2017, Dr Caroline Moussy was recruited into the key role of project researcher (February 2018). In spring 2018, Caro and the core team focused on developing a robust key to help distinguish long-term monitoring schemes (i.e. those relevant to this project) from other types of biodiversity surveys and assessments. This was essential to producing a questionnaire for wide circulation to gather information and metadata on relevant schemes. Over summer 2018, the project team tested and refined the questionnaire, and then disseminated it widely. By late September, this had generated 650 completed questionnaires.

The team has worked well to identify and engage contacts (including BirdLife Partners and IUCN SSC Species Monitoring Specialist Group (SMSG) members) to conduct ‘deep dive’ national inventories of monitoring schemes. These small subcontracts, with experts in seven diverse countries (Argentina, China, Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and South Africa), require them to compile exhaustive national inventories of monitoring schemes. Some of these national coordinators have already documented 50-100 schemes, only a fraction of which are detectable via web searches and/or are in languages inaccessible to the Cambridge core team. However, some in-country partners have reported difficulties with locating monitoring schemes, as no information is available online or in the published literature. Others discovered that it took considerable time to find focal points in relevant institutions and to get responses from them. The fact that even some national experts have found it hard to locate and access monitoring information is an important result, which this project will highlight. Once complete, their inventories will be invaluable for ground-truthing the results of the core team’s global web searches, allowing country- and region-specific calibration factors to be applied to estimate the true extent of monitoring much more accurately.

For the remainder of 2018, the team will focus on completing the collection and cleaning of data from all three sources (the questionnaire survey, deep dives and web searches), prior to analysis. Capacity has recently been increased with the recruitment of an intern, Bella Newton, who is now helping Caro with these tasks. The team has organised a day-long workshop of the whole project consortium in January 2019, to present the preliminary results, consider outstanding issues and discuss how best to analyse a complex data set and generate publishable, policy-relevant results. The database will be launched and the results shared with the wider CCI community at an end-of-project presentation in the second quarter of 2019.

One challenge encountered during this period was the difficulty of distinguishing between long-term monitoring schemes, short-term projects, one-off surveys or atlases, and other biodiversity assessments. The core team tackled this by developing a series of questions to serve as a key. Having tested and refined this protocol, Caro converted it into an automated Excel file and asked the wider project team to test it by applying it to a variety of schemes. This worked well and generated some useful feedback that led to further refinements.

Between now and the end of 2018, the team will focus on finishing collecting data from questionnaire surveys and deep dives and ‘cleaning’ them as necessary, prior to analysis. They will also conduct timed web searches for monitoring schemes in a variety of countries, using standardised search terms developed by Caro earlier in the project. 

All of the project outputs will be available from the project page on the CCI website.

View the project’s blog post from May 2018 here.