Expert workshop on enhancing biodiversity data and observation systems

Workshop participants, 12 October

An expert workshop on enhancing biodiversity data and observation systems to support the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 was held on 12 October 2013, in Montreal, Canada, prior to the 17th meeting of the CBD Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA). Eighty-five representatives from governments, intergovernmental organisations, institutes and non-governmental organisations attended the workshop. Participants analysed ways in which the collection, access to, and use of biodiversity data and earth observations can be enhanced to support evidence-based decision-making and planning for achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and corresponding national targets. The discussion focused on the tools, products and approaches developed by the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) and provided a unique opportunity for much needed dialogue between biodiversity scientists, policy-makers and the earth observation community.

A dynamic marketplace approach was used, with four presentations running in parallel to explore opportunities and limitations at the national level to collect data using various methodologies: earth observations and remote sensing; in-situ monitoring; crowd sourcing/citizen science; and global tools and data products. During this session UNEP-WCMC presented a review of the use of remotely-sensed data for monitoring biodiversity change and tracking progress towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. This review explores the main obstacles and challenges that have limited the use of remotely-sensed data and products in biodiversity monitoring and assessment. It also identifies opportunities for remote sensing to contribute to the development of indicators for each Aichi Biodiversity Target. The review was submitted as an Information Document for CBD SBSTTA 17.

Discussions highlighted common obstacles to wider use of biodiversity information, such as fragmented data sets, lack of temporal continuity, restricted access data policies, and incompatible data formats. These constitute important challenges when setting up monitoring systems at national level. Proposed solutions focused on governments and institutions adopting open access data policies, use of available and soon-to-be-available data, establishment of common standards and increased harmonisation of methodologies for data collection and analysis, and a focus on Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs). In addition, workshop participants highlighted many remaining gaps. Data and indicators are currently inadequate to assess progress towards Strategic Goal A, D and E; baseline data are lacking; and there are issues related to the quality, reliability and scalability of global data sets for some of the targets. Initiatives such as the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (BIP), hosted by UNEP-WCMC, are working to bring together data and connect them to indicators to fill these gaps.