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Lawrence Way, Joint Nature Conservation Committee

The value of monitoring may go up as well as down; 2020 vision

Abstract

Biodiversity monitoring will need to prove its value many times over in the next ten years, both during the initial four years of austerity and beyond. Policy makers will not be looking at what long term monitoring has delivered so far, but how likely it is to contribute to needs now, and over relatively short term policy horizons. Science funders will need flexibility to move resources to new questions, and will challenge the relevance of monitoring.

Whilst resources may be restricted, the demand for evidence to help us live with environmental change continues. Forecasting shows the drivers of biodiversity change remain; including population and household growth, increased demand for provisioning services, change in climate variables, and high trade volumes providing pathways for non natives.

Meanwhile the ground has shifted and the expectation is that evidence will help society understand the value of biodiversity in ecosystem service delivery.

In hard times, businesses try and reduce their costs and increase their customer base, and improve the value of their products to their customers. How can this be done so that monitoring retains its place as a vital tool, and both the long and short term pictures are available to society?

The first step, terrestrially, is to look at what needs to be re-designed. There are opportunities to improve our ability to target and measure the effectiveness of local environmental interventions, by increasing the ability of long term monitoring to account for the other variables driving change. These come through advances in statistics; the volunteer infrastructure, informatics, protocol simplification, but not least in collaboration.

The second step is to improve the analysis of our monitoring data, so that it is used more in modelling environmental outcomes or options. Again there are opportunities for collaboration, this time with data and techniques outside of biodiversity.

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