Developing and enhancing biodiversity monitoring programmes: a collaborative assessment of priorities

Michael J. O. Pocock, Stuart E. Newson, Ian G. Henderson, Jodey Peyton, William J. Sutherland, David G. Noble, Stuart G. Ball, Björn C. Beckmann, Jeremy Biggs, Tom Brereton, David J. Bullock, Stephen T. Buckland, Mike Edwards, Mark A. Eaton, Martin C. Harvey, Mark O. Hill, Martin Horlock, David S. Hubble, Angela M. Julian, Edward C. MackeyDarren J. Mann, Matthew J. Marshall, Jolyon M. Medlock, Elaine M. O'Mahony, Marina Pacheco, Keith Porter, Steve Prentice, Deborah A. Procter, Helen E. Roy, Sue E. Southway, Chris R. Shortall, Alan J. A. Stewart, David E. Wembridge, Mark A. Wright, David B. Roy

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Biodiversity is changing at unprecedented rates, and it is increasingly important that these changes are quantified through monitoring programmes. Previous recommendations for developing or enhancing these programmes focus either on the end goals, that is the intended use of the data, or on how these goals are achieved, for example through volunteer involvement in citizen science, but not both. These recommendations are rarely prioritized.
We used a collaborative approach, involving 52 experts in biodiversity monitoring in the UK, to develop a list of attributes of relevance to any biodiversity monitoring programme and to order these attributes by their priority. We also ranked the attributes according to their importance in monitoring biodiversity in the UK. Experts involved included data users, funders, programme organizers and participants in data collection. They covered expertise in a wide range of taxa.
We developed a final list of 25 attributes of biodiversity monitoring schemes, ordered from the most elemental (those essential for monitoring schemes; e.g. articulate the objectives and gain sufficient participants) to the most aspirational (e.g. electronic data capture in the field, reporting change annually). This ordered list is a practical framework which can be used to support the development of monitoring programmes.
People's ranking of attributes revealed a difference between those who considered attributes with benefits to end users to be most important (e.g. people from governmental organizations) and those who considered attributes with greatest benefit to participants to be most important (e.g. people involved with volunteer biological recording schemes). This reveals a distinction between focussing on aims and the pragmatism in achieving those aims.
Synthesis and applications. The ordered list of attributes developed in this study will assist in prioritizing resources to develop biodiversity monitoring programmes (including citizen science). The potential conflict between end users of data and participants in data collection that we discovered should be addressed by involving the diversity of stakeholders at all stages of programme development. This will maximize the chance of successfully achieving the goals of biodiversity monitoring programmes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-695
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue number3
Early online date2 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • Biodiversity
  • Citizen science
  • Monitoring
  • Participatory monitoring
  • Survey
  • Volunteer
  • Surveillance


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