Introduction

During the last ten years, the number and diversity of web portals dedicated to the collection of bird observations has increased rapidly and most of Europe is now covered by at least one of them. Some portals are based on very specific systems and cover a limited geographical area (e.g. a region or country) while others function across several countries using the same basic package. While there is substantial variation in the scope and volumes of data gathered by different portals, the advent of online data collection has produced a vast amount of data that would previously have been impossible to amass.

Unlike more traditional monitoring projects, which focus on structured data collection, these portals aim mainly to obtain year-round data from the relatively unstructured but intensive and widespread activities of birdwatchers. However, despite the fact that data are gathered following simple standardised protocols (e.g. complete lists), or in some cases even no protocol (casual observations), the vast amount of data contained in these portals and the sheer amplitude of their combined geographical and taxonomic coverage offer great potential for research on the temporal and spatial distribution of birds across large geographical areas. This is particularly the case where at least some basic information on recording effort is available. Such knowledge is urgently needed in order to increase understanding of bird distributions and movements and to address issues concerned with conservation and management (e.g. wind farms, avian borne diseases, flight safety).

In order to make best use of the data gathered by online portals across Europe, there is a need to establish and maintain a common database. Data sources are very scattered, and several portals have limited access or are available only in the native languages of their host countries. Given the diversity of initiatives and the well established nature of some of them, any attempt to favour only one of the systems or to create a new common one would be both undesirable and impractical. We therefore aim to create a common data repository that will hold data from each of the existing systems. This will contain the minimum aggregated information required to realise the full potential for large scale spatiotemporal analyses of such data and for other research and applied uses that are appropriately undertaken at a European scale.

This initiative will be the perfect companion to the work developed by the other two main projects undertaken by the EBCC: the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBMS) and the new European Breeding Bird Atlas (EBBA2). PECBMS, a joint initiative with BirdLife International, monitors breeding population trends across Europe, using large-scale and long-term common breeding bird surveys and developing indicators of the general state of nature, while EBBA2 will produce a precise snapshot of the breeding distribution of all European bird species for the whole continent and for a specific time window (2013–2017). The EBP project will complement PECBMS and EBBA2 by focussing on the study of continental-wide seasonal changes in bird distribution as well as those temporal changes taking place too fast as to be properly tracked by more traditional monitoring projects. EPB will promote the use of simple, standardized bird recording protocols so as to improve the quality of the results that can be produced using these data.

EBP goals

The purpose of EBP is to establish a European data repository based on aggregated data from online bird recording portals from across Europe with the following major objectives:

1 To describe large scale spatiotemporal patterns of bird distributions (seasonal distributional changes, migratory patterns, phenology) and their changes over time.

  • Modelling bird distributions in time and space.
    • Produce seasonal distribution maps (at appropriate temporal scales), including dynamic maps showing movements across the continent, winter distribution maps and maps giving the most important bottlenecks, stop-over and roosting sites.
    • Create short-term prediction maps (e.g. monitoring expected range changes for pests, predicting the spread of invasive/non-native species).
    • Develop approaches for modelling long-term changes in distribution patterns with respect to climate, land-use and other factors.
  • Delimitating migratory flyways and bird movements.
    • Establish migratory patterns in space and time.
    • Deliver immediate and short-term forecasts/predictions (e.g. predicting wildfowl movements due to cold spells or in relation to the potential spread of avian-borne diseases).
  • Modelling phenological patterns.
    • Establish phenological patterns of different species across space.
    • Simultaneously study the phenological markers for different events within the annual cycle and their long-term changes over time and space (e.g. effects of climate change).

2 To improve the value of online data gathering portals.

  • Increase relevance and interest of the data collected, adding value to partner portals and thus encouraging people to record birds.
    • Maximise the value of the data for science and conservation.
    • Create visualisation tools showing continent-wide species by species maps and dynamic phenological graphs.
    • Create a range of reports for birdwatchers that support their birdwatching interests and hence their desire to contribute to relevant portals.
  • Promote standardisation and best practices.
    • Establish data collection standards that maximise the scientific value of the observations. In particular promote the recording of complete lists and other approaches that allow recording effort to be taken into account during analysis.
  • Improve cooperation amongst birdwatchers and organisations.
    • Improve and develop data sharing and exchange protocols.
    • Combine expertise and share ideas, algorithms and software where possible so as to make most efficient use of scarce resources.
    • Provide a data source for other large scale projects (e.g. European atlases).
    • Provide a European organizational basis for more global research in this area.
    • Provide a data-base and data analysis tools that could potentially be used for other taxa.

Organization & geographical coverage

The EBP is a project of the EBCC developed through a partnership that currently comprises 80 institutions from 29 different countries.

The partnership involves biodiversity data centres and reference ornithological institutions in their respective countries, accumulating a long-time experience collecting high quality monitoring data from thousands of volunteer birdwatchers and turning this information in sound science.

Overall, the online data gathering portals run by the EBP partners collect c. 40 million bird records every year thanks to the collaboration of more than 100,000 active observers. This is the largest and most dynamic citizen science biodiversity data flow in Europe.

EBP formal agreements (pdf files):

The EBCC

The EBCC is an association under Dutch Law of like-minded expert ornithologists co-operating in a range of ways to improve bird monitoring and atlas work and thereby inform and improve the management and conservation of bird populations in Europe.

The aims of EBCC are to:

  • Bring together ornithologists who are interested in the study of distribution, numbers and demography of European birds
  • Encourage monitoring of bird populations and their distributions aimed at better conservation and management of bird populations.
  • Promote monitoring that is rigorously planned with clear objectives.
  • To monitor distribution, numbers and demography so that changes may be detected, and if possible, understood and the relevant agencies provided with sound information to base conservation and management actions
  • Promote the development of indicators of the changing ability of European landscapes to support wildlife.
  • Encourage communication and collaboration between organisations, institutions and individuals interested in monitoring bird populations and their distribution
  • Promote exchange of news, ideas and expertise through its journal (Bird Census News) and through its programme of conferences and workshops.
  • Host major international conferences on a 3 to 4-year cycle across Europe with published proceedings.
  • Work closely with international ornithological and conservation organisations, and encourage links between ornithologists, land managers and policy makers.
  • Encourage and create specialist working groups to tackle relevant topics
  • Run major international projects such as the European atlases and monitoring schemes.

Contact

EBP
Gabriel Gargallo
EBP Project Coordination

ICO - Catalan Ornithological Institute
Museu de Ciències Naturals, Passeig Picasso s/n, 08003 Barcelona
phone: 00 34 93 458 78 93 email: [javascript protected email address]
EBCC
Dr. Ruud Foppen
EBCC Chairman

SOVON - Dutch Centre for field ornithology
Natuurplaza, Toernooiveld 1, 6525 ED Nijmegen
phone: 024 7 410 415 email: [javascript protected email address]