In September this year bird conservation NGOs from Belarus, Macedonia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria started a project for strengthening their capacity to run successful national Common Bird Monitoring Schemes (CBM). These monitoring schemes are citizen science initiatives, which use data collected by volunteers to analyse how the populations of common and widespread birds change in response to environmental conditions. The results produces by the analysis are used to develop indexes for the quality of the natural habitats and the environment.
For example the EU uses the Farmland Bird Index which is produced using these data as a measure of the effective implementation of its commitments set by the Convention of Biological Diversity to halt biodiversity loss by 2010. The project is the first of the so called Strategic projects of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). It is co-financed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the BirdLife partner in UK.
The Common Bird Monitoring scheme is based on estimation of data, collected by large number of reporters. The survey is designed to be a quick, simple and, most importantly, an enjoyable birdwatching exercise. Survey sites are randomly selected 1×1-km squares. Observers make just three visits per year to specially selected squares, the first to record habitat types and to set up a suitable survey route (only first year), and the second and third to record birds that are seen or heard while walking along the route. The CBM is based on the establishment and coordination of a network of volunteers who have to spent about 6 hours per year to count their plots, following the certain methodology of observation.
Organizations, involved in this project are Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds which is the leading the project, Romanian Ornithological Society, Akhova Ptushak Batsakaushchyny in Belarus, Doğa Derneği in Turkey, Polish Society for the Protection of Birds and Lithuanian Ornithological Society which all are BirdLife partners, Macedonian Ecological Society and the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBM) project, which is joint initiative of European Bird Census Council (EBCC) and BirdLife International.
The countries involved in the project have different levels of experience with CBM schemes and this is the reason to be grouped. Group 1 includes Belarus, Turkey and Macedonia which do not have CBM scheme operational yet; group 2 – Romania and Lithuania which have running CBM schemes but with limited species and habitat coverage and group 3 – Bulgaria and Poland which have full running CBM schemes but still have room for improvements, especially in knowledge of young and inexperienced fieldworkers.
The activities under the project and the expected outputs are focused on filling critical gaps in the CBM schemes implementation, sharing experience and knowledge between partners and influencing relevant state institutions and politics for adopting Wild Bird Indicators. Thus a close cooperation with decision makers is a key activity under the project, especially for the countries that have already started CBM schemes but the results from these schemes are still not officially recognized on state level.
Among the main activities, planed to be implemented are capacity assessment of the countries to start and implement full CBM or international census plots, training workshops, and forums for decision makers, setting up a system to collect field ornithological data form the volunteers via Internet, production of information materials for participants such as simple bird guides on local languages and CD with bird songs and awareness materials for policy and decision makers like annual reports with results from the CBM, species population trends and bird index, ‘audit’ of national policy & legislation use of CBM outputs, etc.
The project is expected to bring a lot of essential outcomes as for the countries in which it is implementing as well as for the participating organisations. One of the main outcomes is shared experience and improved knowledge across the countries for establishing and running a CBM scheme as a successful citizen science based initiative that can produce scientifically accurate and meaningful biodiversity impact indicators based on wild bird populations and in the same time strengthen the organisations involved.
For more information:
Sylvia Barova – Project coordinator, BSPB
Telephone number: +359 2 971 58 55
e-mail: sylvia.barova at gmail.com