Review of large-scale generic population monitoring schemes in Europe has been published in Bird Census News (Volume 16, N. 1, 2003)

Information on existing common bird monitoring schemes was collected across European countries in 2002 to help development of bird monitoring, particularly Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Project. Results of this survey of surveys show there are 20 countries with data potentially suitable for generating Pan-European indices for common birds, according to the framework adopted at the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring workshop at Prague in September 2002.
Substantial progress has been made in development of common bird monitoring – 13 new schemes have been established since the previous review on monitoring schemes was published in 1998. Recently established schemes are better designed and organised, a benefit of the pooling of experience among monitoring specialists across Europe.
There is a strong trend towards more representative selection of sample plots in new schemes, whereas free choice is a method commonly used by older schemes, and better analytical methods are more often used in new schemes than in older ones. Since free choice of sample plots might bias results, and chaining methods may lead to spurious trends, there is a strong need to improve schemes in these respects in future. Whereas the transition from an older analytical method to a better one may be relatively straightforward, the question of how to change sampling design without losing valuable information from the past sets a big challenge for the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring project.
Other weaknesses and gaps challenge common bird monitoring in Europe, however. There is strong need for training at the national coordination level, and perhaps an even greater need for funding. There must be long-term commitments to funding for national monitoring schemes to make common bird monitoring sustainable. Training and financial support could help to improve scheme design and data analysis in existing monitoring schemes.
The survey has also revealed the remaining gaps in geographical coverage: western European countries have the greatest development of common bird monitoring schemes, while southeastern Europe seems to be the region showing least progress. The biggest challenge is monitoring in eastern European countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Russia) because of their huge area and low density of potential fieldworkers. Existing schemes in some central and eastern European countries also need attention, because they usually lack finance and need improvement. Political events, notably the enlargement of the European Union and the related changes in land-use that are expected through the Common Agricultural Policy, should be considered as important factors for the future development of monitoring schemes. Thus, based on this survey, priority countries that need attention are Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Completing this review would not have been possible without the efforts of the many ornithologists across Europe who kindly filled in the questionnaires to inform us about the current state of monitoring schemes in their countries. We are very grateful to all of them. Special thanks to Anny Anselin, editor of Bird Census News, for her effort spent on this special issue.
The whole issue of the Bird Census News containing Review of large-scale generic population monitoring schemes in Europe and Report on Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring workshop can be downloaded in PDF format here.