The Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme
The Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBMS) was established in 2002 through the common effort and shared goals of BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council (EBCC). The EBCC brings together ornithologists from all European countries representing national bodies responsible for monitoring bird populations and their distribution, to encourage bird-monitoring work (especially atlassing and common bird monitoring) aimed both at better conservation and management of bird populations and at providing indicators of the changing ability of European landscapes to support wildlife generally.
The main PECBMS goal is the collection of scientific data on changes in breeding populations across Europe for the generation of indicators of the general state of nature. Specifically, the project aims to
The PECBMS programme is supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), BirdLife International, the European Commission and Statistics Netherlands (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek).
Using data from large-scale monitoring schemes based on fieldwork of volunteers, with standardised methodology and formal design, the PECBMS generates national and supra-national indices for individual species and European composite indices for groups of species (indicators) annually on routine basis. Indices are updated frequently, providing information which may be used to promote EU policy for the conservation of birds.
For the production of indices, data from species occurring in farmland and forest habitats are used as more than 50% of Europe’s surface area is covered by agricultural and pastureland, while 30% is covered by temperate and boreal forests. Thus, results provide information on changes occurring in a representative part of the European continent. It is also important since the above-mentioned habitats have been receiving large-scale human intervensions for centuries.
Data have been collected over the years for a list of 163 species (2013), from which 39 species are classified as farmland birds and have been used for the generation of the Farmland Bird Index (FBI), which has been accepted as one of the Structural Indicators of the European Commission and as a Sustainable Development Indicator (SDI). The FBI is computed by the PECBMS for Europe since 2003 on an annual basis. Species included in the analysis comprise those using farmland habitats for breeding and foraging, that is species which are affected by a large range of changes occurring in agricultural ecosystems.
In 2002, when the PECBMS commenced functioning on a pan-european basis, 18 countries participated: those already implementing national bird monitoring projects for decades, such as Great Britain and the Netherlands, as well as other countries which had just started their pilot projects that year. Every participating country collects data through the implementation of its own monitoring programme. Indices are generated on a national, European and European Union level, as well as for regions, such as Northern, Central, Southern Europe, etc.
The latest report of the PECBMS (2014) provides population trends and reliable indices for 163 common bird species and indicators covering the time period 1982-2012. Altogether 27 countries currently contribute their data to this update: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
Common species overall show a small decline in Europe. Their population mean has declined by 14% during the course of the last 30 years. However, the European Farmland Bird Index has declined by 54% between its initial value in 1982 and 2012, a fact which reveals the impacts of agricultural intensifications all over Europe.
TRIM (TRends and Indices for Monitoring data) and Species Trends Analysis Tool for birds (BirdSTATs) are the two software packages used to determine species’ population trends and indices. The BirdSTATs tool has been developed at the request of the PECBMS by Bioland Informatie. Designing and programming of the tool is funded by the European Commission through the RSPB.