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Socio-economic assessment of indicator-based marine biodiversity monitoring programmes and methods


To follow trends and changes on status of the marine biodiversity and to monitor progress towards achieving the policy targets it is necessary to carry out regular assessment using specially designed schemes and tools where indicators form the core element of the assessment. This practices focusses on making these regular assessement as cost-efficient possible.

Application in MSP:
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Questions this practice may help answer

  • What are the costs of indicator based marine biodiversity monitoring programmes?
  • How can the marine biodiversity monitoring programmes become more cost-efficient?
  • Which indicators and measures can be used to make biodiversity monitoring programmes more cost-efficient?

Implementation Context

To follow trends and changes on status of the marine biodiversity and to monitor progress towards achieving the policy targets it is necessary to carry out regular assessment using specially designed schemes and tools where indicators form the core element of the assessment. The key limiting factor for designing and developing marine biodiversity indicators is monitoring programmes, which needs to provide data on parameters for building relevant indicators. Countries use difference methods how to obtain data and create indicators. This situation provides the opportunity to evaluate available monitoring data collection alternatives in terms of cost effectiveness currently used.

Aspects / Objectives

The main objective is: Identifying the least cost way to ensure compliance primarily with the MSFD requirements on assessment of the good environmental status according to the set of criteria and indicators for Descriptor 1 on Biodiversity (EC Decision 2010/477/EU).

Specific Aims are:

  • To assess cost implications of building policy compliant (i.e., MSFD) indicator based marine biodiversity monitoring program,
  • To evaluate the socio-economic impact of introducing new monitoring methods for data collection within the marine biodiversity monitoring (e.g. whether there is potential for reducing the costs),
  • To analyse the socio-economic impact of including new monitoring indicators and corresponding data and methods for marine biodiversity monitoring (e.g. what are the costs of providing “better” information for assessing the state of biodiversity)


Three scenarios have been analysed:

  1. Current monitoring (baseline) scenario (“Current”) –the monitoring program/scheme with the current monitoring indicators, parameters and methods used for the MSFD “Initial assessment”, Habitats Directive, other related needs.
  2. Compliance scenario with currently used methods (“Compl_current”) monitoring program/scheme compliant with the policy (e.g. MSFD) needs with the currently used monitoring methods;
  3. Compliance scenario including (also) new methods (“Compl_new”) –monitoring program/scheme compliant with the policy (e.g. MSFD) needs when including also new (tested and proposed by the MARMONI project) monitoring methods instead of current methods.

The following criteria are used for the socio-economic assessment of the scenarios:

  • Costs of the monitoring scenario (analysed monitoring program/scheme);
  • Compliance to the requirements for assessing state of biodiversity (for an analysed functional group);
  • Confidence of considered monitoring methods to deliver information that it allows compliant status assessment.

After this, Three summary indicators are used for assessing and comparing the scenarios:

  1. Costs/Compliance ratio,
  2. Costs/Confidence ratio,
  3. Total cost-efficiency of the scenario.

Finally, a step-wise approach was implemented for the analysis and assessment of the scenarios including the following steps:

Step 1: Describing Indicators, Parameters and Methods;

Step 2: Characterising monitoring design and resource needs;

Step 3: Calculating monitoring costs (for each indicator and its parameter(s), with current and new methods, if available);

Step 4: Building and assessing alternative monitoring scenarios.

Main Outputs / Results

Four case studies have been researched using the method developed and results and conclusions have been developed:

  1. Bird-indicators–the Latvian case study
  2. Zooplankton indicators–case studies in Finland and Latvia
  3. Phytobenthos indicators –a case study in Sweden
  4. Population structure of Macoma balthica”–case studies in Finland and Latvia


Besides this, more common conclusion and recommendations have been developed for:

  1. Indicator-based monitoring programmes
    1. Bridging monitoring activities with assessment needs will enhance achievement of the aim of the monitoring programmes/schemes.
    2. Also develop, test and recommend, new monitoring methods for use in monitoring.
    3. Use costs, compliance and confidence as three criteria for the assessment of the monitoring programmes/schemes
    4. Spatial coverage and sampling are major determinants of the costs as well as the total cost-efficiency of the programme.
  2. Costs of the monitoring scenarios
    1. Use of three different scenarios
    2. New field work methods (e.g. drop-video) and the jointly organised monitoring campaigns can reduce costs
    3. Use new methods for costly zooplankton and soft bottom macro fauna monitoring.
    4. Requirment of specific qualification of the laboratory worker (e.g., knowledge on species and habitats as well as skills in species identification) can be costly.
    5. Increase in the total costs for the policy compliance monitoring programme can be justified by the increase in the cost-effectiveness in terms of the costs per sample or monitored area.
  3. “Compliance” assessment of the indicators
    1. Compliance-assessment reveals that the indicator-based monitoring schemes of the analysed functional groups/subgroups are below good compliance towards MSFDGES criteria and indicators.
    2. Adding new biodiversity assessment indicators commonly creates relatively small increase in the costs or doesn’t cause additional costs at all.
    3. Further support for science and research is needed for the indicators’ development work in upcoming years.
  4. “Confidence” assessment of the monitoring methods
    1. Joint capacity building and training for countries
    2. Current methods are included in monitoring for calibration and verification of the new methods
  5. Total cost-efficiency of an indicator-based monitoring scheme
    1. Lower cost efficiency ratio is obtained when the new method reduces the man-time necessary for monitoring works substantially
    2. Field, laboratory and data treatment work is balanced towards efficient use of at least minimum capacity of the institution
    3. Maximisation of the use of monitoring data towards covering gaps of assessment needs to be further encouraged and supported.


Can the practice be applied in other contexts? What makes the practice transferable? What are enabling factors to have in place to ensure practice can work in another context?

The conclusions and results for the 4 case studies are site specific and are difficult to transfer. However, the method used, as well as the overall conclusions and recommendations can be applied for in other areas where biodiversity monitoring programmes are being executed. The findings are therefor transferrable.

Costs / Funding Source

LIFE+ Nature & Biodiversity project “Innovative approaches for marine biodiversity monitoring and assessment of conservation status of nature values in the Baltic Sea” (MARMONI)

Responsible Entity

Kristina Veidemane and Kristine Pakalniete

Baltic Environmental Forum, Latvia