The Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD’s) Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 envisages that “by 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people”. Although 193 parties have adopted these goals, there is little organised or coherent infrastructure in place to collect the biodiversity information necessary to monitor progress towards the objectives of the CBD Strategic Plan.

GEO - Group on Earth Observations

Current international conservation policy requires biodiversity data to be up-to-date, reliable, comparable among sites, relevant, and understandable, as is becoming obvious from the work plan adopted by the Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and from recent assessments of the international biodiversity targets. Coordinated large-scale biodiversity monitoring, linked to environmental data, is needed for a comprehensive Global Observation Network that can meet the five strategic goals of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and its 20 accompanying Aichi Targets for 2020.

This is the main motivation for the Group of Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON).

Move the scrollbar from left to right to see the dramatic development of the Aral Sea | Photos: ESA

Currently, our collective ability to detect and understand the status and trends of biodiversity, develop sound assessments, and produce scenarios to guide more effective policy is greatly hampered by a lack of access to high quality observations. GEO BON is concerned with the development of more integrated, efficient and interoperable biodiversity observation networks that can produce more reliable, accessible and timely observations to serve these needs. Being part of the GEO network allows GEO BON the opportunity to connect with the observations and data organized in the other Societal-Benefit-Areas of GEO. These cross-linkages provide an opportunity to produce value-added, integrated tools and products that facilitate more informed and effective policy – going beyond reporting on status and trends to also identifying the causal mechanisms driving biodiversity change and producing predictive models for examining future scenarios. 

GEO BON is focusing its efforts on the implementation and adoption of the Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) and related monitoring guidelines and interoperable data management systems and through targeted capacity building efforts at the national and regional level (e.g. development of a “BON in a Box” toolkit focused on improved observations to facilitate improved policy and decision-making.  This approach reflects the need to provide a top-down design for a global observation system (e.g. EBV’s, monitoring guidelines, interoperable data systems) with the pragmatism of a bottom-up construction process (e.g. through national and regional capacity building).