TAO – From Data to Decision: Collecting, Mobilizing, and Harmonizing Tropical Andes Observatory Data for Improved Conservation Planning

Effective and timely conservation and sustainable development policy relies upon high-quality biodiversity information, yet the capacity to generate, integrate and deliver this information in user-friendly formats is a particular challenge in biodiversity hotspots such as the Tropical Andes. Existing efforts suffer from taxonomic, spatial and temporal biases, inadequate integration, and often remain within the academic context, limiting their access and relevance to policy makers.

BON development process (from Navarro et al., 2017)

Recent advances in biodiversity informatics, communication tools and observation network design, combined with petabytes of in-situ and remotely sensed information, offer a unique opportunity to improve efficiency and impact of biodiversity observatories in the region. The challenge is to harness these advances through the establishment of a network of harmonized, efficient national observatories, that can not only improve change detection capacity, but also inform effective conservation and policy.
By developing a sustained, user-driven, locally operated, harmonized and scalable regional BON in the Tropical Andes, connecting data to decisions, we will achieve the following results:

  • Early warning and surveillance systems employing state-of-the-art predictive models that can inform prevention, detection and mitigation of threats (e.g. invasive species, emerging zoonosis) to human well- being and local and regional economies
  • Sustained regional biodiversity observation capacity, built on existing data and efforts, combined with advanced data management and analytics systems from global partners, that will improve the discoverability, access and utility of information
  • A Biodiversity Indicators Dashboard for the Tropical Andes allowing continual visualization of biodiversity indicators to support nations’ ability to achieve and track domestic and international conservation targets and sustainable development goals.

The Tropical Andes BON (TAO) will draw on existing capacity to ensure it is efficient, realistic and sustainable. It will also prioritize the identification of key spatial, temporal and thematic gaps that can advance information that meets user needs. TAO will develop and integrate national biodiversity observing systems by grouping specific steps into five work packages: (1) Engagement; (2) Assessment; (3) Design; (4) Implementation; & (5) Capacity building and knowledge exchange.

TAO is funded by the ERANet program (Reference: ERANet17/BDS-0249)
Total awarded funding: 395 000 €
Start of project: June 2019
Duration: 26 months
Coordination: German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig / Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg

Consortium Partners
Germany – German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

The Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg / German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig is one of four research centres funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) with an average annual budget of 8 million EUR since October 2012. It is jointly hosted by three universities and eight leading non¬university research institutions. In addition to the topical research groups, iDiv has strong central services (outreach office, biodiversity informatics, bioinformatics), a Synthesis Centre (sDiv) fostering theoretical and synthetic thinking by hosting workshops and funding short-term postdoc and sabbatical positions as well as a PhD school (yDiv) educating young scientists in transdisciplinary biodiversity research. Since 2014, iDiv hosts the Secretariat of GEO BON.
Coordinators: Henrique M. Pereira and Laetitia M. Navarro

Peru – Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA)

mission is to protect the highest biological diversity areas in Peru. Since 1999, ACCA has used science as a tool to guide its approach to environmental protection and restoration. In close collaboration with the government, ACCA scientists are using cutting-edge satellite imagery and drones to monitor forest health through an altitudinal gradient in the western slope of the Andes. This network is producing the highly needed information to advance our understanding on the impacts of global change on biodiversity status and trends. ACCA also works with local communities, the government and universities to promote its three biological stations as centres for education and outreach.
Coordinator: Gabriela Orihuela y Lucia Castro

Bolivia – The Asociación Boliviana Para la Investigación de Ecosistemas Andino Amazónicos (ACEAA)

promotes a holistic approach to biodiversity conservation in Bolivia. With a strong on-the-ground presence, ACEAA science team has established a solid national network of local actors, civil society, universities, and government institutions to promote evidence-based conservation. ACEAA has implemented the most comprehensive biodiversity monitoring system in the country that includes a network of camera traps, satellite imagery and direct observations in an area of ~2 million hectares. ACEAA also works with local communities to conserve Amazonian forests by building land management capacity, strengthening local organizations and supporting sustainable livelihoods initiatives.
Coordinator: Marcos Teran and Pamela Avila

Ecuador – Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INABIO)

is the Public Research Institute of Biodiversity in Ecuador and aims to plan, promote , coordinate and implement research processes related to the field of biodiversity conservation-oriented and sustainable exploitation of this strategic resource , according to existing environmental policies and applicable legislation. The Institute under the Ministry of Environment, is responsible for generating the knowledge and develop science, technology and innovation that requires the Ecuadorian State to guarantee the conservation of its natural heritage.
Coordinator: Carmen Josse Moncayo

Spain – The Universidad de Córdoba (UCO)

is a public High Education and Research institution in Spain established in 1972. This University is considered at the forefront of research in Andalusia and is ranking among the top research institutions at the national level. UCO has a commitment with society, promoting innovation, research and technological development as an instrument for the social progress. Transfer of knowledge is too, one of the missions of this university. UCO has considerable experience in managing international projects. Currently, UCO has been granted with 18 projects funded through H2020 and 16 project funded by other EU programs. In a previous period (2007-2013), UCO obtained 30 projects funded through the 7th Framework Program and 19 project funded by other EU programs.
Coordinator: Francisco Bonet-García

Work Package 1: Engagement (Lead: iDiv/MLU)

This work package will be essential to create the enabling and authorizing environment within each country, and in the Tropical Andes region as a whole, as well as to engage the scientific and technical partners of the project, in both Latin America and Europe. This engagement will result in the establishment of the Design and Implementation Team (DIT), composed of scientific and technical experts and decision and policy makers from the Latin American countries of the consortium, along with scientists from the European and self-funded partner organizations.

Tasks (T): T1.1: Establishment of Consortium;
 T1.2: Engagement of National Governments and local stakeholders;
 T1.3: Design and Implementation Team Kick-off Meeting;
 T1.4: Design and Implementation Team Mid-term assessment Meeting; T1.5: Design and Implementation Team Final Assessment Meeting.
Milestones (M): M1.1: Endorsement for a regional Biodiversity Observation Network by the National Governments and the GEO BON Implementation Committee; M1.2: Establishment of the Design and Implementation Team (DIT).

Work Package 2: Assessment (Lead: ACCA)

This work package will perform a diagnosis of available data, biodiversity observation capacity and tools in each country and define the users’ needs. The latter will be achieved by engaging multiple stakeholders across sectors, to diagnose information requirements for effective national and international scale conservation, management, and sustainable development policy. In particular, the user needs assessment will engage decision makers, development agencies (whose decisions can have far-reaching implications), scientists (in need of quality data to understand biodiversity change), NGOs (at the frontlines of conservation efforts), educators (who transfer knowledge on the importance of biodiversity to human well-being), and citizens (who depend on reliable biodiversity information to inform their personal choices and actions). At a later stage, the consortium will perform a comprehensive inventory of existing biodiversity data and biodiversity observation tools and capacity/infrastructure in use in each of the partner country, as well as in the Tropical Andes region as a whole and will identify opportunities to employ new technologies.

Tasks – T2.1: Peru, Data Users and Data Producers National Workshop (Responsible: ACCA); T2.2: Bolivia, Data Users and Data Producers National Workshop (Responsible: ACEAA); T2.3: Ecuador, Data Users and Data Producers National Workshop (Responsible: INABIO); T2.4: Data Users and Data Producers Regional Workshop (Responsible: ACCA)
; T2.5: Peru, Data Tools and Platforms Inventory (Responsible: ACCA);
 T2.6: Bolivia, Data, Tools and Platforms Inventory (Responsible: ACEAA);
 T2.7: Ecuador, Data, Tools and Platforms Inventory (Responsible: INABIO); T2.8: Regional Data Inventory (Responsible: iDiv).

Deliverables (D): D2.1: Report and analysis of data needs in Peru; D2.2: Report and analysis of data needs in Bolivia; D2.3: Report and analysis of data needs in Ecuador; D2.4: Report and analysis of data needs in the Tropical Andes region; D2.5: Inventory data, observation tools and capacity/infrastructure in Peru; D2.6: Inventory data, observation tools and capacity/infrastructure in Bolivia; D2.7: Inventory data, observation tools and capacity/infrastructure in Ecuador; D2.8: Inventory data, observation tools and capacity/infrastructure in the Tropical Andes region.

Milestones (M): M2.1: Production of a comprehensive assessment of the users’ needs across Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, and harmonized for the Tropical Andes region; M2.2: Production of a complete inventory of available geo- referenced, and time-stamped biodiversity data for the Tropical Andes region. Identification of the data infrastructures to be involved in the Tropical Andes inventory. All data are mobilized into GBIF using the Darwin Event Core; M2.3: Inventory of available tools, ready to be mobilized in BON-in-a-Box.

Work Package 3: Design phase (lead: INABIO)

This work package is meant to identify focal ecosystems, conceptual models, Essential Biodiversity Variables and primary observations of priority interest for generating policy relevant biodiversity information within the Tropical Andes region and builds heavily on the deliverables of work package 2. This phase also includes the design of data collection methods, sampling framework, and data management plan, as well as approaches for analysis and reporting.

Tasks – T3.1: Focal Ecosystems, conceptual models and EBVs Regional Workshop (Responsible: INABIO); T3.2: Multiscale Data Collection Methods and Sampling Framework Regional Workshop (Responsible: ACCA); T3.3: Data management, analysis and reporting Regional Workshop (Responsible: INABIO);
 T3.4: Delivery of information and services to users: NatureServe Dashboard (Responsible: iDiv).

Deliverables (D): D3.1: Definition of focal ecosystems and corresponding conceptual models for the regional biodiversity observation and information network; D3.2: Combining the conceptual models (D3.1), and assessments of users’ needs (D2.4), definition of storylines/narratives around the selected focal ecosystems, and identification of Essential Biodiversity Variables and underlying primary observation; D3.3: Considering the primary biodiversity observations identified in D3.2, definition of biodiversity observation protocols, data standards and methods to allow for homogenization of data collection approaches, for each of the focal ecosystem; D3.4: A detailed data management plan for the Tropical Andes BON, for both historical & future data; D3.5: A detailed work plan for EBV production, including analysis tools, in each focal ecosystem. D3.6: Building on the users’ needs (D2.4) and narratives (D3.2), adoption of adequate reporting processes and tools for decision-making.

Milestones (M): M3.1: A defined sampling framework for each focal ecosystem within the Tropical Andes region; M3.2: A workflow for the conversion of existing and newly derived data to decision quality products.

Work Package 4: Implementation Phase (lead: iDiv)

To provide early results and test the observation system, two case studies will be developed around two EBVs: “Species distribution” and “Ecosystem extent”. The production of those EBVs will involve the integration of in situ local data, across all focal ecosystems identified in WP3, with Earth Observations data, and the use of biodiversity models. The resulting data products, and derived indicators will be communicated to the various stakeholders using the NatureServe Biodiversity Indicators Dashboard.

Tasks – T4.1: Aggregation & analysis of existing data using models to produce EBV-based indicators (Responsible: iDiv); T4.2: Integration of EBV-based Indicators on NatureServe Tropical Andes Dashboard (Responsible: iDiv).

Deliverables (D): D4.1: Development of “Species distribution” EBVs for the Tropical Andes region; D4.2: Development of “Ecosystem Extent” EBVs for the Tropical Andes region; D4.3: Production of scalable EBV-based indicators; D4.4: Development and visualization of biodiversity indicators on the Tropical Andes Dashboard; D4.5: Regional scale analyses of priority EBVs to depict status and trends in biodiversity and potential drivers.

Work Package 5: Capacity building and knowledge exchange (lead: UCO)

This work package will be achieved through the user needs assessment, appropriate support tools and knowledge products will be identified and adjustments regarding the main themes for the training courses will be made.

Tasks – T5.1: Biodiversity Monitoring for decision makers Training Course (Responsible: UCO & INABIO); T5.2: Biodiversity Monitoring using in situ & remote sensing observations, Training Course (Responsible: UCO/ACCA); T5.3: Data mining and data integration Training Course (Responsible: UCO & ACEAA);
Deliverables (D): D5: Experts in each country trained in the thematic of the Training Courses.

Outputs, deliverables and publications

Information and documents will be added here as they are produced by the consortium.