EU BON at IPBES-2, Antalya
Iliyana Kuzmova

Pollination and Land Degradation: Set as top Priorities for New Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) after the plenary

IPBES was established in April 2012, as an independent intergovernmental body open to all member countries of the United Nations. The members are committed to building IPBES as the leading intergovernmental body for assessing the state of the planet's biodiversity, its ecosystems, and the essential services they provide to society.

The second meeting of the Platform's Plenary (IPBES-2) took place in Antalya, Turkey, from 9 to 14 December 2013. Around 400 delegates from over 100 governments, scientific organizations, civil society and the private sector, attended the plenary. It was agreed to develop a set of assessments on pollination and food production, land degradation and invasive species aimed at providing policymakers with the tools to tackle pressing environmental challenges.

IPBES Member Governments present at the meeting adopted a very ambitious initial work programme for the Platform for the next five years, and demonstrated strong commitment to its implementation by already pledging more than half (US$ 25.4 million) of the total US$ 43.5 million required, in what will be remembered as the "Antalya consensus".

EU BON was represented by the project coordinator Christoph Häuser (Museum für Naturkunde, MfN), and colleagues Tim Hirsch (Danish Biodiversity information Facility, DanBIF), Dirk Schmeller (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, UFZ), Wolfgang Cramer and Ilse Geijzendorffer (National Center for Scientific Research, CNRS), Matthew Walpole (World Conservation Monitoring Centre, UNEP) and Lluís Brotons (European Bird Census Council, EBCC).

EU BON group photo from left to right: Tim Hirsch (DanBIF), Christoph Häuser (MfN), Matthew Walpole (UNEP), Ilse Geijzendorffer (CNRS), Dirk Schmeller (UFZ), Wolfgang Cramer (CNRS) and Lucas Joppa (Microsoft Reseach). Photo: Dirk Schmeller

Here are their views and comments on the meeting:

1) How can EU BON contribute to the success of IPBES?

Matthew Walpole: Knowledge generation is a key pillar of IPBES. Mobilising data and information on biodiversity and ecosystem services is an important element of knowledge generation, and will be vital in underpinning rigorous, comprehensive assessments. In that regard, and in particular in the context of potential European regional assessments, EU BON as an integral part of GEO BON has a clear contribution to make.

Dirk S. Schmeller: IPBES assessments will base on available data and newly collected data from organisations contributing to IPBES. While there are some global biodiversity information providers, like GBIF, EU BON goes further in bridging data collection and data infrastructure and transforming the data in policy relevant reports. Much of the work by IPBES relies on such a system, and EU BON would be a major step forward and if put on a global scale (as a contribution to GEO BON) will be crucial for the work of IPBES. EU BON should aim to organise a side event at IPBES-3, maybe jointly with GEO BON.

Tim Hirsch: EU BON and all of its partners, including GBIF, have a vitally important role in providing the data and information foundations for the work IPBES will carry out to strengthen the science-policy interface. All through the IPBES process, countries have committed to build on existing initiatives, and it is encouraging to see that approach is being followed as the institutions of the new platform emerge. For example, the proposed IPBES task force on knowledge and data, based on strategic partnerships with relevant institutions, provides a space for our data mobilization and integration activities  to contribute to the assessment, knowledge generation, capacity building and policy support functions of the platform.

Ilse Geijzendorffer: By giving them the knowledge of what is required for successful assessment execution in terms of infrastructure, data management and governance. We can also provide demo results for them, for instance by computing an indicator required in one of the required assessments. Then they can start thinking of how they would like to communicate about these kinds of results and put in place the necessary procedures. We could also offer our services for a case study with a developing country on one of the identified assessments to show how their data and experts (including local and indigenous knowledge holders) could be included in the assessment.

Christoph Häuser: Yes, EU BON can and most certainly will significantly contribute to IPBES: Regardless of what the first thematic priorities for IPBES assessments and reviews will be , all assessments will ultimately depend on available, reliable and meaningful biodiversity data and information. Here, EU BON will be able to help by showing new and practical ways how to access integrated data layers and sources at various scales and for different interest and purposes. EU BON will also be able to help IPBES with its large and growing networks of institutions and experts, ranging from technical to socio-political areas.

2) How can IPBES participants best be made aware of EU BON and its relevance for IPBES?

Lluis Brotons: First of all, IPBES is a global, really ambitious initiative and EU BON faces a real challenge to effectively reach the audience currently developing the platform. EU BON should carefully select bridging channels between the work developed within the project and the IPBES priorities. Once these priorities have been identified, EU BON could easily become a key partner in providing valuable information, methods and concepts to be used in the IPBES assessments. It will be specially important to focus on the thematic assessments that IPBES plans to carry out in the first place such as pollination and food production or the methodological oriented assessment on support tools and methodologies for scenario analysis and modelling of biodiversity and ecosystem services that should be started during 2014. The main work ahead for EU BON on  making IPBES participants best aware of our work rests upon our ability to translate EU BON facilities, data and methods to the approaches and needs of the platform. We will need to be proactive here, we should not wait for IPBES to ask for help, we need to offer it in an attractive and adequate manner.

Matthew Walpole: Whilst GEO BON will be known to participants, and is mentioned in IPBES documentation, EU BON as a contributor to GEO BON is currently less visible. It's profile may be best raised in the context of GEO BON's role, with particular reference to its unique contributions, including (i) in a European context as (ii) a potential model for other regions.

Dirk S. Schmeller: One important possibility to make EU BON more visible is to show what the BON could look like, what possibilities in regard to reporting tools exist and how it could contribute to GEO BON.

Tim Hirsch: It will be important for EU BON and its partners to continue to engage actively in the various processes and procedures that are emerging from this plenary meeting: for example where we may contribute data and information to the various thematic and regional assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services that will be carried out during the first IPBES Work Programme over the next five years.

Christoph Häuser: While IPBES is still struggling to become really operational, EU BON should strive to lead by example: it could provide concrete show cases of integrative approaches towards biodiversity information; for example, how to pull together data from different layers, such as GBIF point occurrence and habitat or land cover data for a given areas, or how to operationalise Essential Biodiversity Variables or meaningful indicators from existing data sources.

3) Which IPBES members/participants/stakeholders do you see as key partners for EU BON, and which ones have you contacted?

Lluis Brotons: IPBES is still shaping itself and one of the challenges ahead for the platform is the participation of stakeholders in the different processes required to complete and analyse the planned thematic assessments.  In this line, in the second IPBES plenary, different EU BON partners have been teaming up with a number of other international stakeholders (IUCN, ICSU amongst others) to ensure that the scientific community and other knowledge holders directly contribute to the key parts of process. This is essential for the credibility of the assessments and the discussions in the meetings in Turkey have strongly revolved around the forms this participation may finally take. I would stress at this point that I do not clearly see key partners in IPBES, but more of a need to be also here proactive and work with other proactive stakeholders to articulate mechanisms by which non-governmental organisations are able to feed into the process. These mechanisms are likely to be critical in the future work of EU BON.

Matthew Walpole: There are various networks, initiatives and organisations promoting better biodiversity/environmental data mobilisation, integration, management and use (such as 'Eye on Earth' convened by the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI)). GEO BON/EU BON members (including GBIF and UNEP-WCMC) participate in such networks and it would be beneficial to forge stronger collaborative links. Other obvious partners include regional/national biodiversity centres beyond Europe with which EU BON might share/compare approaches as part of regional exchange and capacity development.

Tim Hirsch: It will particularly important to engage with the members of the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP) elected from each region to guide the scientific priorities of the platform's work, based on requests from governments, as well as the many scientific bodies, civil society groups and of course governments involved in the new platform - I have contacted a good proportion of them!

Ilse Geijzendorffer: Firstly, the stakeholder representation (our infrastructure could be included in the end as in kind contribution by an institute or network). Secondly, delegates favourable of scientific IPBES involvement (e.g. Switzerland, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Germany). I have not talked to Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Christoph Häuser: During IPBES2, I had the opportunity to make contacts with NatureServe, a prime organization and big player focusing on biodiversity information in the Western Hemisphere. It is these kinds of regional or global organizations with significant experiences and substantial assets in the area of biodiversity information generation and management, which EU BON should be liaising with more. With the (current) IPBES plenary being very much dominated by governments, it will remain a good forum for scientific initiatives and projects, such as EU BON, to build links to the political level, practically from all regions.

Dirk S. Schmeller: I agree with Christoph that EU BON needs to identify key players, such as Nature Serve, Earth Watch, dataONE and others. I had the pleasure to talk to the lead scientist of Nature Serve here in Antalya, Healy Hamilton, who expressed her interest in EU BON and GEO BON to allow an exchange of experiences and technologies. Such a collaboration will likely be beneficial for both projects/organisations. My interactions with MEP members from the different UN regions as well as delegates from different countries, which were much facilitated by IPBES, also did show the huge interest of these peers in an observation system to inform policy, but also the gaps in making known EU BON and GEO BON in some regions (e.g. Caribbean were unaware of GEO BON).

4) Which will be the emerging/new areas/challenges/questions regarding biodiversity data and monitoring coming from IPBES which EU BON needs to consider / take on board?

Lluis Brotons: Since IPBES it is in its early stages it is still difficult to identify specific questions or challenges regarding biodiversity data needs for this process. However, the advice I can give to EU BON partners is that they become familiar as early as possible with the scoping of the thematic assessments planned within the context of IPBES in the forthcoming years. The information provided in the initial scoping of these assessments may be a useful tool for EU BON allowing the different groups to move their developments in line that anticipate the needs that the assessments are likely to face in the near future. Explore the scoping for the thematic assessments (amongst other IPBES documents) here (

Matthew Walpole: EU BON could usefully consider and articulate which parts of the IPBES conceptual framework it can provide information for, as well as thinking about how it connects to regional (European), and global, assessment processes within the IPBES programme of work. Equally, given the importance within IPBES placed upon outreach and communication to decision-makers across multiple sectors, EU BON could usefully consider innovative visualisation approaches for its data products and outputs.

Tim Hirsch: One of the strong themes that has run through this IPBES meeting is the need to incorporate and recognize multiple knowledge systems, including indigenous and traditional knowledge, when carrying out assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services. There are many challenges and opportunities arising out of this for EU BON and its partners, for example the development of community-based monitoring programmes that can contribute valuable data and information for the science-policy interface, but must be handled with due respect and sensitivity to build trust in participating communities.

Ilse Geijzendorffer: Fast track assessments, need their answers fast! Additionally, transparency of the analysis maybe not appreciated by some regional hubs or Members of the platform. This maybe posing problems for the willingness to use a shared data transfer system. Finally, if 80% of the experts will be nominated by the Members of the Platform, this can pose problems for the willingness of some expert to use transparent analysis methods. This has to be endorsed in the current protocol development.

Christoph Häuser: This remains a largely open question, as IPBES is still much preoccupied with procedural and organizational issues. With the regional approach towards assessments built into IPBES, however, it is already clear that a regional perspective towards biodiversity information and interpretation, such as an integrated European biodiversity data portal, will be a major asset to offer. As IPBES furthermore stresses the incorporation of other forms of knowledge, a focus on linking with and incorporating citizen science initiatives seems a logical follow up for EU BON.

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flag big This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement No 308454.