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Monitoring Biodiversity

The new object of study: biological diversity

Several observation networks are in operation to monitor continuously the state of the environment, for example stations measuring air pollution at busy traffic locations or the networks monitoring water and soil quality. A common feature of these networks is that they are all human-orientated, or in other words they have been set up for the protection of the health of human populations or to satisfy other needs.
The vulnerability of the biosphere was only realised following the rapid mass extinction of species. The parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed to develop a national strategy and nature conservation law that safeguards the protection and preservation of the biosphere, and the sustainable use of natural resources. To fulfil these requirements, the monitoring of the changes of the biosphere is indispensable, hence repeated observations must be carried out.

Why should we preserve biodiversity?

As a consequence of meeting the material needs of Mankind, the habitats of many species are constantly shrinking and destroyed, and this leads to the decline in numbers of both species and their different habitats. Ancient breeds or species may only be used if they can survive. Nature provides the renewable resources tapped by us everyday. Biodiversity serves as the basis for natural selection to act upon, and makes adaptations to new environmental condition possible. We should not forget that the biosphere does affect climate, the composition of the atmosphere, and possibly several other, yet unknown global phenomena, and these in turn profoundly affect every aspect of human life. The selfish fulfilment of our needs endangers the very future of humanity. Some threatening signs are already detectable (for example the formation of the ozone hole, global warming etc.)

The monitoring of biodiversity

Biodiversity stands not only for the multitude of species, but also implies the variability within species and the diversity of communities of plants and animals. The monitoring of biodiversity is carried out by regularly repeated and standardised measurement of selected characteristics of chosen organisms or communities on a long-term basis. The description of the normal state and dynamics of an entity might serve as a baseline to diagnose unnatural phenomena, and is also invaluable for the design of nature conservation measures. The aim of a monitoring programme might be the observation of changes in the fauna and flora caused by a known or estimated environmental change such as the decrease of water-table levels, or climate change. Due to the very high number of species and habitats, it is impossible and unnecessary to monitor everything, and everywhere. In the design of the Hungarian Biodiversity Monitoring System the following key areas were given priority:
– the monitoring of endangered and protected natural values,
– the observation of elements with a diagnostic value in assessing the general state of the biota and communities,
– the study of the direct and indirect effects of human-induced changes, and changes of the environment.


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