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Environmental monitoring allows for the assessment of environmental and biological changes in an ecosystem, with the goal of

  • Making an inventory of species and habitats present in an area as well as noting their mutual relationships
  • Distinguishing natural fluctuations from abnormal changes and
  • Identifying cause-and-effect relationships between external developments and changes in the biological community.

Tool in biodiversity management
Monitoring is an effective tool

  • To measure the progress and effectiveness of conservation measures, and to detect biological trends in response to natural and human induced disturbances in the environment.

The approach
Different approaches can be followed in a monitoring programme over a certain time span. For example,

  • An All Biota Taxonomic Inventory (ABTI) that focuses on a number of key species groups such as termites, fishes or butterflies.
  • An All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) focuses on the description of all species present in a certain area
  • A Rapid Biodiversity Assessment (RBA) provides an inventory of selected species giving a quick estimate of the biological richness of an area.

Monitoring programmes can also focus on genetic diversity, species or habitats or any combinations of these.

These are only a few examples of the characteristics of monitoring programmes. The approach chosen is closely linked to the aim of the monitoring programme and the resources that can be made available which can be thought of as cost effectiveness.

The resources needed
Monitoring biological diversity at national, regional and global levels requires systematic and ecological infrastructure, economic input and human resources.
In addition countries that are party to the Convention on Biological Diversity, are committed to identify and monitor biodiversity for both conservation and sustainable use. Even so some of the most well resourced and well-developed countries still have a poor knowledge of their biota, because of its complexity or lack of framework for executing a cohesive monitoring programme.


This long-term monitoring project in the area of Cres-Losinj archipelago in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea serves as an example of integration of monitoring, awareness raising, and putting the obtained results into practice.

In 1987, an Italian research institute initiated the "Adriatic Dolphin Project" (ADP) in order to study the state of the local population of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Dolphins are top predators and therefore representative of the health of an ecosystem as a whole. In this area they are classified as critically endangered (IUCN) and are threatened by over-fishing, pollution, and tourism.

Monitoring the dolphins
Some of the indicators recorded and the methods used to determine them are:

  • Population size (photo identification by scars and notches on the dorsal fin)
  • Range of movements (also photo ID)
  • Activity (sounds recorded using hydrophones)
  • Stomach contents (of killed species found in the area)

The evaluation by monthly and yearly comparisons by GIS-application and other means not only allows for conclusions concerning the state of the dolphin population to be made, but also interactions with human activities such as fisheries.

Funding & Awareness raising
80% of the funding is supplied by ecovolunteer tourism, which consists of volunteers who pay to visit the research station and to participate in the scientist's activities. Further financial resources include local and national governments, sponsorships by banks and private companies, as well as public participation initiatives e.g. "Adopt a Dolphin", summer research and educational courses. Awareness is raised additionally by explaining the research results to the local public through journal and newspaper articles, appearances on TV and radio programmes, and special events e.g. "Dolphin Day".

As a result of this long lasting monitoring programme, an area for a Marine Park of great importance to submarine and bird life as well as archaeological heritage was identified. In 1996 the Croatian Government contributed to the "Environmental Management Plan for the Conservation of Cres-Losinj archipelago" (1993). However, the plan was not implemented, so that the ADP still relies on rather risky annual sponsorships.
In 2001 the ADP was taken over by a Croatian NGO. A year later a new proposal for the creation of Losinj Dolphin Reserve was submitted to several agencies and approval was anticipated. Apart from proposing a marine education centre, several recommendations were made that can form the basis for co-operation with other sectors: further studies on dolphin-fishery interactions, dolphin-tourism interactions, pollution effects, and socio-economic impacts will most probably reveal the necessity of integrated approaches in the management of this area.

see also socio-economic strategies
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