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      Practical Considerations for Implementing Species Distribution Essential Biodiversity Variables

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      Biodiversity Information Science and Standards

      Pensoft Publishers

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          Abstract

          Species Distribution Essential Biodiversity Variables (SD EBVs; Pereira et al. 2013, Kissling et al. 2017, Jetz et al. 2019) are defined as measurements or estimates of species’ occupancy along the axes of space, time and taxonomy. In the “ideal” case, additional stipulations have been proposed: occupancy should be characterized contiguously along each axis at grain sizes relevant to policy and process (i.e., fine scale); and the SD EBV should be global in extent, or at least span the entirety of the focal taxa’s geographical range (Jetz et al. 2019). These stipulations set the bar very high and, unsurprisingly, most operational SD EBVs fall short of these ideal criteria. In this presentation, I will discuss the major challenges associated with developing the idealized SD EBV. I will demonstrate these challenges using an operational SD EBV spanning ~6000 species in the United Kingdom (UK) over the period 1970 to 2019 as a case study (Outhwaite et al. 2019). In short, this data product comprises annual estimates of occupancy for each species in all sampled 1 km cells across the UK; these are derived from opportunistically-collected species occurrence data using occupancy-detection models (Kéry et al. 2010). Having discussed which of the “ideal” criteria the case study satisfies, I will then touch on what are, in my view, two underappreciated challenges when constructing SD EBVs: dealing with sampling biases in the underlying data and the difficulty in evaluating the extent to which they bias the final product. These challenges should be addressed as a matter of urgency, as SD EBVs are increasingly applied in important settings such as underpinning national and international biodiversity indicators (see e.g., https://geobon.org/ebvs/indicators/).

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          Most cited references 4

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          Ecology. Essential biodiversity variables.

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            Essential biodiversity variables for mapping and monitoring species populations

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              Building essential biodiversity variables (EBVs) of species distribution and abundance at a global scale

              Much biodiversity data is collected worldwide, but it remains challenging to assemble the scattered knowledge for assessing biodiversity status and trends. The concept of Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) was introduced to structure biodiversity monitoring globally, and to harmonize and standardize biodiversity data from disparate sources to capture a minimum set of critical variables required to study, report and manage biodiversity change. Here, we assess the challenges of a 'Big Data' approach to building global EBV data products across taxa and spatiotemporal scales, focusing on species distribution and abundance. The majority of currently available data on species distributions derives from incidentally reported observations or from surveys where presence-only or presence-absence data are sampled repeatedly with standardized protocols. Most abundance data come from opportunistic population counts or from population time series using standardized protocols (e.g. repeated surveys of the same population from single or multiple sites). Enormous complexity exists in integrating these heterogeneous, multi-source data sets across space, time, taxa and different sampling methods. Integration of such data into global EBV data products requires correcting biases introduced by imperfect detection and varying sampling effort, dealing with different spatial resolution and extents, harmonizing measurement units from different data sources or sampling methods, applying statistical tools and models for spatial inter- or extrapolation, and quantifying sources of uncertainty and errors in data and models. To support the development of EBVs by the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON), we identify 11 key workflow steps that will operationalize the process of building EBV data products within and across research infrastructures worldwide. These workflow steps take multiple sequential activities into account, including identification and aggregation of various raw data sources, data quality control, taxonomic name matching and statistical modelling of integrated data. We illustrate these steps with concrete examples from existing citizen science and professional monitoring projects, including eBird, the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring network, the Living Planet Index and the Baltic Sea zooplankton monitoring. The identified workflow steps are applicable to both terrestrial and aquatic systems and a broad range of spatial, temporal and taxonomic scales. They depend on clear, findable and accessible metadata, and we provide an overview of current data and metadata standards. Several challenges remain to be solved for building global EBV data products: (i) developing tools and models for combining heterogeneous, multi-source data sets and filling data gaps in geographic, temporal and taxonomic coverage, (ii) integrating emerging methods and technologies for data collection such as citizen science, sensor networks, DNA-based techniques and satellite remote sensing, (iii) solving major technical issues related to data product structure, data storage, execution of workflows and the production process/cycle as well as approaching technical interoperability among research infrastructures, (iv) allowing semantic interoperability by developing and adopting standards and tools for capturing consistent data and metadata, and (v) ensuring legal interoperability by endorsing open data or data that are free from restrictions on use, modification and sharing. Addressing these challenges is critical for biodiversity research and for assessing progress towards conservation policy targets and sustainable development goals.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Biodiversity Information Science and Standards
                BISS
                Pensoft Publishers
                2535-0897
                September 14 2021
                September 14 2021
                : 5
                Article
                10.3897/biss.5.75156
                © 2021

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