Getting all the data together from across Europe to prepare the provisional maps, checking data and preparing for the final stage of the project were at the core of the work for the second European Breeding Bird Atlas (EBBA2).
After the official end of the fieldwork period in 2017 only few countries invested in additional fieldwork to fill gaps. This was the case in particular in Russia, where expeditions to remote areas greatly increased coverage. Through a special appeal within the species sponsorship we managed to provide financial support to cover the costs of these expeditions.
EBBA2 will present maps at two different spatial resolutions, 50×50 km for breeding evidence and abundance per square, 10×10 km for the probability of occurrence modelled with different spatial distribution models. In spring 2018 the data from the standardised surveys used for modelling were ready and the team at the Swiss Ornithological Institute (SOI) started with the time-consuming modelling process. By the end of the year modelled maps for over 300 species were ready for evaluation by experts from the Spatial Modelling Group (SMOG) and the Atlas Steering Committee.
The data compilation for the 50×50 km squares continued throughout 2018. Most countries provided their data by late summer so that the team at the Catalan Ornithological Institute (ICO) in Barcelona was able to present the combined data in the web tool. Seeing the European maps for the first time was exciting for the whole EBBA2 team and for national coordinators, who until then had only been able to see maps for their own country. For the national coordinators this marked the start of the data-checking process. Many suspicious data, inevitable in such a big project, had to be checked, and along the many national borders the information from adjacent countries needed to be harmonised for transboundary squares.
Already in 2017 planning of the final publication had started. This continued in 2018 with discussions on layout and the planning of the writing of the species accounts. The around 50 artists who provide illustrations for the species accounts continued their work and at the end of the year a large part of the illustrations had been finalised.
Fundraising activities continued. While the costs until the end of 2018 could be covered, more external funding is needed to finish the project. The Species Sponsorship was advertised not just through the EBBA2 website and social media (Facebook, Twitter but also by national partners, in particular the Dachverband Deutscher Avifaunisten DDA who ran a special EBBA2 promotion week in December. The team at the Czech Society for Ornithology (CSO) coordinated these activities and the exchange of information within the EBBA2 network.
Active participation in EBBA2 created a new interest in large-scale bird monitoring projects in eastern and southern European countries. They need further development and capacity building, which is the topic of a new project application by EBBA2 partners submitted to a call for EEA and Norway grants for regional cooperation. Results of the evaluation of proposals will be announced in February 2019. If funded, the project will contribute to citizen science in 12 eastern and southern European countries.
A research paper on use of data from EBBA1 and perspectives of using EBBA2 data for further research and conservation was submitted to a scientific journal. The use of EBBA2 data in research was also a subject of a meeting of the EBBA2 coordination team with researchers in March 2018. Furthermore, communication with EU institutions about use of EBBA2 data in international policy-related activities was intensified in 2018.
The network of cooperating organisations and individuals across Europe was regularly informed about EBBA2 activities via emails and EBCC Newsletters. The communication activities included, among others, also presentations at meetings and conferences, including the First Russian Ornithological Congress.
The coordination team continued in the same composition with staff at SOI in Sempach, ICO in Barcelona and CSO in Prague. The Atlas Steering Committee met in Evora in spring and in Athens in October, combined with meetings of the EBCC board.
Compiling and checking the data was a huge work for national coordinators, many of whom struggled to find the time for this alongside the many other projects they are responsible for. We thank the coordinators and their colleagues for the collaboration. With the final checking and the preparation of over 550 species accounts a lot of work is still ahead of us. New people will join the EBBA2 network in their role as authors of the texts that will accompany the maps in the species accounts. We look forward to this collaboration. Much of the work for EBBA2 is provided by partners as in-kind contribution and we are immensely grateful for this. Nevertheless, without external funding this big project would not be possible. Our thanks therefore also go to our donors.
Sempach, 6 February 2019
Chair of the Atlas Steering Committee