EBBA2 workshop at the 21st conference of the European Bird Census Council (EBCC), Bird Numbers 2019

More than 200 ornithologists, experts on bird monitoring, met at the beginning of April 2019 in Évora, Portugal. The conference programme covered many topics including talks and posters on bird distribution atlases. Furthermore, we organized a dedicated workshop on EBBA2 during the conference. Here were bring a short report particularly for those who are interested in EBBA2, but couldn’t attend the workshop in Évora. Since we are in final phases of producing the maps and writing the texts for the EBBA2, we encourage national coordinators, species experts and everybody interested in information where we are with the project, to read the report below.

Where we are in making EBBA2 happen

Maps of distribution and abundance at 50×50 km grid

The EBBA2 coordination team informed the workshop participants that the project is keeping with its time table and the final product, the book, will be published by the end of 2020. The data on species occurrence, incl. atlas codes and abundance estimates at 50×50 km scale has been collected and largely checked for their quality from all the countries and territories of the EBBA2.

Example of a species distribution map at 50×50 km resolution, with indication of breeding evidence.

Example of a species abundance map at 50×50 km resolution.

Based on the data from EBBA1, we can also produce maps of change between EBBA1 and EBBA2. Accounting for different observation effort in EBBA1 and EBBA2 is a challenge and several criteria for selecting only the squares with similar effort in both atlases were applied. Rather poor coverage of some areas in Europe in EBBA1 (e.g. eastern parts of the continent) is the reason why the maps of change will present the change in a sub-set of 50×50 km squares only. Nevertheless, the change maps are a great added value of EBBA2 and we can expect a lot of attention by researchers and policy makers that will focus on the changes in bird distribution in Europe.

Example of a map showing the change in distribution between EBBA1 and EBBA2.

Although the data at 50×50 km scale has been already checked and approved by the national coordinators, the maps are not final yet. The improvements, focusing on  detecting suspicious records are still going on and also the authors of the species accounts contribute to improving the final maps. The improvements and final map checking are done via an on-line tool called MapChecker, which is available to the national coordinators, the authors and editors of species accounts and the coordination team. The suggestions for changes and improvements will be finalised by the end of May 2019, the coordination team will then decide, in liaison with the national coordinators, species authors and other experts. We strongly encourage the national coordinators to check the final maps by the end of May 2019. The final maps for the book and on-line presentation will be produced in summer 2019. Preparation of a layout of the maps for the publication will follow immediately in the autumn this year.

Sensitive species

Information on the distribution at 50×50 km scale of some species may be considered sensitive in some countries. There is a concern that presenting the information on breeding occurrence may increase a risk of disturbance (e.g. by photographers), or nest robbing (e.g. by egg collectors) or pose another risk to the species. The overall goal of EBBA2 is to keep the quality of EBBA2 information collected, presented and made available for further research and conservation, but not to increase the risk for sensitive species. After presenting and discussing the issue at the workshop, it is suggested that each case will be assessed individually by the EBBA2 coordination team in close cooperation with the national coordinators, species editors and authors, and other experts. We will consider existing evidence that a species is at risk, timing of the publication (whether a risk is there still at a moment when the book or on-line maps are published), resolution of the maps (whether the resolution in the published outputs provides enough information for potential abuse), and importance of EBBA2 as a source of information in comparison with other resources (e.g. on-line portals or social media). In case presenting information on species at 50×50 km scale is considered risky, a presentation at 100×100 km scale will be proposed.

Modelled maps

Modelled maps of probability of occurrence at 10×10 km scale have been produced for aprox. 250 species, statistically validated and assessed also by the members of the Atlas Steering Committee.

Example of the modelled map of the probability of occurrence at 10×10 km scale. Colour intensity reflects the probability of occurrence of a species in a given square. Thus, the map is useful for the identification of hotspots of occurrence of a species in Europe. It does not show the abundance, however, although often abundance and probability of occurrence correlate.

For the process of writing species accounts, the maps are available to the national coordinators, species authors and editors via an on-line tool. Experts will evaluate the maps and can propose whether particular maps will be included in the final products. The maps are still provisional, and following some tests to improve them, the final maps will be produced in summer 2019.

The book and beyond

Publication of the book in late 2020 will be the major milestone in the EBBA2 project. While the general chapters will be written by the coordination team together with members of the Atlas Steering Committee, for species accounts the assistance of other experts is needed. Members of the steering committee and the EBCC board help to coordinate the writing of the species accounts, i.e. they are responsible for finding the authors, providing guidance to them and for the final delivery of the texts to the coordination team*. At the time of the workshop there were more than 200 species authors with species allocated to them and writing is going on.

In total, we expect information on 617 species will be presented in the book, although this figure may change as new information still could arrive. Depending on amount and quality of the data, the species in the book will be presented in a double page layout or on a single page. The species information on a double page will include two full maps (50×50 km distribution & abundance, 10×10 modelled map), the map of change in distribution between EBBA1 and EBBA2 at 50×50 km and short accompanying text providing interpretation to the maps. The species with restricted distribution or with data not allowing showing all types of the maps will be presented on a single page.

The species information presented in the species accounts in the book will be accompanied by original paintings provided by 44 artists from 18 countries. So far more than 500 paintings were received already. The artists provide their illustrations to EBBA2 for free and we appreciate their contribution very much! The authors of the paintings will be acknowledged in the book and on the web site as well as other contributors. The EBBA2 coordination team has developed the rules for acknowledgements of the contributors to EBBA2 as well. The rules were already discussed at the meeting with national coordinators from the countries supported within the MAVA grant in late 2017, and also presented at the workshop in Évora. The financial contributors to the project will be acknowledged either at the EBBA2 web site or in the book, depending on the level of their contribution as it is described in the species sponsorship section at the EBBA2 web site (https://www.ebba2.info/support-ebba2/ebba2-species-sponsorship/). The national coordinators and national data providers will be acknowledged in the book and on the web site too. Acknowledgement to fieldworkers at national level is in principally the responsibility of the national coordinators. However, the EBBA2 coordination team will provide sections on the EBBA2 web site, where national fieldworkers can be acknowledged or links from to the national web sites provided.

The EBBA2 coordination team has been in contact with the publisher Lynx Edicions discussing details of the book publication. It is obvious that the Atlas will be large book, we expect some 1000 pages in total. According to our previous survey among national contacts and coordinators we are aware that a low retail price will increase the chance that the book is more widely distributed across Europe. We will do our best to raise extra funds which will enable to keep the retail price below 100 Euro, to provide also pre-publication discounts and to have copies for the main contributors for free. Please help to raise the funds needed, e.g. through the species sponsorship scheme. 

Use of EBBA2 in policy and research

Experience with the use of EBBA1 data for research has been analysed and summarised in a paper which will be published in Bird Study soon. The paper documents that the Atlas is an extremely valuable source of information for further research. We expect great interest from researchers also in EBBA2. Although the data is not yet available, discussions with researchers on priority research topics and practical aspects of scientific analyses incl. data access have started. Ideally, a high profile scientific paper based on EBBA2 data could be published soon after the book is published, however more research outputs are anticipated and further initiatives appreciated.

The EBBA2 coordination team has also been in contact with EU institutions in order to ensure the Atlas outputs contribute to the international policies including an assessment of the EU biodiversity strategy. We have worked together with the Joint Research Centre (JRC) on a production of maps of species richness of farmland birds. The report will be delivered to the JRC soon and will help EU policy makers to target conservation actions aimed to be beneficial to farmland birds. Using the modelled map of probability of occurrence the EBBA2 already contributed to the Action plan for Turtle Dove. The map provides the information about the priority areas for conservation of the species.

22.5.2019 Petr Voříšek

*Species account editors:

Aleksi Lehikoinen, Anny Anselin, Danae Portolou, David Noble, Dawn Balmer, Hans-Günther Bauer, Henning Heldbjerg, Ivan Ramirez, Lluis Brotons, Mark Eaton, Martí Franch, Mikhail Kalyakin, Oskars Keišs, Petr Voříšek, Ruud Foppen, Sergi Herrando, Verena Keller.