Monitoring of natural habitats

Data on the development of the status of habitats

Monitoring of habitats means the monitoring of biodiversity. Its purpose is to yield information on developments in the habitats' natural range, total area and the size and location of occurrences, and on changes in the structures, functioning and species of different habitats.

Habitats consist of a variety of biological and environmental factors such as the soil, water conditions, microclimate, the structure of flora, flora and fauna, etc. It is therefore important to limit the characteristics subject to monitoring. Characteristics selected for monitoring must be suitable for repeatable measurement or evaluation in the most reliable way possible. These requirements make the development of habitat monitoring challenging.

Natural habitats can also be monitored from aerial photographs. © Anne Raunio.

Monitoring is mandatory under the Habitats Directive

Biodiversity within different habitats has rarely been monitored at national level in Finland, but such monitoring should be begun. The monitoring need is most acute for habitats listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive, 69 of which are found in Finland. The Habitats Directive requires Member States to monitor the conservation status of these habitats. The results must be reported to the European Commission every six years.

The habitats referred to in the Habitats Directive include habitats found in the Baltic Sea, on the coast, in inland waters, mires, forests, rocks, fells and meadows. These are quite broadly representative of Finnish biodiversity. In other words, monitoring these habitats is also of national importance. Evaluating and monitoring habitat conservation status, as laid down in the Habitats Directive, is also closely related to the 2008 assessment of threatened habitat types.

The EU has not issued any guidelines on the practical implementation of monitoring required under the Habitats Directive. The Finnish approach to the development of monitoring is that all habitats in the Directive must be monitored to some extent, but the level of detail may vary from habitat to habitat according to the need for monitoring. Monitoring methods may vary, from general inventories to meticulous case area measurements and remote sensing.

Monitoring is being prepared

The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) has prepared a proposal for habitat monitoring under the Habitats Directive. During the preparation process, the monitoring need and urgency with respect to each habitat was examined. The need for monitoring was evaluated on the basis of biological and administrative criteria, from both international and national viewpoints. SYKE also investigated the distribution, ecology and status of different habitats, along with other characteristics which play a role in their monitoring.

Furthermore, information was collected on the current monitoring of each habitat and its flora and fauna, and the other data and monitoring methods available. The information collected was used to evaluate preparedness to monitor various habitats, and to propose measures for monitoring. It is suggested that new monitoring programmes of roughly one third of 69 habitats listed in the Habitats Directive should begin. In the case of one third of habitats, use of other, existing or developing monitoring programmes is recommended. For less than one third, the lightest monitoring is recommended, in other words use of inventory information and threat mapping. Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services has inventoried Habitats Directive habitats in conservation areas.

Where applicable, some monitoring programmes originally launched for the monitoring of natural resources and environmental status can also be used for habitat monitoring. These programmes include the National Forest Inventory and river basin monitoring programmes. Some habitats have also been monitored for maintenance purposes, and in order to evaluate the effects of restoration.

More information

Head of Unit Anne Raunio, Finnish Environment Institute, tel. +358 295 251 547,

Published 2013-11-25 at 14:42, updated 2016-04-14 at 16:13