Biodiversity Monitoring on the BES-islands: …Past, Present and Future

With the transition of the islands of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (BES) from the former Netherlands Antilles to special municipalities of the Netherlands on the 10th of October 2010, the Netherlands gained a significant amount of biodiversity. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (EL&I) has gained an important new area of responsibility in terms of nature policy and management. Ecological monitoring can assist in directing management action and conservation of natural areas. It is essential that biodiversity on the BES-islands is monitored, particularly as it is threatened by a large array of natural and human factors. Aside from the national responsibilities that the Kingdom of the Netherlands holds for monitoring nature and biodiversity in these special municipalities, the Netherlands also has international obligations stemming from their participation and membership in global and regional environmental treaties.
This report aims to establish a foundation and define several priority action points for setting up a structural biodiversity monitoring system on the BES-islands, by investigating and contrasting the development, character and organization of biodiversity monitoring in the Netherlands with that of the BES-islands. This research was conducted using purely qualitative research methods; a literature review was conducted, various interviews were conducted in the Netherlands, surveys were distributed amongst actors involved in monitoring on the BES-islands, web-based research was used, and personal communication with a former representative of the Netherlands Antilles Central Government Department of Nature and the Environment as well as advice from two experts from Wageningen Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies complemented the research.
The researched shows that if the Kingdom of the Netherlands wants to be able to provide complete national and international reporting on biodiversity and nature policy, additional monitoring is required on the BES-islands. Nature monitoring in the Netherlands has existed for more than 10 years for both the terrestrial and marine environment, is very well organised and steered by government demand. Though there are already biodiversity monitoring activities taking place on the islands and there have been several attempts to coordinate monitoring efforts on the BES-islands, monitoring activities are not organised and the necessary foundation for a structural monitoring system is still lacking. Thus, we are faced with a situation where there is quite a lot of data in existence but no infrastructure in place to organise structural terrestrial and marine biodiversity monitoring. Based on the conclusions it is recommendable to set up a monitoring network with all current parties involved in biodiversity monitoring in order to establish agreements on monitoring priorities and information sharing. In addition to this, a data storage and management system must be set up with someone responsible for data maintenance and reporting. A last vital action point is to define monitoring priorities based on the information available in this report and optimize monitoring methods.

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