- Prior to strategic planning on land use, EU law requires environmental impact assessments. However, there are many smaller scale projects that result in changes in land use, which are not subject to EU law, but nonetheless have a cumulative effect on the overall ecosystem. There is a need for an integrated tool that records these local level decisions and makes the data available for EU level policy making.
The project has been a part of the 7th Framework Programme (FP7-ENV), and was coordinated by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. To ensure representation of a wide range of local communities, the project consortium consisted of partners from 14 organizations from 10 European countries including Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
The project team carried out a European level survey to analyse what type of biodiversity information national, regional, and local governments need in order to make land use decisions. They conducted a thorough evaluation of models currently being used for local bio-socio-economic predictions, and created a comprehensive database with the results of these surveys. They subsequently tested groups of local communities to determine which types of models and hands-on support could be useful for local decision makers such as farmers, and at the same time, a channel and incentive for local data monitoring, to be fed into policy making.
This collaborative work has resulted in a simple mapping application (software tool that operates on a tablet computer for field use). The mapping tool uses software technology developed by partner Anatrack and was successfully tested during the project, so it reaches level 9 in the TRL scale. The tool allows anyone to map habitats and species in their local environment. Starting with a map or aerial photograph of their garden, farm, school or local park for example, users can quickly and easily draw habitat and species information in intricate detail.
Such maps are needed to complement remote-sensed mapping, such as those of the CORINE (Coordination of Information on the Environment) Programme, by providing from local knowledge the fine detail (to 1m resolution) that must be transferred for central integration in order to forecast change in biodiversity and biota-based ecosystem services. In exchange for use of the free software, users are asked to input data from their local region into the system, thus making it a more complete and thorough source of information. The resulting web portal is available in 21 languages, which ensures its accessibility and increased usage.
Additionally, the TESS project has generated 19 recommendations and guidelines for biodiversity management at local levels, concerning managing practices across Europe, trends in biodiversity resources, policy guidelines and regulation, strategic environment assessment as well as integration of local communities. So, as the amount of local information available increases, it becomes easier for central decisions makers at EU and national levels to implement EU agricultural policy and structure funds.