European Environment Agency (EEA)

Linking in situ vegetation data to the EUNIS habitat classification: results for forest habitats


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The EUNIS habitat classification provides the context for a number of policy-related ecosystem and habitat assessments, and is a European reference to which other national or regional classifications can be cross‑referenced when sharing geospatial data. Since 1995, it has been developed and managed by the European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity (ETC/BD), formerly known as the European Topic Centre on Nature Protection and Biodiversity (ETC/NPB), for the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Environmental Information Observation Network (Eionet). The review of terrestrial EUNIS habitat classification, on the basis of georeferenced vegetation samples, aimed to enhance the technical capacity for documenting, monitoring and assessing the quality of habitats at the European level. This review was carried out between 2012 and 2014 within the remit of the EEA Biodiversity data centre; forest habitats were used as a pilot case to test the approach. This work strengthens the knowledge base that is used for assessing progress towards the European Union (EU) and global biodiversity targets for 2020 (1).

Chapter 1 contains information on EUNIS habitat classification and the rationale for the review of the terrestrial part of this habitat classification. It introduces, in summary, the 2012 crosswalks between EUNIS terrestrial and freshwater habitats and vegetation syntaxa (plant communities), developed by Schaminée et al. (2012). These crosswalks are the basis on which vegetation-plot data are selected for further analysis in relation to EUNIS habitat classification. The methodology used for the review and the mapping of EUNIS habitats is also presented.

Chapter 2 presents the results of the review of EUNIS level 3 (EUNIS-3) forest habitats using vegetation-plot data, from the work by Schaminée et al. (2013). Chapter 3 presents the maps developed, showing the distribution of vegetation plots and the predicted habitat suitability for EUNIS-3 forest habitats, by Schaminée et al. (2014). It also includes information on the results obtained so far with regard to using the habitat suitability maps for revised EUNIS-3 forest habitats, in combination with land cover data from Mücher et al. (2015).

Chapter 4 presents the next steps required for the development of EUNIS-3 habitat classification, including the main points raised at an Eionet workshop, held in February 2015, involving experts from different countries. Recommendations on the use of vegetation-plot data for assessing changes in habitats over time, based on a paper by Schaminée et al. (2012), and elements of an Eionet strategy for collecting more in situ vegetation data for multiple purposes are also included in this chapter.

The following information is available in the report annexes:

  • Annex 1 contains the complete list of forest habitats in the EUNIS habitat classification (2007) with the currently proposed revision, as discussed in Chapter 2;
  • Annex 2a and 2b details the crosswalks between EUNIS forest habitats and vegetation syntaxa used in this work (2013), as explained in Chapter 2;
  • Annex 3 contains data sheets with the results of the review for each forest habitat, as discussed in Chapter 2;
  • Annex 4 contains the maps of distribution of vegetation plots and habitat suitability, as discussed in Chapter 3.

These information products will be available online from the EUNIS web page (2) and the Biodiversity data centre of the EEA (3). Readers interested in more specific information on the methodologies used are advised to consult the original reports from 2012, 2013 and 2014, as published on the Eionet forum (4).

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