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Meld. St. 14 (2015–2016)

Nature for life — Norway’s national biodiversity action plan (Chapter 4–9)

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8 Improving knowledge on biodiversity

8.1 Why is knowledge so important?

Norway’s policy is that biodiversity management must be knowledge-based. This was one of the key elements of the 2001 white paper on Norway’s biodiversity policy (Report No. 42 to the Storting (2000–2001)), and is one of the principles on which the Nature Diversity Act is based (section 8). Moreover, Article 112 of the Norwegian Constitution gives every person a right to a healthy environment whose productivity and diversity are maintained and to information to enable them to safeguard this right. A sound knowledge base is essential to fulfil these rights. The Environmental Information Act (Act of 9 May 2003 No. 31 relating to the right to environmental information and public participation in decision-making processes relating to the environment) requires both public authorities and undertakings to hold environmental information. The authorities are also required to make environmental information accessible to the public, and both authorities and undertakings must disclose the environmental information they hold to anyone who asks for it, unless the Act specifically provides for the information to be exempted from public disclosure. A sound knowledge base is vital for good management and for choosing the right measures to achieve national biodiversity targets. Aichi target 19 states that ‘By 2020, knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends, and the consequences of its loss, are improved, widely shared and transferred, and applied.’ Internationally, high priority is being given to strengthening the science-policy interface, and to ensuring that information is widely shared and applied.

The public administration needs knowledge and information of various kinds. This includes spatial data on the natural environment obtained by mapping and remote sensing, and monitoring data to provide information about trends in ecological status and the causes of change. Information about species (taxonomy), their relationships (systematics) and their ecology is also needed. Knowledge about ecological interactions is vital for the public administration and for sound management, and this and other ecological knowledge is built up through research. In addition to research results, various types of syntheses, risk assessments, scenarios and cross-disciplinary assessments are compiled, and provide valuable information as a basis for management.

Major social and economic change is currently taking place and putting pressure on biodiversity. Knowledge in the field of social sciences, including economics, is therefore vital in addition to scientific knowledge.

A shared, robust knowledge base makes it easier to agree on decisions and ensures that decision-making processes are more effective. Various types of knowledge and information are discussed further in the rest of this chapter.

In order to make good decisions that will safeguard the environment, it is essential that a sound interdisciplinary knowledge base is available for decision makers and the general public, and that this knowledge is applied. The environmental authorities have a responsibility for making sure that the necessary knowledge is available, and that priorities for new knowledge building are based on interdisciplinary analyses of where knowledge needs are greatest.

8.2 Mapping biodiversity and establishing maps of ecological information for Norway

Land conversion and land-use change resulting in habitat degradation and fragmentation is the most serious threat to biodiversity today. It is essential to have spatial data on species, habitats and landscapes so that biodiversity can be taken properly into account in planning and decision making. Spatial data can be obtained by conventional mapping of biodiversity and by remote sensing. A number of geographical information systems (GIS) are available that can capture such data.

Good, up-to-date ecological data is vital for sound planning and for finding good, integrated solutions for projects and developments of all sizes. If information is available at an early stage, it is much easier to take valuable biodiversity into account. A sound knowledge base can therefore reduce conflict. Decision-making processes will also become more predictable and effective, since there is less need for the time-consuming process of obtaining supplementary information. This will benefit projects in sectors including transport and energy.

In recent years, Norway has been giving priority to building up knowledge about the distribution of species and habitats, but there are still major knowledge gaps to be filled. In February 2015, the Storting (Norwegian parliament) debated a proposal on measures for knowledge-based management of Norwegian nature. The Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment pointed to the need to learn more about species, habitats and ecosystems. A majority of the committee agreed that they expected the present white paper to describe more specifically how Norwegian nature and biodiversity is to be mapped.

The Norwegian Environment Agency is starting to use a new system for classifying and mapping habitats, ecosystems and landscapes in Norway, and has in cooperation with the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre begun drawing up the necessary guidance documents and technical infrastructure. The Government will continue the work of mapping nature and biodiversity and nature in Norway, in accordance with the recommendation from the Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment.

Through this process, georeferenced ecological data will be obtained and will be used to create a collection of map layers showing ecological data, including where in Norway species and habitats are found. There will be other map layers for specific environmental variables, which will provide information on where in Norway conditions are suitable for particular habitats or species. Some ecological spatial data are already available from various databases. Examples include data on biodiversity in protected areas, data in the Naturbase portal (habitat types, species, protected areas and areas set aside for outdoor recreation), species data from the Species Map Service run by the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre, and data on land resources. Specific legislative instruments apply to some categories of mapped areas. Relevant types of ecological information include bedrock, soil water content, seawater salinity and topography.

The Naturbase portal run by the Norwegian Environment Agency is currently an important source of spatial data on habitats, and the Species Map Service run by the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre provides spatial data on species. Quality assurance is being carried out for the data already uploaded to Naturbase. In future, the Biodiversity Information Centre will play an important part in supplying and coordinating spatial data on habitats, ecosystems and landscapes classified using the new Norwegian system. Geographical areas for which the data is currently incomplete will be given priority in the Government’s initiative for nature and biodiversity mapping.

Map layers for ecological data are currently available through various institutions in publicly available national datasets. Some of these are modelled, while others are based on field surveys. Some map layers can be used directly as nationwide datasets showing environmental variation. Others will need to be further developed or updated before they can be used in this way. The Government will ensure that over time, a good basis for the analysis and modelling of Norwegian nature is built up through cooperation and the development of such datasets. If maps of the entire country showing ecological gradients are available, this will save time and money, for example by making it possible to decide on more precise priorities for further mapping of Norwegian nature.

The Government considers it necessary to continue mapping of species, habitats and ecosystems, landscapes and ecosystem services in Norway. In the context of land-use management, mapping to obtain biodiversity data that is needed in day-to-day decisions on land use and other issues that influence environmental pressures is particularly important. On this basis, the Government will give highest priority to mapping of habitats that are threatened, important for many different species, provide key ecosystem services, or are particularly poorly mapped. Priority will also be given to geographical areas where mapping will provide most benefits for society, including areas both on land and at sea where the level of human activity is high and that are under great pressure, and areas where climate change is expected to result in rapid change. The new Norwegian system for classifying habitats, ecosystems and landscapes is to be used as the basis for public-sector mapping of Norwegian nature, in accordance with the Storting’s decision. As part of this work, the Government will assess the need to supplement the classification of marine habitats and ecosystems to provide more complete coverage of the range of Arctic marine habitats and ecosystems, including those in icy waters.

A larger-scale initiative to map nature and biodiversity in Norway will require adequate infrastructure, and cooperation between a number of key bodies involved in the production of relevant map layers will have to be organised and coordinated. These bodies include the Geological Survey of Norway, the Norwegian Mapping Authority and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. The Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre has developed expertise in this type of coordination through its work on red lists and geographical species information, and the development of the new Norwegian system for classifying habitats, ecosystems and landscapes.

The Government will:

  • Continue ongoing mapping programmes for nature and biodiversity in Norway up to 2020.

  • Continue the MAREANO programme for mapping of the seabed in Norwegian waters.

  • Integrate existing data on key environmental variables from various sectors with spatial data on nature and biodiversity in Norway.

  • Further develop and improve databases containing spatial data on biodiversity.

  • Continue the work of identifying and mapping particularly valuable and vulnerable marine areas and mapping of old-growth forest of conservation interest.

8.3 Monitoring

The natural environment changes constantly, in some cases as a consequence of human activity. We need to understand environmental trends over time and the causes of change. This knowledge can be acquired through monitoring data obtained by field observations or from satellite data, and through research based on monitoring data. Monitoring programmes provide long time series of data. They generally need to be followed up by research to build up knowledge about ecological relationships and the causes of change. Building up knowledge about ecological status and trends in ecosystems requires monitoring programmes for a representative selection of key indicators for different ecosystems, in addition to data from reference areas. Developing an understanding of environmental pressures and relationships between pressures and ecological status requires monitoring of important pressures such as land conversion and land-use change in addition.

A number of monitoring programmes have already been established and are providing information on trends in Norwegian ecosystems. Some are run by the environmental authorities and some by other sectors. Biodiversity is now being monitored to some extent in all Norway’s major ecosystems.

However, the current monitoring system is still inadequate for a number of environmental pressures and species groups, certain ecosystems are less well covered, and the system does not provide sufficiently representative or complete geographical coverage. In the Government’s view, the Norwegian environmental monitoring system should be reviewed to identify any changes needed to obtain a sound knowledge base and complete geographical coverage. It is important to have an overview of trends for those species groups (particularly key species) and habitats we know little about at present, or that are expected to be under growing pressure in future. More knowledge is also needed about environmental pressures and impacts. A better knowledge base, including knowledge about the impacts of various types of projects and measures, will make it possible to assess changes in biodiversity more accurately. It is vital to be able to do this so that action to safeguard biodiversity can be more clearly targeted and developments that affect valuable and threatened species and habitats can be avoided. Monitoring programmes for coastal waters, cultural landscapes and wetlands are particularly incomplete. There are also substantial gaps in the knowledge base for water resource management under the Water Management Regulations, despite improvements in recent years. Norway is at the forefront of developments internationally as regards marine monitoring. The Institute of Marine Research runs extensive long-term monitoring programmes for Norwegian sea areas. A number of time series have been running for many decades. Despite this, monitoring of marine biodiversity does not fully cover the ecological interactions and complexity of marine ecosystems.

In the Government’s view, it is also important to monitor environmental pressures, including land-use change and climate change. New model-based tools for land-use management are needed to make it possible to model the cumulative effects of all proposed projects and developments, and to include the projected responses of ecosystems to climate change. This is of crucial importance for assessing the impacts of different pressures on the environment and the cumulative effects in specific areas. Surveillance monitoring of ecological status in coastal waters needs to be improved. Long time series are needed to understand the causes of change in ecosystems. Monitoring programmes are needed as a basis for identifying appropriate measures for achieving the target of good ecological status, including meeting the requirements of the Water Management Regulations. They are also needed to gather sufficient data to make use of the Nature Index for marine and coastal waters.

New satellite-based technology is making it possible to improve environmental monitoring and make it more effective. The Copernicus programme is the EU Earth observation and monitoring programme, and includes resource management, environmental and climate monitoring and emergency management and security. The Government will continue Norway’s active role in the Copernicus programme, and will assess when and how the environmental authorities can benefit by using satellite data from the programme. Monitoring of biodiversity and of the impacts of land-use change and climate change will be of particular interest in cases where the satellite data provide sufficient management-relevant information. The quality of satellite data is improving and access to the data is becoming easier, providing a better basis for developing new management tools based on models used in landscape ecology. These can make it possible to model and analyse the effects of land conversion and habitat fragmentation, and barrier effects resulting from existing and planned developments. They will also make it possible to take into account the projected responses of biodiversity to climate change in planning processes. These tools and models will also be useful in planning transport and energy infrastructure projects and smaller-scale projects, and will provide a better basis for assessing the cumulative effects of developments across sectors.

The Government will:

  • Ensure that monitoring programmes for ecological status in all Norway’s major ecosystems are ecologically and geographically representative. This will include steps to strengthen monitoring of ecological status in freshwater and coastal water bodies.

  • Ensure that there is public access to all monitoring data collected by all types of research institutions using public funding, with the exception of sensitive data.

  • Assess how satellite data can be more widely used in planning processes and in monitoring changes in biodiversity and in land use nationally and internationally.

  • Further develop indicators of land use and other environmental pressure indicators, including identifying suitable indicators for ocean acidification and climate change.

  • Consider the development of analytical tools for planning processes, for analysing status, trends and the causes of trends, and for analysing the cumulative effects of different types of developments and pressures in an area.

  • Continue and further develop the mapping and monitoring programme for seabirds.

  • Develop methods and tools for monitoring climate-related changes in biodiversity.

  • Develop indicators for ecosystem services.

8.4 Research and development and education

The environmental authorities need knowledge derived from research to understand ecological interactions, ecological functions, causal relationships and the effects of different policy instruments. In addition, research based on monitoring data is needed to build up this kind of knowledge. Despite considerable progress in recent years, there are still gaps in our knowledge of biodiversity and ecosystems. This is a very complex field, covering everything from genetic variation at population level to the dynamics of ecosystems. A great deal of research has been devoted to establishing explanatory models for observed changes in individual populations. More recently, growing attention has been focused on higher-level ecosystem interactions, greatly helped by the development of more advanced analytical tools and the growth in computer capacity. At the same time, our knowledge needs have become more complex. Research on resources, pressures and environmental change is needed to develop knowledge-based solutions for social and industrial development. This means that research needs to be better integrated and more interdisciplinary, with closer links between research in the natural sciences, social sciences and humaniora.

There are major unmet research needs relating to biodiversity and ecosystem services. Both research and monitoring initiatives are needed to strengthen the knowledge base on the most important pressures affecting biodiversity and ecosystem services, including land-use conversion and land-use change, climate change and ocean acidification. Some research on biodiversity and climate change is included in Norway’s large-scale programme on climate research, KLIMAFORSK. However, there is a clear need for research focusing specifically on questions relating to the loss of biodiversity, and for stronger integration of research on biodiversity, climate change and other environmental issues. Research on land-use change must have a place in new research programmes that will continue environmental and marine research.

The Government expects the new MILJØFORSK programme (Programme for Environmental Research for a Green Transition) to fund research that will help to meet the knowledge needs relating to biodiversity discussed earlier in this chapter. In the Government’s view, there is also a need for the Research Council of Norway and the ministries that fund research to strengthen their cooperation and scale up co-funding across sectors. A good framework should also be provided for stronger cooperation between environmental and industry-oriented research programmes.

Internationalisation, and European research cooperation in particular, has helped to improve research results. Horizon 2020 is the world’s largest research and innovation programme, with funding of EUR 80 billion available over a seven-year period (2014–2020). Research groups, the public sector and companies in Norway can take part in the same way as colleagues and competitors in other European countries. Research and funding are being divided between three programme sections: excellent science, industrial leadership and societal challenges. Seven key societal challenges have been identified. These are health, demographic change and wellbeing; food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research, and the bioeconomy; secure, clean and efficient energy; smart, green and integrated transport; climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials; Europe in a changing world – inclusive, innovative and reflective societies; and secure societies – protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens. In June 2014, the Government presented a strategy for research and innovation cooperation with the EU. One of its goals is greater Norwegian participation in Horizon 2020.

International knowledge generation processes such as the work being carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been very important for Norwegian climate research. The Government values this work and also wishes Norway to play an important role in the recently established Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which is modelled on the IPCC. Its work focuses on the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services for human well-being. It takes an interdisciplinary approach and will in the next few years generate knowledge and make recommendations in areas such as pollination and food production, invasive alien species, policy support tools such as scenario analysis, valuation methodologies and global assessments of status and trends. The IPBES has a Technical Support Unit on Capacity Building in Trondheim in Norway, which is to assist with the capacity building part of the work programme. The unit is located in the premises of the Norwegian Environment Agency, which is also Norway’s national focal point for the IPBES. The Government will continue Norway’s involvement in the work of the IPBES and will encourage Norwegian experts to play an active part in this international cooperation and in formulating mandates, methodology and tools for its work.

The establishment of Norwegian research centres such as the Fram Centre in Tromsø, the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research in Bergen and the Oslo Centre for Interdisciplinary Environmental and Social Research (CIENS) strengthens research groups and promotes broader-based interdisciplinary cooperation. However, in the field of the conservation and use of biodiversity and ecosystem services, there has been no centre responsible for cross-disciplinary applied research and for communicating results. Given the requirements for knowledge-based management that follow from the Nature Diversity Act, implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the establishment of IPBES and the growing priority being given to ecosystem services (for example in Official Norwegian Report NOU 2013:10 on the value of ecosystem services), the Research Council of Norway has supported a review of the case for establishing such a centre by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, NTNU (the Norwegian University of Science and Technology) and the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre. As a follow up to the review, the Centre for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (CeBES) has now been established through formalised cooperation between NTNU, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) and SINTEF. The aim is for the Centre to become a national hub for innovative, interdisciplinary research and development and dissemination, and thus contribute to national and global efforts for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. The Research Council is also supporting the scheme for Centres of Excellence in research.

Species and habitats have lost ground as a research field and study area at Norwegian universities and colleges in recent years. The Storting has also called attention to this. The Ministry of Education and Research (via funding for the Research Council of Norway) and the Ministry of Climate and Environment (via funding for the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative run by the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre) have together strengthened researcher recruitment to the field by providing strategic funding for the national Research School in Biosystematics. The school was established with co-funding from the Research Council, and is a good platform for cooperation with other Nordic countries. The research school cooperates with similar initiatives at Nordic and European level, and is administered by the Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo. The Government considers it to be very important that research groups at universities and colleges are large enough to ensure that expertise in such basic fields is not lost. The Government will continue to support the Research School in Biosystematics.

Figure 8.1 The national park centres play an important role in communicating information about nature and the outdoors. Here a school class is learning about Norway’s national parks.

Figure 8.1 The national park centres play an important role in communicating information about nature and the outdoors. Here a school class is learning about Norway’s national parks.

Source Photo: Norwegian Mountain Museum/Visitors’ Centre for Jotunheimen, Reinheimen and Breheimen National Parks

The foundation for future expertise in and research on biodiversity and the environment is laid during primary and secondary education. Curricula, teachers’ qualifications and the content of teaching plans all play a vital part in giving pupils an insight into and understanding of the world’s major environmental problems. Knowledge about biodiversity, important drivers of biodiversity loss and possible solutions to the problems must all be included in the teaching programmes. It is also important that these subjects are taught in a way that encourages the recruitment of students and researchers, both to the subject itself and to more interdisciplinary research into complex environmental problems and solutions. The Sustainable Backpack programme will be continued. This is a nationwide initiative by the Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Climate and Environment to support Norwegian schools in implementing Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). From the school year 2016/2017, the Government is introducing one extra lesson a week in the natural sciences, which schools may teach in year 5, 6 or 7. This will mean that pupils receive an extra 40 hours’ teaching in the natural sciences.

The Government’s long-term plan for research and higher education emphasises the need for more knowledge about the most serious environmental threats, including the loss of biodiversity. It also identifies the need to learn more about interactions between climate change and other environmental pressures and how different environmental and climate-related measures can support each other. The Government will address these knowledge needs as part of the work of implementing the long-term plan.

Figure 8.2 Mapping ecosystems and their services

Figure 8.2 Mapping ecosystems and their services

Outline of a common framework for mapping ecosystems and their services, based on Figure 2 in EU Technical Report 2014 – 080, Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services. The figure shows that an assessment of ecosystem services should be based on both mapping and monitoring data and a synthesis of information provided by indicators that give a picture of the overall condition of an ecosystem. In addition, research and analysis are needed to understand more about how the condition of ecosystems is related to their capacity to provide ecosystem services.

The EU has developed a common assessment framework for mapping ecosystems and their services in the EU countries (see Figure 8.1). This involves assessing ecosystem condition on the basis of data from mapping, monitoring and databases and using relevant indicators, and assessing ecosystem services provided by different types of ecosystems on the basis of selected indicators, data and models. This framework will be used as a basis for the European assessment report to be drawn up for the IPBES, and will therefore also have implications for the Norwegian data used in the report. Norway has done a great deal to improve the knowledge base on biodiversity in recent years, by scaling up funding for mapping programmes, through the Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative and monitoring programmes, and by producing knowledge syntheses. Thus, good progress has already been made in Norway in synthesising information from indicators so that overall ecosystem condition or ecological status can be assessed. However, Norway has not yet identified relevant indicators and data for assessing ecosystem services, and there are no reviews of the overall relationship between ecological status and the provision of ecosystem services. Norway will continue to support the work of the IPBES. In connection with this, the Ministry of Climate and Environment will initiate a review of selected ecosystem services in consultation with relevant sectors. The work will be based on existing knowledge.

The Government will:

  • Continue funding for the Research School in Biosystematics.

  • Continue to support the work of the IPBES.

8.5 Traditional knowledge

Traditional knowledge about sustainable management of the natural environment has been a key element throughout Norway’s history. Traditional knowledge has been kept alive by coastal fishermen who also graze livestock on coastal heaths and islands, through traditional Sami reindeer husbandry, and by farmers who have supplemented conventional arable land with hay fens, transhumance and summer farms, and wild reindeer hunting. People have used natural resources for food, medicine and as raw materials (for example for clothing and building materials), and there are many customs, rituals and a large body of traditional lore linked to different species. Most of the land area of Norway is or has been used in some way by people. Coastal waters have also been actively used in a variety of ways. Traditionally, people harvested a much wider range of resources than they do today. In many areas, this has resulted in the development of characteristic biotopes, each with its specific fauna and flora. Traditional knowledge can explain a great deal about today’s landscapes, and is important for people’s sense of pride in their local history and culture and for maintaining its integrity. Traditional knowledge is often not written down, but consists of experience and knowledge that is passed down through the generations in oral form and through its practical application.

Section 8 of the Nature Diversity Act requires the authorities to attach importance to any traditional knowledge that is available when making official decisions that will affect Norwegian nature. Traditional knowledge is often valuable for the public authorities in decision-making processes. Such knowledge is vital when semi-natural habitats and landscapes are being restored and managed. The provisions of the Nature Diversity Act are based on similar provisions in the Convention on Biological Diversity (Article 8 j)). Regulations on traditional knowledge associated with genetic material are being drawn up under the Nature Diversity Act. They will implement Norway’s obligations under the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing. The regulations are intended to ensure that the interests of indigenous and local communities are safeguarded and respected when others make use of their traditional knowledge on genetic material.

In recent generations, there has been a steep decline in traditional knowledge of nature in Norway, and more and more of our cultural and natural heritage is being lost. This means that local communities’ traditional knowledge of species and landscapes, and not least, our awareness of our own place in nature, is gradually disappearing. Museums and archives in Norway have collected and systematised information about traditional uses of nature, particularly traditional agriculture, but also use of uncultivated areas. Information has also been collected in connection with research on topics such as the cultural landscape. A great deal can be done to improve contact between people working in the scientific and cultural heritage fields. Little use has been made of this source material by the environmental authorities, and little has been done to make empirical knowledge available to people working in other fields and to the general public. Traditional knowledge must be made accessible in accordance with guidelines under the Convention on Biological Diversity, and it is essential to ensure that access is given with the consent of indigenous and local communities. This is particularly important when giving access to traditional knowledge relating to genetic material developed by indigenous and local communities.

In Sami areas of Norway, traditional knowledge is being retained because nature is still being used in the traditional ways. This means that there is a large body of knowledge unique to the Sami culture that it is important to safeguard for both current and future generations. Little has been done to synthesise knowledge relating to Sami traditions and other traditional knowledge in Norway and make it accessible.

Two projects on traditional knowledge of nature initiated by the Government are currently in progress, one specifically on Sami traditional knowledge and one on people and the natural heritage more generally. They are both making a valuable contribution to collecting and systematising traditional knowledge, but this is far from enough to safeguard traditional knowledge for the future. In addition, Norway is participating in cooperation under the Arctic Council on the integration of traditional knowledge into projects dealing with indigenous peoples’ use of species and ecosystems in the Arctic.

The Government will:

  • Continue work to safeguard, systematise, collect and communicate traditional knowledge that promotes sustainable use, and facilitate interdisciplinary cooperation.

  • Continue to spread information about traditional ways of using nature, increase awareness of the importance of safeguarding biodiversity and encourage local participation and engagement in the management of protected areas.

8.6 Access to information

Knowledge can only be applied if databases and map applications are used to make information publicly available. The information must be easy to find and use, and it must be presented in a way that is suitable for a variety of user groups. Access is currently provided through many different databases and applications, developed for a variety of purposes, dealing with many different topics and targeting different user groups.

Norway has made good progress in developing tools and services to provide information on Norwegian nature. This is partly because there is national consensus on data sharing: that institutions holding environmental data should have agreements to share this with others, within a common framework and using common standards. Nevertheless, information is still somewhat fragmented. Applications and databases should be further developed and improved to take advantage of technological developments. This will make it easier for municipalities to make use of the information in their day-to-day work, and also help other users and the general public.

On 19 December 2014, Norway adopted regulations on environmental impact assessment for plans under the Planning and Building Act and for projects under sectoral legislation. These include provisions intended to ensure that impact assessments maintain high scientific standards and that data collected in connection with an impact assessment can be re-used. Guidelines on recognised methodology and the databases to be used for uploading data have been published.

The Government will:

  • Ensure that data and databases for biodiversity maintain high quality.

  • Further develop, improve and simplify national databases to ensure good access to environmental information for decision makers and the general public, and consider better coordination of databases and more widespread sharing of data.

  • Improve Norway’s land-use and environmental statistics.

  • Ensure that as far as possible, all environmental data collected are uploaded to public databases.

8.7 Syntheses, risk assessments and analyses

The public administration also needs information from various types of syntheses and risk assessments, and projections and scenarios for future trends. This information must be provided by experts in the relevant fields. Examples of such products in Norway include the Red List of Species and the Norwegian Red List for Ecosystems and Habitat Types. These are both based on risk assessments – of the risk that species will become extinct in Norway and that habitats will be lost, respectively. Others are the publication Alien species in Norway – with the Norwegian Black List (based on ecological risk assessments for alien species), and the Norwegian Nature Index. Projections and scenarios of future pressures on biodiversity are important because they allow predictions of change and make it possible to adapt the management regime accordingly. We need knowledge of this kind about climate change and ocean acidification, and also about other important pressures such as habitat fragmentation. Knowledge about future impacts of climate change is based on climate models. The IPCC is responsible for assessing and summarising knowledge about global- and regional-scale climate change in its reports, and the IPBES for producing reports of the same type on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Similar reports are also published at national level; for example, Norway published a report on the impacts of climate change in the Norwegian Arctic in 2010. There is also a good deal of regional cooperation on syntheses and assessments of biodiversity, for example within the framework of the Arctic Council.

The Government considers it important to continue to present syntheses of knowledge such as those mentioned above. They provide information that forms an important basis for the work of the public administration, and is also valuable for the general public and decision makers.

The Government will:

  • Ensure that Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre presents regular updates of the red lists for species and for habitat types and ecosystems.

  • Ensure that the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre presents ecological risk assessments for alien species, and a Norwegian black list, every five years.

  • Ensure that the Norwegian Nature Index is updated every five years.

  • Develop and apply methodology and tools for establishing and displaying projections of ecosystem change and shifts in the distribution of species and habitats in response to climate change, ocean acidification and other pressures.

  • Give priority to cooperation with neighbouring countries and within the framework of the Arctic Council on the preparation of regional syntheses and projections of pressures on biodiversity.

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