Defining and applying the concept of Favourable Reference Values for species and habitats under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives

The aim of the Natura 2000 network and legislation is to restore or maintain all species and habitats of community interest in a favourable conservation status .
In order to assess the conservation status, it is necessary to determine Favourable Reference Values (FRVs) for the range of habitat types and species (FRR), for areas of habitat types (FRA) and for population size of species (FRP).
Until now, the FRV was a concept to be applied at the level of a biogeographical region within a Member State. However, for some species and habitats, it may be more relevant to set reference values at the geographical scale of a biogeographical region or even at the European Union level. This is especially the case for species that have large dispersal distances and/or use large territories. Examples of species groups explicitly covered by the consortium are large carnivores (wolf, lynx, bear), migratory birds, migratory fish and highly mobile species such as marine whales and dolphins.

Project description
The main objectiveof the project is to detect and remove inconsistencies in FRVs across Member States by proposing, testing and applying unified criteria and methods for setting FRVs for habitat types and species groups. In harmonising methods and approaches for constructing FRVs, the project assumes that FRVs are conservation targets, not biological population parameters, and are inherently subjective. This means that FRVs must be set or determined rather than calculated.

Specific project objectives are to:

  • Develop, test and apply methodologies and guidance on how to establish Favourable Reference Values;
  • Contribute to the EU review on reporting procedures, in particular with respect to FRVs;
  • Contribute to the new biogeographic process, in particular on the topic of setting and harmonising FRVs below and above the national level;
  • Turn FRVs at the biogeographic and population level into action and measures at the national level.

This will be achieved through:

  • The review of the different methodologies and experiences presented in the literature for setting favourable reference values at EU-biogeographic, population, site levels;
  • The development of a harmonised framework for stratifying and setting FRVs: criteria and parameters to decide on levels and to justify different methods within levels, define corresponding data requirements;
  • Support the ad-hoc group on FRVs and discuss the proposal and its considerations for setting FRVs;
  • The development of a format for guiding the process of setting FRVs for species and habitats by compiling all relevant data and considerations;
  • Test methods for setting FRVs at EU-biogeographic and population levels: the proposal for setting FRVs and the FRV-sheet format will be tested on a number of terrestrial and marine species and habitat type with large ranges;
  • The application of tested methods for setting FRVs and other available methods at the national level, applied to a number of species, including species with FRVs at the national level;
  • The exploration of consequences for planning and implementation of measures, of links to the Natura 2000 network, of options for deriving and interpreting conservation targets at the site-level, of consequences for reporting and monitoring effort, of relationships with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and with the Water Framework Directive, of changing species distributions, etc.

Alterra Wageningen UR, IMARES (Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies) Wageningen UR, BirdLife International (United Kingdom), Stichting BirdLife Europe (Netherlands), Comunità Ambiente (Italy), Deltares (Netherlands), Istituto di Ecologia Applicata (Italy), Sea Watch Foundation (United Kingdom), Sovon – Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology (Netherlands), Susan Gubbay (United Kingdom).

24 months