The role of citizens in wildlife protection
The direct killing of wild animals is one of the most important threats to biodiversity in Greece, as well as on a global scale. To address this threat, it is necessary to first identify its causes at various spatial scales, as well as to pinpoint the areas or types of habitats where a relatively high number of deaths or injuries are observed. This information is crucial to design policies, take targeted measures and implement actions at a central or local level that will mitigate, or even eliminate the problem locally.
Such information, however, is usable and reliable only when it is based on a large volume of data, covering large geographical areas. It, therefore, requires the involvement of a large number of specialists over a long time, which very costly and time-consuming.
Citizen Science as part of the solution to the problem
This problem is largely overcome through “Citizen Science” projects that involve a large number of volunteers. Citizen Science is organized research where citizens, experts or not, collect and/or analyze data voluntarily. Today, the collection, organization, and processing of this data is made even easier by taking advantage of the advances in communication technologies and the widespread use of smartphones and tablets PCs.
How important are the citizens' observations?
Citizens' observations have been proven to be extremely valuable, time and time again. No matter how many good scientists there are, nothing can replace the thousands of pairs of eyes that observe nature, all around the globe. Taking advantage of this numerical superiority and vast geographical distribution, organizations based in Northern European and American countries have been implementing bird-tracking programs for decades, involving tens or even hundreds of thousands of observers, who spare a couple of days each year for the collection of valuable data for the study and protection of birds. The Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBMS) is such an example, which has provided valuable data on the status of birds to such an extent that it has been included in the list of official European Union indicators for the evaluation of Common Agricultural Policy programs.
The important contribution of Citizen Science to the advancement of biodiversity knowledge is also highlighted by the European Environmental Agency in the report Biodiversity Monitoring in Europe - The value of Citizen Science.
Also, the ever-increasing numbers of volunteers participating in Citizen Science programs acquire skills, knowledge and a deeper understanding of scientific work and methodology. This strengthens the links between science and society and promotes democratic decision-making policies.
Citizen Science Programs
In Europe, there are many Citizen Science programs on biodiversity monitoring, with observations covering a wide range of information related to species, habitats, and ecosystems (Biodiversity observation schemes using citizen science). In many cases, Citizen Science is promoted by national authorities and its results are established as an official source of environmental information, such as the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Center (NBIC), which is the central source of information on the country's biodiversity.
Big butterfly count (UK)
Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre (Norway)
Biodiversity of Greece (Greece)
Cyprus Roadkill Observation System (Cyprus)