EnvEurope - Environmental quality and pressures assessment across Europe: the LTER network as an integrated and shared system for ecosystem monitoring

LIFE08 ENV/IT/000399

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Alessandra PUGNETTI
Tel: +39 041 240 4711
Fax: +39 041 5204126
Email: alessandra.pugnetti@ismar.cnr.it

Project description:


A vast amount environmental data is currently collected across Europe, both at national and international level, generating valuable information for policy makers and citizens. However, much of this information is not readily comparable, posing a major obstacle to the development of well-informed environmental policies and strategies at European level. It is important to have access to reliable and relevant scientific data that has been gathered through harmonised methods and protocols. These should provide comparable, spatially detailed ecological information at the level of ecosystems. The Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) seeks to meet this challenge. Developed by the European Commission, together with the EEA and Member States, the system interconnects local, national and international databases to maximise the efficient use of the available information. The European Long-Term Ecosystem Research Network (LTER-Europe) was recently established under the FP6 Network of Excellence ALTER-Net. It is building on the existing infrastructure of 21 countries to enable the combined use of the available data.

Long-Term Ecosystem Research and Monitoring (LTER) is especially important in our rapidly changing world: climate change, land and sea exploitation, and global trade are dramatically affecting the environment and altering the ecosystem services that we depend on – such as the provision of food and water, air and water quality, and the aesthetic value of a landscape. A sound basis for long-term ecological observations and data is required in order to detect current changes in ecosystems, develop scenarios for the future and adapt natural resource management practices. LTER is made up of site networks at the national, regional and the global level. The regional network LTER-Europe is, however, quite complex. It is composed of a high number of LTER sites representing different ecosystem domains (terrestrial, freshwater and marine). These sites were established for multiple reasons and are used for both research and monitoring leading to a large heterogeneity of parameters and measurement methods. As a result, there is a huge amount and diversity of LTER data connected to many different themes. The LIFE project ‘EnvEurope’ was conceived as a means of addressing this complexity, by harmonising and improving LTER-Europe’s operations, while at the same time dealing with several of the network’s key aims.


The EnvEurope project aimed to build on the work of the LTER to provide an analysis of the long-term ecological data and its comparison across eco-domains. It planned to supply relevant scientific support to EU environmental policy and conservation plans in an integrated ecosystem approach. The project would provide an integrated management system for ecological data on the status and long-term trends of terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystem quality on a local and European scale. It would also provide data by habitat types – including Natura 2000 network sites – and environmental gradients. The project also aimed to ensure that data architectures are semantically consistent (enabling seamless drill down from metadata to data) and accessible not only to the scientific community, but also to policy makers and stakeholders. Access to information and resources would be further expanded beyond the current LTER approach. In addition, the project team planned to set up an integrated and permanent system to detect and evaluate changes in environmental quality in the field across Europe. To do this, it would develop harmonised methods, which are proposed and shared by the whole LTER scientific and technical community. The project team hopes that the project will enable a set of key environmental quality indicators to be developed, based on an exchange between stakeholders, particularly researchers and policy makers. This would help ensure both indicator quality and acceptance. It was foreseen that the project would represent a step forward in the ongoing development of the technical components of the Shared Environmental System for Europe (SEIS).

In short, the project tasks were to:

  • Harmonise LTER-Europe network activities;
  • Streamline standard procedures required to support LTER scientific research; and
  • Increase the visibility of LTER-Europe as a reference network for policy makers and environmental managers at the European level.


The EnvEurope project adopted a cross-domain approach, involving 11 LTER-Europe countries, 17 partners and 67 LTER sites (around 20% of LTER-Europe sites), including terrestrial sites, continental and transitional waters, and marine sites. The project addressed the following key issues:

  • Development of a common set of key long-term ecological parameters and measurement protocols for use in the field;
  • Collection of data in the field in a coordinated, site-based way;
  • Management of information and datasets;
  • Investigation of shared scientific hypotheses using case studies aiming at long-term data analysis; and
  • Network design aimed at producing better information about the key components of LTER-Europe (sites, datasets, people, etc.).
  • EnvEurope provided solutions for harmonising LTER parameters, making parameters and methods available, managing LTER datasets, sharing and making accessible LTER datasets. It also addressed how LTER-Europe could detect ecosystem change and how it can be linked LTER-Europe with Remote Sensing (Copernicus).

    It achieved these solutions by establishing a conceptual framework that allows comparability and ranking of ecological parameters and data gained at LTER sites across Europe. It also tested the LTER network as a harmonised set of sites through field measurements of a broad spectrum of parameters and environmental quality indicators with common methodologies.

    The issue of gathering data in a structured way also addressed, and the project helped manage and make available information (‘metadata’) about sites, persons and datasets across LTER-Europe. Another key achievement of the project was the definition and provision of tools and recommendations for LTER dataset reporting and sharing, and for integrated data management in the domain of long-term ecological research.

    Furthermore, the project investigated scientific hypotheses within the LTER community, through case studies aimed at long-term metadata and data analysis. These studies involved as many sites as possible. Finally, the project produced better information about the organisation of LTER-Europe to improve information flow and increase the visibility of LTER-Europe as a reference network for scientists, policy makers and environmental managers at the European level.

    EnvEurope developed its input to SEIS. Special attention was given to the current 16 actions of the SEIS action plan and future actions with special focus on concrete metadata and data flows from the realms touched by EnvEurope. Other activities contributed to Copernicus/GMES by establishing collaboration schemes between LTER-Europe and the remote sensing activities related to the environmental monitoring of Copernicus. Most efforts were devoted to understanding the opportunities of a two-way collaboration with Copernicus, as well as providing an assessment of in situ data usability and testing the applicability of large-scale remote sensing products for long-term ecosystem monitoring in Europe. Scope for further cooperation following EnvEurope was also sought: during the time frame of EnvEurope, most partners had established formal contacts and cooperation between the national LTER networks and Copernicus representatives in their own countries.

    The results of the EnvEurope project have implications for SEIS, which is being promoted by the European Commission, as well as helping initiate collaboration schemes with Copernicus. The permanent LTER-Europe site network could represent a valuable system for in situ validation of satellite data, thus supporting the implementation of the Copernicus programme.

    At the end of the project, the LTER-Europe network is, as a result, more integrated, more active and has greater capacity to deliver and support vital research. The LIFE project represents, for LTER-Europe, the entry point for the next phase of designing the European research infrastructure landscape in the field of biodiversity and ecosystem research. LTER-Europe, with its highly instrumented observational sites and socio-ecological research platforms, is now ready to cooperate and interact with both large-scale monitoring schemes (including remote sensing) and experimental approaches, especially EU projects such as ExpEER (Distributed Infrastructure for Experimentation in Ecosystem Research) that are inspired by the metadata management and thesaurus work done in EnvEurope.

    On the global level, the LTER network has decided to adopt EnvThes as the core vocabulary for the global LTER network. Moreover, LTER Europe could address the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy targets due to its history, structure, data and metadata. Also, EnvEurope can provide common monitoring methods, harmonised parameters and ancillary datasets between Natura 2000 sites and LTER sites. It could also be relevant for the provision of data needed for reporting indicators for EU directives (e.g. Habitat or Bird directive, Kyoto Protocol, Water Framework Directive, Marine Strategy). Much of the network infrastructure of LTER is directly relevant to the Horizon 2020 challenges and related socio-economic goals. Several proposals responding to the first Horizon 2020 call will build on the potential analysed by EnvEurope and contribute to the implementation of an operational infrastructure of distributed data hot spots covering major European environmental and socio-economic gradients in an exemplary way. The EnvEurope project has substantially supported the trans-European team of experts in the fields of harmonisation and standardisation, information management (concepts as well as implementation) and network design, all of which are crucial specifically for the recent INFRAIA call in Horizon 2020.

    Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Land-use & Planning - Sensitive and protected areas management
Habitats - Marine


monitoring system‚  water monitoring‚  nature conservation‚  information network‚  marine ecosystem‚  integrated management

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Type of organisation Research institution
Description The Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (National Research Council) is the major Italian public research institution. The “Earth and Environment” Department - one of 11 such departments - is directly involved in the present project.
Partners Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Germany Institute for Ecology of Industrial Areas, Poland University of Jyväskylä-Department of Biological and Environmental Science, Finland Senckenberg-Research Institutes and Natural History Museums, Germany University of Bucharest-Department of Systems Ecology And Sustainability, Romania Forest Research and Management Institute, Romania University of Debrecen, Hungary Centre for Ecological Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary European Regional Centre for Ecohydrology U/A Unesco International Institute of Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland Aleksandras Stulginskis University, Lithuania Environment Agency Austria, Austria Spanish National Research Council, Spain Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences-Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment, Sweden Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research-Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Bulgaria Corpo Forestale dello Stato, Italy ASTER S.cons.p.a., Italy


Project reference LIFE08 ENV/IT/000399
Duration 01-JAN-2010 to 31-DEC -2013
Total budget 6,067,876.00 €
EU contribution 3,003,938.00 €
Project location Veneto(Italia) Emilia-Romagna(Italia)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Video link EnvEurope & LTER-Europe (2.03')


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version