Assessment system for ecological condition

Assessment system for ecological condition

The diversity of nature provides the basis for human life on earth. Our ecosystems provide natural products which give us food, pure drinking water, construction materials, and experiences. Well-functioning ecosystems contribute to the pollination of the plants that provide us with fruits and vegetables, to the regulation of the climate, and to the protection of soils from erosion. Future generations are dependent on our protection of these ecosystems, through conservation and through sustainable use.

A nature that functions well is also a precondition for our ability to carry through the ‘green shift’. The report to the Norwegian Parliament, ‘Nature for life. The Norwegian Action Plan for Biodiversity’ defines three national goals for biodiversity. These goals are intended to secure well-functioning ecosystems and to stop the loss of biological diversity. Parliament has determined that developments in ecosystems as a whole, and not piecemeal through assessment of species one at a time, should be monitored.

Two different methods developed to assess ecological condition

The Water Framework Directive indicates how the ecological condition of rivers, lakes, and coastal waters should be measured, but lacks a system for open ocean (pelagic), arctic, and land environments. To determine how to measure whether these ecosystems are in good ecological condition, an expert committee was founded. The committee submitted its recommendations in 2017. An English version of the first three chapters may be found here. In accordance with it, two methods were developed to measure condition: the Panel-Based Assessment of Ecosystem Condition (PAEC) and the Index-Based Ecological Condition Assessment (IBECA) These two methods are now being tested and further developed. The Norwegian Environment Agency has specified that the knowledge base must be improved so that the condition of all ecosystems can be assessed.

Ecological condition in Norway in 2021 

Reports assessing condition in woodlands and mountains throughout Norway, as well as the condition of the Arctic tundra and of the open ocean (pelagic) areas of the Barents Sea, North Sea, and Norwegian Sea will be published in 2021. This means that we will know whether the ecological condition is good, or does not reach a good condition, in various areas. There are already management plans for oceans and freshwaters, and integrated management plans for land ecosystems will be developed.

In 2020 NINA produced a report which describes how the assessment system for ecological condition relates to other systems such as, for example, the Nature Index, the Water Framework Directive, the UN system for Ecosystem Accounting , the Norwegian Ecological Base Map, and how data collection from environmental monitoring, remote sensing, and citizen science can contribute to the knowledge base.

The Norwegian Environment Agency has emphasised that comprehensive monitoring is necessary to achieve an adequate knowledge base.



Index Based Method:

The condition of forest and mountain ecosystems in Norway. Assessment by the IBECA method. NINA Report 2100.

Vurdering av økologisk tilstand for fjell i Norge i 2020. NINA Rapport 2050.

The Index-Based Ecological Con-dition Assessment (IBECA) - Technical protocol, version 1.0

Vurdering av økologisk tilstand for skog i Norge i 2020. NINA Rapport 2000

Introducing the index-based ecological condition assessment framework (IBECA)

Test av fagsystemet for økologisk tilstand for terrestriske økosystemer i Trøndelag. NINA Rapport 1672. 

Utvikling av metodikk for økologisk tilstandsvurdering basert på indikatorverdier etter Ellenberg og Grime (revidert utgave). NINA Rapport 1529b. 

Operasjonalisering av fagsystem for økologisk tilstand for terrestriske økosystemer. Forslag til referanse- og grenseverdier for indikatorer som er klare eller nesten klare til bruk. NINA Rapport 1536. 

Setting reference levels and limits for good ecological condition in terrestrial ecosystems – Insights from a case study based on the IBECA approach.

Panel Based Assessment: 

Panelbased Assessment of Ecosystem Condition – a methodological pilot for four terrestrial ecosystems in Trøndelag. NINA Report 2094

Norwegian Arctic tundra: a panel-based assessment of ecosystem condition

Panel-based assessment of ecosystem condition (PAEC) as a knowledge platform for ecosystem-based management of Norwegian Arctic tundra

Panel-based Assessment of Ecosystem Condition (PAEC). NINA Report 1890.

Test av fagsystemet for økologisk tilstand. Erfaringer frapilotprosjekter for arktisk tundra og arktisk del av Barentshavet. NINA Rapport 1674.

Relationships among different systems:

Økologisk tilstand og andre verktøy for å vurdere naturkvaliteter i terrestriske miljø. Datakilder og forvaltningsmål. NINA Rapport 1902. 


Ecosystems with good ecological condition are characterized by their structure, function, and productivity not being significantly below the reference condition. The reference condition is defined as an intact ecosystem.

Intact ecosystems are characterized by the naturally occurring species of the recent past. Neither invasive species nor extinct species are included in the definition of ‘intact nature’.

Intact nature is characterized by the absence of modern (post-industrial) and far-reaching human impacts. The reference climate is defined as in the recent past in the ‘normal period’ (1961-1990).

The Nature Index for Norway

The Nature Index measures the condition of biological diversity in Norway, and gives an oversight into the development of the ecosystems, for selected species groups and themes.

Norwegian Institute for Nature Research

NINA is an independent foundation for nature research and research on the interaction between human society, natural resources and biodiversity.
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