The monitoring activities at LANDSCAPE EUROPE are divided in two different activities, the integrated assessment, and the monitoring itself, which is organised in the Pan European Forum for Countryside and Landscape Monitoring (ECOLAND).
Landscape integrated assessment stand central in this activity block of LANDSCAPE EUROPE. Two trends can be observed: given the complexity of the subject matter and the difficulty to access adequate data at the European scale, existing European approaches to landscape assessment focus on top-down procedures based on highly aggregated data from national statistics and remote sensing. The results are rather coarse and general models or frameworks lack regional specification and hence regional or national support. On the other hand, regional and national studies on landscapes and sustainability are very fragmented and differ from country to country, making a European-wide interpretation and a link to international policies virtually impossible. What is needed, it seems, is an assessment procedure that bridges the methodological gap between the different levels and which at the same time is flexible enough to allow region-specific applications.
From the methodological point of view, the existing European and national spatial reference schemes - e.g. the administrative NUTS regions - must be considered as inadequate for capturing essential environmental properties. The resource value of a region can only be assessed in the context of supra-regional and European perspectives. The international dimension needs to be introduced into the regional level and, in return, regional aspects must find their way into international decision procedures. In order to calibrate the assessment instruments, it is proposed to use 'ecological regions' and 'landscape types' (both currently developed at the European level) as spatial reference units for assessments. This way the availability or rareness of natural resources such as groundwater, soils, minerals, wood, but also of natural habitat with species of flora, as well as amenities such as cultural, recreational and aesthetic values can be determined on the basis of common criteria which take the European perspective into account. The landscape level appears to be the most appropriate context for such assessments since holistic, ecological and cultural principles are inherent to the very notion of it. With the help of a typology of European landscapes and standard methodologies it is attempted to characterise any given landscape type in comparable ways. The scale of the landscape type in question can vary depending on the eco-regional conditions and project definitions. The idea is that an evaluation of e.g. the Massif Central region in France will take into account it's place among European mountain systems, the types and number of endangered or endemic plants in relation to other regions, it's potential vegetation and the most appropriate land use types. Such assessment will usually be done only on the basis of local or national information and results are expected to shift once the European perspective has been taken into account. Another reason for introducing a standard methodology for biodiversity and sustainability assessment is the need to provide transparent and reliable communications nodes to enable European institutions to monitor subsidy allocations, detect changes, run control mechanisms and do environmental reporting.
The objectives for an "Integrated Assessment" can be summarised as follows:
- integrate the assessment of ecological as well as socio-economic aspects in a balanced, transparent and European-wide applicable methodology;
- identify the most appropriate top down approach as well as the necessary level of bottom-up data assessment procedures;
- use landscape units on the base of ecological regions as the spatial reference units;
- establish an operational monitioring procedures that allows to observe and report upon trends and changes at various levels of landscape, depending on the policy needs;
- introduce European perspectives when determining the functions and values of sustainability and biodiversity at the regional level;
- demonstrate the different results between regional, traditional or national; approaches and the proposed European integrated procedures; and
- give recommendations for future strategic planning and policy development.