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UK-Environmental Observation Framework Meeting

Department for Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (UK)

UK-Environmental Observation Framework (UK-EOF)

With the ever-growing challenges of climate change, over 150 environmental observers are meeting for the first time today in central London to debate and discuss issues and shared aspirations. Their current activities and a vision for the future are published today as part of a new, five-year UK-Environmental Observation Framework (UK-EOF).

UK-EOF is a partnership between Government departments, Research Councils and agencies. As we place more and more reliance on using the planet's natural resources, and become more aware of the way our climate is changing, there is an ever increasing need to make observations, to record the changes and predict what will happen.

The UK invests an estimated £500 million per year in environmental observations. This is a long-term commitment as for some measurements very large and complex tools, such as ships and satellites, are needed which take many years to plan and build.

All those who measure our environment on a regular basis have agreed to work together to make the best of the resources available to take the measurements, and to make better use of information once it has been collected.

Professor Bob Watson, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and 'champion' for the UK-Environmental Observation Framework, said:

"We have never been more aware of the impacts of human activity on our planet. We are seeing loss of species, depletion of natural resources and the many issues associated with climate change. I hope the UK-EOF will enhance our ability to work together - across Government administrations, research councils, agencies and voluntary bodies - to tackle the technical, institutional and economic challenges associated with observing our constantly changing natural environment. ''

"These will require a great deal of commitment and new thinking but I am confident that we can make the UK even better at understanding the planet, and provide our scientists and policy makers with a solid platform from which to influence the global and international aspects of environmental change, as well as those closer to home."

The UK-Environmental Observation Framework comes from a recognition of the need to address the issues surrounding the collection and sharing of long-term datasets. The Environment Research Funders' Forum (ERFF), itself a partnership of UK Governments, research councils and agencies, carried out an analysis of the known environmental research and monitoring being funded throughout the UK. From that analysis, at a workshop in 2006, the ERFF partners identified the need to greatly improve monitoring, observation and surveillance mechanisms.

The UK-EOF aims, by 2013, to find solutions to the long-standing issues of funding and sharing the datasets, and to enable the UK to achieve a robust evidence base by contributing to many national and international programmes such as Living With Environmental Change (LWEC).

Dr Peter Bridgewater, chair of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), one of the key organisations in the preparation of this Framework, noted:

''The world leaders accepted in 2002 to slow the decline in biodiversity loss by 2010 - yet without good observational and monitoring data we will have no idea if we have succeeded in this aspiration, or where challenges will lie in future. Public bodies cannot achieve this level of monitoring on their own; they must work with the voluntary sector. While volunteer work on bird observation is well-known, less understood are the millions of hours work to observe butterflies, plants - even animals like woodlice and litter on our beaches. JNCC's hope is this new UK- Environmental Observation Framework will strengthen and develop the partnership between public and voluntary sectors, give us all new energy, and provide a focus and long term view of environmental conservation and management data needs, while promoting the vision that understanding and managing the environment is everyone's responsibility.''

Benefits to partner organisations within the Framework will include better operational planning, improved data quality from sharing best practices, and far less duplication of effort and its associated costs. In the longer term UK-EOF will provide a clear market for observations, encouraging technological innovations in industries that develop sensors, instrumentation and networks, and in climate modelling.


1. A copy of the 33 page document is available from or the Defra press office, see Susan Crown's contact details above.

1. The UK-EOF is the UK Environmental Observation Framework. Initially this is a 5 year programme of coordinated activities to address the challenges associated with collecting observations of the environment. These challenges are outlined in the Framework which is published today.

2. The UK-EOF initial sponsors are: CCW, Defra, NIEA, EA, FC, JNCC, NE, NERC, SEPA, SG, SNH

3. The ERFF (Environment Research Funder's Forum) is funded by

BBSRC         Biotechnology and Biological Sciences

              Research Council
Defra         Department for Environment Food and Rural
DFID          Department for International Development
DfT           Department for Transport
EA            Environment Agency
ESRC          Economic and Social Research Council
FC            Forestry Commission
JNCC          Joint Nature Conservation Committee
MRC           Medical Research Council
NE            Natural England
NERC          Natural Environment Research Council
NIEA          Northern Ireland Environment Agency
SEPA          Scottish Environment Protection Agency
SG            Scottish Government
WAG           Welsh Assembly Government
EPSRC         Engineering and Physical Sciences Research
FSA           Food Standards Agency
HSE           Health and Safety Executive
Met Office    Met Office

4. Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) is an unprecedented partnership of 17 research and policy-making organisations working together to find ways to cope with the environmental changes that are already starting to affect people's wellbeing and livelihoods. The programme will address environmental change in the short-term and at regional level as well as the longer term global changes. A key objective is to provide the evidence-base that policy-makers and people need to make timely decisions about the future.


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