FLORON -or Plant Conservation Netherlands- was founded in 1988 and is the leading organization in the Netherlands for monitoring flora with volunteers. Every year, 800-1000 km2 (1/30th part of the country) is monitored as part of a citizen science project that started already in 1901. In the Netherlands, identifying plants and mapping their distribution is primarily carried out by volunteers.
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National Database Flora and Fauna
Observation data collected by both volunteers and professionals is stored and managed in the National Database Flora and Fauna (NDFF), which contains datasets from several data owners. New observations of plants are validated by a group of 50 volunteers. FLORON has full access to the data for research and improvement of monitoring schemes.
Volunteers who are top-contributors and validators may access the data through the NDFF Atlas and use (aggregated) observation data for publications and preparation of their field work.
Network Ecological Monitoring
Monitoring of flora and fauna is supported by the Dutch government in the Network Ecological Monitoring (NEM). Within the NEM program, FLORON carries out three long-term citizen science projects in order to keep the flora atlas up-to-date and estimate trends in distribution of the species:
- Mapping species occurring in kilometer squares. Participants spend a day in the field within a grid cell of 1 km2 and try to find as many plant species as possible. Precise locations of rare species are collected.
- Visiting under-recorded areas. Every year, an algorithm determines which 5x5 km squares have been insufficiently covered by project 1. The grid squares can be claimed by a volunteer on an interactive map. FLORON covers travel expenses for volunteers willing to travel to these areas.
- Revisiting "forgotten" sites with rare plants. When the last recording date of a plant lies between 5 and 15 years ago, the location appears on an interactive map. Volunteers may claim a site in order to try to rediscover the species. Extra effort is spend on Luronium natans and Apium repens, which are protected in the Natura2000 network and European Habitat Directive.
Automated workflow for observations
Since 2011 the workflows for data collection, validation and map production have been automated:
- Grid square reservation tool for citizen science projects in the NDFF Atlas
- VERA Android app for recording plants in the field
- NDFF validation portal for data validation and suggesting corrections
- Retrieval of maps, observations and species lists for a given area in the NDFF Atlas
About 250 volunteers contribute to these projects regularly, and 1500 incidentally. FLORON staff provides technical support where necessary. Most time is spend on communication in order to get more volunteers involved in these projects. Social media and electronic newsletters are the main way to communicate with volunteers.
Together with Statistics Netherlands, annual flora trends are produced at national and regional level. These are used for reports on Natura2000 species and updates of the national Red List. FLORON also provides trends of indicator species in the Living Planet Report series by WWF Netherlands.
Using observation data FLORON identifies sites with endangered plants. In cases where generic management and measures fail for endangered species, FLORON advices site owners on the protection. Recently FLORON rescued populations of Phyteuma nigrum and Scorzonera humilis by enlarging and reinforcing populations with hand pollination of the remaining individuals and ex situ propagation. This approach makes ex situ conservation cost effective and more meaningful than conventional long-term ex situ conservation programs, such as germplasm preservation or an extensive living collection in gardens and greenhouses.
National partners include Ministry of Economic Affairs, Wageningen Ecological Research, Statistics Netherlands, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Product Safety Authority/NVWA, WWF Netherlands, IUCN Netherlands, Dutch Provinces/BIJ12, Dutch Water Boards, and species recording/monitoring NGO's in the National Database Flora and Fauna.
NLBIF & GBIF
FLORON co-operates with NLBIF, the national GBIF node. NLBIF provides funding for digitization projects and the standard list of plant names. FLORON hosts an IPT-server for sharing historical observations with scientists around the globe.
FLORON is member of the steering committee of the Planta Europa, the Europe-wide network of botanists that act as national contacts for the review of the European Plant Conservation Strategy (Bern Convention, Council of Europe).
European Plant Conservation Strategy & Global Strategy for Plant Conservation
Most of the work done by FLORON meets the targets of the European Plant Conservation Strategy and Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. FLORON contributed to the evaluation report 2011-2020 of the EPCS targets.