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© Michel Bramard – Onema

Onema and MNHN join forces for biodiversity

The National museum of natural history (MNHN) and Onema have joined forces to create synergies in an array of projects, including the European reporting system, characterisation reports on fish in France, the Nature and landscape information system (SINP), research on protected species, etc. One of the main reasons lies in the "fit" between the two knowledge bases that facilitates the production of new knowledge and implementation of public water policies.

Fish populations in rivers have been regularly monitored by Onema since 2006 as part of WFD monitoring programmes. Monitoring takes place via a network of over 1 500 monitoring points using proven techniques such as electrofishing and experimental methods such as DNA detection in the environment (eDNA).

"One of the strong points at Onema is certainly our thoroughness in collecting data", notes Caroline Pénil. "We implement an identical protocol throughout the country to produce comparable data that can be easily consolidated." The data, collected over decades and made available to research institutes, are indispensable in understanding changes in fish populations. They are highly useful for both current operational projects, such as the assessment of the results of restoration projects, and forward-looking analysis, e.g. the future impact of climate change.

Newt, © Thierry Degen/MEDDE-MLETR

The report on the conservation status of EU-listed species for the EU commission, drafted every six years in conjunction with the Habitats directive, is a perfect example. The MNHN oversees the project for all species. For the aquatic species, Onema ran a survey in 2013 on 24 animal species, including crayfish, bony fish and lampreys. The data collected were used to draft approximately 60 data sheets which confirmed the fragility of aquatic environments. Species identified as having "unfavourable bad" status in all their biogeographic domains include the European sturgeon, shad, river lampreys, weather loach, Atlantic salmon and the Rhône streber.

Caroline Pénil indicates that "Our partnership led us to investigate which data collected for the WFD could be used for the Habitats directive report. That obliged us to deconstruct the indices and assessment tools designed for the WFD and to return to the original data." An improvement in knowledge available to identify fish species is now in view. For example, six years ago, the European bullhead was thought to be a single taxon, but eight new taxa have since been identified.

Otter, © Thierry Degen/MEDDE-MLETR

Onema ensures that taxonomic research does not stray from the reality in the field by comparing the characteristics used to distinguish taxa with the results from sampling campaigns.

Another field of study deals with protected aquatic species. The objective is to assist water managers in implementing protective measures by providing them with relevant and understandable information on threatened species such as the European otter, the Northern crested newt and osprey, including their distribution, regulatory status, conservation status, habitat, feeding habits, etc.

Pike , © Denis Poracchia

Twelve educational data sheets, produced jointly by the MNHN, Onema and the Ecology ministry, are now available. Observations made by Onema personnel on these species also contribute to the knowledge collected by the MNHN.

This extremely productive collaboration highlights the great value of the data produced by Onema for efforts to understand and restore aquatic biodiversity. Future projects are now in the works, e.g. the development of a database for all the observations on the natural environment.

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