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. 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.




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.