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Introducing a schematic sampling protocol for raptor biomonitoring to harmonize procedures across Europe

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Bird species like scavengers have been widely used as sentinel species in raptor biomonitoring programmes to warn early on of the potential impacts contaminants pose on the environment and public health, while also evaluating the progress of associated mitigation measures. An example of these measures includes regulatory directives designed to protect humans and nature from pesticides and industrial contaminants. 

Chemical regulation is harmonized across the European Union, so a significant current challenge is to ensure that biomonitoring is consistent and coordinated throughout Europe. To tackle this challenge, a recently published journal article introduces a schematic protocol as a standard guide to ensure consistent sampling methods and appropriate quality of samples collected for contaminant monitoring in raptors.

Schematic sampling protocol

Environmental contamination often occurs across national and continental boundaries, and therefore requires standardized methods to study their occurrence, impact and any effect to legal or voluntary mitigation, whether of outmoded, current or emerging contaminants. The proposed schematic sampling protocol aims to facilitate large-scale biomonitoring by coordinating contaminant monitoring activities, increasing sampling capacity across countries, ensuring appropriate quality of samples and facilitating the harmonization of procedures to maximize the reliability, comparability and interoperability of data. The protocol has been prepared under the European Raptor Biomonitoring Facility COST Action, which is a network of researchers and practitioners working towards coordinated Europe-wide monitoring of contaminants in raptors to support the implementation of EU chemicals regulations and thereby reduce chemical risks to raptors themselves, to the wider environment and to human health. A pan-European network of ornithologists, veterinary scientists, raptor ecologists, ecotoxicologists and analytical chemists (with the contribution of the VCF’s Programmes Manager) developed this protocol, to encourage a new generation of research on environmental raptor biomonitoring. 

This proposed protocol can be used as a guide by professionals and volunteers alike to ensure harmonized sampling methods for contaminant monitoring in raptors across Europe, to help inform future chemicals legislation as well as targeted conservation actions to protect wildlife.


Espín, S., Andevski, J., Duke, G. et al. A schematic sampling protocol for contaminant monitoring in raptors. Ambio (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-020-01341-9 

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