Many biodiversity monitoring programmes either fail or fall short of their original intentions because insufficient attention is given to the practical factors that determine viability in the real world.

The outputs of biodiversity monitoring will only be as good as the people who are striving for them. Deciding on the appropriate blend of people to be responsible for designing and running a biodiversity monitoring programme, depends on both the desired level of detail as well as who the data are intended to benefit.

In many situations, an integrated approach to monitoring that combines expert guidance and management from professional scientists with a close involvement of local people is likely to provide the most attractive solution. The contribution of professionals ensures scientific rigour in programme design and data analysis, while the involvement of local people facilitates the process of implementing any management recommendations, while also providing a cost-effective and sustainable means of data collection and a potentially rich source of local knowledge to aid interpretation of results.

Many monitoring programmes are highly wasteful of resources, and significant improvements in return on investment are possible through the judicious selection of cost-effective objectives, indicators, and sampling methods, as well as the involvement of local people in data collecting and processing.

The viability of monitoring can be further enhanced by increasing the relevance and utility of monitoring products to as wide an audience as possible, including forest management authorities responsible for standard development, government agencies responsible for national biodiversity assessments, the scientific community and environmental educators.

Instead of being developed in isolation, monitoring programmes should be conceived and nurtured within an interactive learning environment that brings together researchers, managers and regulators from different places and institutions to share data, expertise and ideas.

Without a clear recognition of the broader societal context within which the monitoring process is situated and the underlying conservation values that define the ultimate purpose of monitoring, even the most technically robust monitoring programmes will be committed to failure.