Monitoring global rates of biodiversity change: Challenges that arise in meeting the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 2010 goals

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By agreeing to strive for 'a significant reduction in the current rate of loss of biological diversity' by the year 2010, political leaders at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (held in Johannesburg, South Africa) presented conservation scientists with a great opportunity, but also one of their most significant challenges. This is an extremely exciting and laudable development, but this reporting process could be made yet more powerful if it incorporates, from the outset, independent scientific assessment of the measures, how they are analysed, and practical ways of plugging key gaps. This input is crucial if the measures are to be widely owned, credible and robust to the vigorous external scrutiny to which they will doubtless be exposed. Assessing how rates of biodiversity loss have changed from current levels by 2010 will require that a given attribute has been measured at least three times; however, most habitats, species, populations and ecosystem services have not been assessed even once. Furthermore, the best data on which to base estimates of biodiversity loss are biased towards the charismatic vertebrate species; unfortunately, these supply minimal services to the human economy. We have to find ways to redress this taxonomic imbalance and expand our analyses to consider the vast diversity of invertebrate, fungal and microbial species that play a role in determining human health and economic welfare. In the first part of this paper I will use examples from local and regional monitoring of biological diversity to examine the desired properties of 'ideal indicators'. I will then change focus and examine an initial framework that asks how we might monitor changes in the economic goods and services provided by natural ecosystems. I will use this exercise to examine how the set of possible indicators given by the Convention on Biological Diversity might be modified in ways that provide a more critical assay of the economic value of biological diversity. Here I will emphasize that we need not only to monitor these benefits, but also to significantly increase public awareness of human dependence upon the role that non-voting species play in driving the world's financial economy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-241
Number of pages13
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1454
StatePublished - Feb 28 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Biodiversity
  • Economic trade-off
  • Ecosystem service
  • Global change
  • Monitoring


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