Monitoring change in vertebrate abundance: the living planet index

Conserv Biol. 2009 Apr;23(2):317-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.01117.x. Epub 2008 Nov 17.


The task of measuring the decline of global biodiversity and instituting changes to halt and reverse this downturn has been taken up in response to the Convention on Biological Diversity's 2010 target. It is an undertaking made more difficult by the complex nature of biodiversity and the consequent difficulty in accurately gauging its depletion. In the Living Planet Index, aggregated population trends among vertebrate species indicate the rate of change in the status of biodiversity, and this index can be used to address the question of whether or not the 2010 target has been achieved. We investigated the use of generalized additive models in aggregating large quantities of population trend data, evaluated potential bias that results from collation of existing trends, and explored the feasibility of disaggregating the data (e.g., geographically, taxonomically, regionally, and by thematic area). Our results show strengths in length and completeness of data, little evidence of bias toward threatened species, and the possibility of disaggregation into meaningful subsets. Limitations of the data set are still apparent, in particular the dominance of bird data and gaps in tropical-species population coverage. Population-trend data complement the longer-term, but more coarse-grained, perspectives gained by evaluating species-level extinction rates. To measure progress toward the 2010 target, indicators must be adapted and strategically supplemented with existing data to generate meaningful indicators in time. Beyond 2010, it is critical a strategy be set out for the future development of indicators that will deal with existing data gaps and that is intricately tied to the goals of future biodiversity targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Extinction, Biological
  • International Cooperation
  • Models, Biological
  • Population Density
  • Time Factors
  • Vertebrates / physiology*