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Journal Articles Biological Reviews Year : 2018

A suite of essential biodiversity variables for detecting critical biodiversity change

1 UFZ - Helmholtz Zentrum für Umweltforschung = Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research
2 LEFE - Laboratoire Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Environnement
3 UNEP-WCMC - UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre
4 Department of System Ecotoxicology [UFZ Leipzig]
5 IMBE - Institut méditerranéen de biodiversité et d'écologie marine et continentale
6 CTFC - Centre de Ciència i Tecnologia Forestal de Catalunya
7 CREAF - Centre de Recerca Ecològica i Aplicacions Forestals, Univ. Autònoma de Barcelona
8 CSIC, Global Ecology Unit, CREAF-CEAB-UAB, Cerdanyola del Vallès, 08193 Catalonia, Spain
9 NHM - The Natural History Museum [London]
10 Department of River Ecology and Conservation, Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, Frankfurt, D-63571, Gelnhausen, Germany
11 Faculty of Biology, University of Duisburg-Essen, 45141, Essen, Germany
12 Department of Systems Analysis, Integrated Assessment and Modelling, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology - Eawag, U¨ berlandstrasse 133, 8600 Du¨bendorf, Switzerland
13 CESCO - Centre d'Ecologie et des Sciences de la COnservation
14 Department of Biodiversity and Molecular Ecology, Fondazione Edmund Mach, Research and Innovation Centre, 38010, S. Micehle all’Adige (TN), Italy
15 University of Eastern Finland
16 Ecosystem Research Facility Eußerthal, Institute of Environmental Science, University of Koblenz-Landau, Koblenz-Landau, Germany
17 The Biodiversity Consultancy, Cambridge, CB2 1SJ, U.K.


Key global indicators of biodiversity decline, such as the IUCN Red List Index and the Living Planet Index, have relatively long assessment intervals. This means they, due to their inherent structure, function as late-warning indicators that are retrospective, rather than prospective. These indicators are unquestionably important in providing information for biodiversity conservation, but the detection of early-warning signs of critical biodiversity change is also needed so that proactive management responses can be enacted promptly where required. Generally, biodiversity conservation has dealt poorly with the scattered distribution of necessary detailed information, and needs to find a solution to assemble, harmonize and standardize the data. The prospect of monitoring essential biodiversity variables (EBVs) has been suggested in response to this challenge. The concept has generated much attention, but the EBVs themselves are still in development due to the complexity of the task, the limited resources available, and a lack of long-term commitment to maintain EBV data sets. As a first step, the scientific community and the policy sphere should agree on a set of priority candidate EBVs to be developed within the coming years to advance both large-scale ecological research as well as global and regional biodiversity conservation. Critical ecological transitions are of high importance from both a scientific as well as from a conservation policy point of view, as they can lead to long-lasting biodiversity change with a high potential for deleterious effects on whole ecosystems and therefore also on human well-being. We evaluated candidate EBVs using six criteria: relevance, sensitivity to change, generalizability, scalability, feasibility, and data availability and provide a literature-based review for eight EBVs with high sensitivity to change. The proposed suite of EBVs comprises abundance, allelic diversity, body mass index, ecosystem heterogeneity, phenology, range dynamics, size at first reproduction, and survival rates. The eight candidate EBVs provide for the early detection of critical and potentially long-lasting biodiversity change and should be operationalized as a priority. Only with such an approach can science predict the future status of global biodiversity with high certainty and set up the appropriate conservation measures early and efficiently. Importantly, the selected EBVs would address a large range of conservation issues and contribute to a total of 15 of the 20 Aichi targets and are, hence, of high biological relevance.
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Dates and versions

hal-01788182 , version 1 (24-04-2019)



Dirk S. Schmeller, Lauren Weatherdon, Adeline Loyau, Alberte Bondeau, Lluis Brotons, et al.. A suite of essential biodiversity variables for detecting critical biodiversity change. Biological Reviews, 2018, 93 (1), pp.55 - 71. ⟨10.1111/brv.12332⟩. ⟨hal-01788182⟩
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