How using biodiversity indicators can improve conservation effectiveness

A coral colony is exposed to air at low tide in the Solomon Islands.
ShutterstockEthan Daniels
A coral colony is exposed to air at low tide in the Solomon Islands.

How is biodiversity doing? What are the important trends? Are conservation actions effective?

The answers to these three questions are vital to the decision-making process regarding conservation efforts, and depend on the use of indicators and other evidence-based measurements of biodiversity.

We heard from Mike Gill at NatureServe, who shared with us the importance of biodiversity indicators and how companies can access information about these indicators to guide decision-making about their own conservation initiatives.

Wildlife Habitat Council: What are biodiversity indicators and what can they help us measure, monitor and predict?

Mike Gill: Biodiversity indicators tell us about the health, integrity and trajectory of biodiversity, such as:

  • Pressures or threats on biodiversity, such as trends in land and water use, habitat loss or invasive species
  • The state of species and ecosystems, such as the health of species or integrity of ecosystems
  • The conservation response, such as the protection of important biodiversity areas
  • Benefits to people, such as the ecosystem services provided

WHC: Where can companies access information about relevant biodiversity indicators?

Gill: Conservation practitioners and policy-makers need access to timely, relevant and user-friendly data products that can streamline biodiversity assessments and tracking of conservation outcomes, facilitate analysis of the impacts of conservation actions and help identify and predict emerging trends and issues. This can assist with better prioritizing and aligning local, site-scale conservation actions with broader national, regional and global conservation priorities.

One such tool is NatureServe’s Biodiversity Indicators Program, which provides advanced and flexible visualization of the most advanced indicators using its line of Biodiversity Indicator Dashboards.

WHC: What information can be accessed using the Biodiversity Indicator Dashboards?

Gill: This online platform streamlines access to the best available biodiversity indicators, providing flexible visualization at multiple scales. Available indicators can track status and trends in forest cover, threatened and endangered species, trends in protected area coverage of Key Biodiversity Areas, aggregate pressure on and overall health of marine ecosystems, condition and intactness of habitat for biodiversity, and many other key variables.

WHC: How can companies use these biodiversity indicators?

Gill: Corporations concerned with aligning their conservation activities and sustainability goals with regional conservation priorities can benefit from the flexible provisioning of continually updated and scalable biodiversity indicators. Through such easily accessible and flexible intelligence on the latest status and trends in biodiversity, corporations can ensure that their own conservation actions are optimally aligned with broader national and global conservation mandates and flexibly visualize and download scaled indicators to serve their own reporting processes (CSR reports, voluntary contributions towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and Sustainable Development Goals).

WHC: At what scale can companies use the Biodiversity Indicator Dashboards for decision-making?

Gill: This interactive, user-designed tool was primarily designed to streamline assessments and tracking of outcomes at national scales, but is also being used at local and regional scales to guide priority conservation actions and facilitate reporting on conservation status and trends for certification and other needs. Users can also download visualizations of indicator trends at multiple spatial scales and use them for reporting, assessment and priority setting. The tool also provides country-level dashboards, regional comparisons and exploration of indicators via an interactive map for any part of the world.

WHC: What are some new applications for the Biodiversity Indicator Dashboards?

Gill: NatureServe has been working with partners from around the world like U.N. Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (UNEP-WCMC) to accelerate the application and utility of this technology for much broader and more diverse applications. These applications include tracking and informing progress on international, intergovernmental policy mandates at global, regional, national and sub-national scales, such as for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Sustainable Development Goals. Using new visualization techniques and technologies helps meet the growing demand for timely, relevant data at multiple scales.

WHC: What’s in the works for the Biodiversity Indicator Dashboards?

Gill: Using the BIP Dashboards as a foundation, NatureServe is collaborating with UNEP-WCMC and others to develop a new global post-2020 Target Tracker to support effective and transparent implementation of the new post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. The tool aims to transform the process of tracking and reporting outcomes from a backward, periodic one to a continual, forward-looking and predictive process. This will be accomplished with the flexible provision and visualization of indicators via an online, scalable "Target Tracker" platform. This platform will allow Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and those focused on the Sustainable Development Goals, a means to continually track progress towards national and global 2030 Targets, identify problem areas and areas of success, and better inform pathways toward successful achievement of the new targets. Beyond these major initiatives, NatureServe is also collaborating at the regional level to develop user-designed Dashboard platforms to support regional- and national-scale biodiversity assessments and tracking of conservation outcomes. These include projects in Southeast Asia, the Tropical Andes and the Arctic.

Learn more about NatureServe and the Biodiversity Indicators Dashboards here.

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