Published Monday, 29 November 2004

EP Briefing Note: A Users' Guide to Biodiversity Indicators 

Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is important: it matters to people and is an indispensable part of a sustainable world. It describes the variety, quantity and distribution of the components of life whether they are species, ecosystems or genes. Biodiversity can be measured: indicators and indexes are not perfect, but they are good enough to show which way some of the key components of biodiversity are heading. The crucial issue in developing biodiversity indicators or indexes is to be clear on the specific question about biodiversity that the measuring system is designed to answer. Where it is being monitored, most measures of biodiversity show that it is in decline.

Although these current indicators are under vigorous development in the European Union, in the longer term we need indicators that match more closely the concerns of Europe’s many and diverse communities. These should be designed to measure biodiversity that matters to people and policy-makers in Europe. There is no reason not to start reporting on biodiversity, using currently available indicators and indexes for the Sustainable Development Report to Spring Council. It would certainly be possible to use the European Wild Bird/Farmland Bird Index and an index based on the area under protection. In the longer term other indicators, of threatened species, extent of habitats and impacts of human pressure, are well on their way.

This report was carried out under an IEEP framework contract, and was completed by the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC).