Numbers that drive policy for conservation: linked indicator sets for the post-2010 CBD framework

The target adopted by world leaders of significantly reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 was not met, but this stimulated the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to adopt a new suite of biodiversity targets for 2020. Indicators will be essential for monitoring progress towards these targets and the CBD will be defining a suite of relevant indicators, building on those developed for the 2010 target.

This project developed the argument that explicitly linked sets of indicators offer a more useful framework than do individual indicators, because the former are easier to understand, communicate and interpret to guide policy. A Response-Pressure-State-Benefit framework for structuring and linking indicators facilitates an understanding of the relationships between policy actions, anthropogenic threats, the status of biodiversity and the benefits that people derive from it. Such an approach is appropriate at global, regional, national and local scales, but for many systems it is easier to demonstrate causal linkages and use them to aid decision making at national and local scales.

The project developed examples of linked indicator sets for humid tropical forests and marine fisheries as illustrations of the concept, and concluded that much work remains to be done in developing both the indicators and the causal links between them.

This project was funded by the CCI Collaborative Fund for Conservation.

Project Aims

The project provided the science and carried out the advocacy to help achieve an improved indicator set for the post-2010 biodiversity target. Illustrative examples were developed to show the value and workability of a revised indicator framework, using sets of indicators that reflect the connected elements of a system, with linked components reflecting:

  1. Pressures/threats
  2. State of biodiversity
  3. State of benefits derived from biodiversity
  4. Actions/responses to enhance or to prevent/reduce losses to biodiversity and benefits

This structure reflects an assumed underlying model of causation, from 1 to 4. A set of such indicators should exist for each system or sector deemed to be sufficiently important and on which effective policy interventions can be brought to bear.

The project developed this concept, setting out the rationale for revised biodiversity indicators through placing them in a more logical framework. It illustrated the rationale with two detailed examples showing the connections between different indicators, going as far as possible to use real data at the largest geographic scale. It also outlined other indicators that could feasibly be implemented to fill critical gaps in the framework.

Key Activities

  • Identify sectors for which to develop linked indicator sets
  • Identify potential indicators for each of these
  • Compile data from relevant experts and organisations and calculate the indicators
  • Publish a scientific paper presenting the linked indicator sets & rationale
  • Produce an information document for the CBD SBSTTA meeting, and present the project results in a side-event

Conservation Impact

Outputs of the project fed into discussions on indicators for reporting on the CBD 2020 targets. In June 2011, the CBD Ad-Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on Indicators recommended that the 2020 indicators could be best communicated in a state-pressure-response-benefit framework, and the group’s recommendations were largely endorsed by the CBD Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA). The outputs were also used to help shape the structure of the Global Environment Outlook – 5, developed during 2011, to inform environmental decision-making while facilitating the interaction between science and policy.

CCI partners Involved

BirdLife International is a strategic global partnership of conservation organisations in over 100 countries, working to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, and to promote...
The UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) is the specialist biodiversity assessment arm of the United Nations Environment Programme, the world’s foremost intergovernmental...
The Department of Zoology carries out wide-ranging work in ecology and conservation including conservation science, aquatic ecology, pathogen evolution and evolutionary ecology. Research of the...
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. It is the largest wildlife conservation organisation in...

Related Resources

Resource Title Description Type
Joined-up indicators guide policy better Biodiversity indicators are easier to understand, communicate and act upon when linked together in a set that connects policies to outcomes. A booklet was produced as part of the 2010 Biodiversity... Handouts and booklets
Linked indicator sets for addressing biodiversity loss Indicators will be essential for monitoring progress towards these targets and the CBD will be defining a suite of relevant indicators, building on those developed for the 2010 target. In this paper... Journal articles