Biodiversity Trends and Threats in Europe; development and test of a species trend indicator

13-06-2005 | Publication

This report presents a trial of a species population trend indicator for evaluating progress towards the 2010 biodiversity target in Europe, using existing data.


The indicator integrates trends on different species (groups), and can be aggregated across habitats and countries. Thus, the indicator can deliver both headline messages for high-level decision making and detailed information for in-depth analysis, using data from different sources, collected with different methods. International NGOs mobilised data on over 2800 historical trends in national populations of birds, butterflies and mammals, for a total of 273 species. These were combined by habitat and biogeographical region to generate a pilot Pan-European scale indicator.

The trial indicator suggests a decline of species populations in nearly all habitats, the largest being in farmland, where species populations declined by an average of 23% between 1970 and 2000. The indicator is potentially useful for monitoring progress towards 2010 biodiversity targets, but constraints include: the limited sensitivity of the historical data, which leads to conservative estimates of species decline; a potential danger of ambiguity because increases in opportunistic species can mask the loss of other species; and failure to account for pre-1970 population declines. We recommend mobilising additional existing data, particularly for plants and fish, and elaborating further the criteria for compiling representative sets of species. For a frequent, reliable update of the indicator, sound, sensitive and harmonised biodiversity monitoring programmes are needed in all countries across Pan-Europe.