A biodiversity-crisis hierarchy to evaluate and refine conservation indicators

  • Nature Ecology & Evolutionvolume 2pages775781 (2018)
  • doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0504-8
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The Convention on Biological Diversity and its Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 form the central pillar of the world’s conservation commitment, with 196 signatory nations; yet its capacity to reign in catastrophic biodiversity loss has proved inadequate. Indicators suggest that few of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi targets that aim to reduce biodiversity loss will be met by 2020. While the indicators have been criticized for only partially representing the targets, a bigger problem is that the indicators do not adequately draw attention to and measure all of the drivers of the biodiversity crisis. Here, we show that many key drivers of biodiversity loss are either poorly evaluated or entirely lacking indicators. We use a biodiversity-crisis hierarchy as a conceptual model linking drivers of change to biodiversity loss to evaluate the scope of current indicators. We find major gaps related to monitoring governments, human population size, corruption and threat-industries. We recommend the hierarchy is used to develop an expanded set of indicators that comprehensively monitor the human behaviour and institutions that drive biodiversity loss and that, so far, have impeded progress towards achieving global biodiversity targets.

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We thank D. Tittensor, S. Butchart, G. Mace, M. McGeoch, B. Brook and G. Hays for helpful suggestions on earlier drafts.

Author information


  1. School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Centre for Integrative Ecology, Deakin University Geelong, Burwood, Victoria, Australia

    • Don A. Driscoll
    • , Lucie M. Bland
    • , Brett A. Bryan
    • , Thomas M. Newsome
    • , Emily Nicholson
    • , Euan G. Ritchie
    •  & Tim S. Doherty
  2. School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

    • Thomas M. Newsome
  3. Global Trophic Cascades Program, Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA

    • Thomas M. Newsome
  4. School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

    • Thomas M. Newsome


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D.A.D., T.M.N., E.G.R. and T.S.D. conceived the ideas, with L.M.B., E.N. and B.A.B. contributing further ideas throughout writing. L.M.B. and E.N. provided expert guidance on indicator concepts. D.A.D. lead writing, analysis and synthesis, with contributions from B.A.B., T.M.N., E.G.R. and T.S.D. T.S.D. helped with Fig. 1 and provided additional feedback, writing and proofing.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Don A. Driscoll.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary methods, Supplementary Tables 1–4, Supplementary references.