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Measuring species traits for biodiversity policy goals

An international team including Peter van Bodegom shows how trait variability can be incorporated in Essential Biodiversity Variables to allow monitoring how organisms respond to global change. They published their results in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Management of global biodiversity requires up-to-date, reliable and comparable biodiversity data. The concept of Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBV) has previously been introduced to allow monitoring the global state of biodiversity. EBVs have been proposed to derive coordinated measurements that are critical for detecting and reporting biodiversity change. Similar to climate variables, EBVs are constructed from various sources of data and in that way, they are the underlying variables to assess biodiversity change through time. EBVs can be used to measure the achievement of policy targets and as such EBVs play an important role in biodiversity related policy decisions. The insights from this paper are crucial for international policy goals on biodiversity such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets set by the Convention for Biological Diversity.

Species traits

In this paper, a group of 21 scientific experts determine the requirements for developing the EBV class ‘Species Traits’ which can cover for example measurements of phenology, morphology, reproduction, physiology or migratory behaviour. W. Daniel Kissling (UvA), lead author of the paper says: ‘Currently there is no detailed framework for the empirical derivation of most EBVs. In our paper, we provide a conceptual framework with practical guidelines for building global, integrated and reusable EBV data products of species traits. This facilitates the monitoring of intra-specific trait changes in response to global change and human pressures, with the aim to use species trait information in national and international policy assessments.’

Biodiversity policy

The international research team assessed the societal relevance of species traits and highlighted their underrepresentation in current biodiversity change indicators that are used to assess policy targets. Professor of Environmental biology Peter van Bodegom says: ‘To facilitate a more comprehensive inclusion in national and international policy assessments, we analysed the extent to which each species trait EBV is related to each of the Aichi targets and Sustainable Development Goals.’ Kissling adds: ‘I was surprised that there is such a lack of species trait information in current policy assessments of biodiversity change. We outline the steps needed for data-intensive science and effective global coordination to advance the inclusion of species trait information into indicators of biodiversity change, and how collected trait data can be shared in an open and machine-readable way.’

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