Can a single index track the state of global biodiversity?

Elsevier, Biological Conservation, Volume 246, June 2020, 108524
Arnout Jaspers

Nature is threatened on many fronts, and it hardly needs to be argued that action is needed. There is no lack of public understanding of this. News of the increasing rate at which the Amazon forest is being burned down sends shockwaves through the media and leads to mass protests in the streets. Yet, both the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) seem to feel the need to quantify the multiple threats to ecosystems all over the world in a kind of ‘Dow Jones index of Nature’: a single number for the state of Nature. IPBES does this by counting threatened species, WWF by publishing the Living Planet Index. These global indicators of biodiversity are scientifically highly questionable, generate simplistic and often misleading headlines in the media, and get in the way of proper science reporting.