(Arlington, VA, March 11, 2019) A study coauthored by NatureServe’s Miguel Fernandez has established a new framework for monitoring changes in species’ populations and distribution and thereby assisting efforts to conserve the world’s biodiversity. The study was published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution after a multi-year collaboration under the auspices of the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON).
To confront our biodiversity crisis, the world needs accurate measures of how species’ populations are doing and how their distributions are changing. This information tells us where conservation interventions are needed and whether these actions are having the desired effect to restore ecosystems.
Since its inception, the NatureServe network has collected, compiled, and visualized information on the status of biodiversity to guide countless conservation decisions.
A practical challenge, though, is that we can only monitor some species in a limited number of sites. The new framework shows how computer models can integrate data from field surveys, citizen science projects, and other sources to create indicators to predict trends in the abundance and distribution of biodiversity across landscapes.
As Dr. Fernandez, NatureServe’s Director of Latin American and Caribbean Programs, explains, "We simply cannot afford to wait for changes to be so drastic that species distributions are affected. We must look for more subtle measures to evaluate change earlier, and one measure designed to give early signals that help us anticipate abrupt change is the abundance of populations.”
In the article, Dr. Fernandez and colleagues synthesize the different types of information and approaches that can help us evaluate changes in the distribution and abundance of populations.
"Changes in the distribution and abundance of species," he says, "affect all aspects of biodiversity, including the loss of significant traits and functions required for a healthy ecosystem.” He adds, “This effort is not only aimed at promoting standards and recommendations for the rigorous collection of essential information on the distribution and abundance of species populations, but also at promoting a unified vision that harmonizes and integrates disparate information on biodiversity and thus supports better and more informed management and conservation policies.”
NatureServe data and scientific expertise have always been indispensable for monitoring the status of biodiversity but will be even more fundamental as this framework is put into practice in the years ahead.
The study was developed with support from GEO BON and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, iDiv. Additional funding was provided by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.