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Bird indicators make a major contribution to measuring the 2010 target

© M. K. Poulsen/BirdLife

In 2003, a set of indicators was adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to measure progress in reducing the rate of loss of biodiversity. Monitoring of bird species and Important Bird Areas contributes substantially to many of these indicators. Indicators for ‘Trends in abundance and distribution of selected species’ and ‘Change in status of threatened species’ are already available for birds. Important Bird Area indicators can help in tracking the ‘Trends in extent (and quality) of selected biomes, ecosystems and habitats’, as well as ‘Coverage (and management effectiveness) of protected areas’. In 2007, the Red List Index, which was initially designed and tested by BirdLife, was selected to be the basis of a new Millennium Development Goal (MDG) indicator, known as the ‘Proportion of species threatened with extinction’. Through such processes, birds will continue to play a vital role in monitoring progress towards conserving biodiversity in the years to come.


How can we measure progress towards the 2010 target to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss? After much discussion on this topic during 2003, the 9th meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technicaland Technological Advice (SBSTTA) to the Convention on Biological Diversity recommended that the following indicators should be tested immediately:

  • Trends in extent of selected biomes, ecosystems and habitats1.
  • Trends in abundance and distribution of selected species2.
  • Change in status of threatened species3.
  • Trends in genetic diversity of domesticated animals, cultivated plants and fish species of major socio-economic importance4.
  • Coverage of protected areas5.

and that indicators for the following should be developed:

  • Threats to biodiversity6.
  • Ecosystem goods and services7.
  • Equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources8.

All these indicators need to be scaleable from local to national, regional and global levels.

Conservation NGOs are already collecting large amounts of data that could be used to construct this small set of high-level global biodiversity indicators. Five of these eight proposed indicators (nos. 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7) have already been suggested by a grouping of around a dozen NGOs (including BirdLife International) as a coherent set that can build on existing efforts with minimal extra cost (Kennedy 2003).

More work is needed to make these ideas a reality. However, monitoring of bird species and Important Bird Areas (IBAs) can potentially contribute substantially to many of these indicators. Indicators for ‘Trends in abundance of selected bird species’ and ‘Change in status of threatened species’ (the Red List Index) are already available for birds. Monitoring of IBAs will help in tracking ‘Trends in the extent (and quality) of selected biomes, ecosystems and habitats’, as well as the ‘Coverage and status of protected areas’, ‘Threats to biodiversity’, and (potentially) ‘Ecosystem goods and services’. In 2007, the Red List Index, which was initially designed and tested by BirdLife, was selected to be the basis of a new Millennium Development Goal (MDG) indicator, known as the ‘Proportion of species threatened with extinction’.

Individually each of these datasets has its strengths and weaknesses; but taken as a suite, the bird indicators we already have, or soon will have, can make a major contribution to measuring progress.



Compiled 2004, updated 2008

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2004) Bird indicators make a major contribution to measuring the 2010 target. Presented as part of the BirdLife State of the world's birds website. Available from: http://birdlife.org/datazone/sowb/casestudy/271. Checked: 01/09/2014