The need to monitor trends in biodiversity raises many technical issues. What are the features of a good biodiversity index? How should trends in abundance of individual species be estimated? How should composite indices, possibly spanning very diverse taxa, be formed? At what spatial scale should composite indices be applied? How might change-points—points at which the underlying trend changes—be identified? We address some of the technical issues underlying composite indices, including survey design, weighting of the constituent indices, identification of change-points and estimation of spatially varying time trends. We suggest some criteria that biodiversity measures for use in monitoring surveys should satisfy, and we discuss the problems of implementing rigorous methods. We illustrate the properties of different composite indices using UK farmland bird data. We conclude that no single index can capture all aspects of biodiversity change, but that a modified Shannon index and the geometric mean of relative abundance have useful properties.


  • One contribution of 19 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘Beyond extinction rates: monitoring wild nature for the 2010 target’.

  • Glossary

    British Butterfly Monitoring Scheme
    Common Birds Census
    North American Breeding Bird Survey
    UK BBS
    United Kingdom Breeding Bird Survey
    UK Wild Bird Index
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