Modelling and monitoring

What is biodiversity monitoring?

Biodiversity monitoring usually refers to quantifying the biological diversity in a region and at a specific time. By doing this repeatedly, we can estimate how biodiversity is changing. Trends in biodiversity can be calculated with composite indices formed by combining trends in abundance or occupancy of individual species. The data might come from a single, multispecies survey, such as the UK’s Breeding Bird Survey, or from a number of surveys, which may be either single species or multispecies.

Although there are many classical measures of biodiversity, temporal trends in biodiversity are usually quantified by taking the geometric mean of species-specific relative abundance indices. These indices are calculated relative to a baseline year.

The time series of data are often generated by citizen science projects, as these provide greater spatial coverage for a wider range of species than is possible in dedicated surveys conducted by professionals. Government agencies, NGOs and international commissions use these indices to inform decisions on management of populations and their habitats, and to inform discussion on the impact of climate change.

What species are these methods used for?

The methods are usually applied to a group of species within a guild, community or taxon, to quantify how diversity within that group varies over time. Within a defined region, the groups may for example be breeding birds, mammals, butterflies, beetles, or any other aggregation of species for which agencies wish to assess the health of the group.

Who in CREEM works on these methods?

A few relevant publications by CREEM staff

Buckland, S.T. and Johnston, A. 2017. Monitoring the biodiversity of regions: key principles and possible pitfalls. Biological Conservation 214, 23-34.

Buckland, S.T., Magurran, A.E., Green, R.E. and Fewster, R.M. 2005. Monitoring change in biodiversity through composite indices. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 360, 243-254.

Buckland, S.T., Studeny, A.C., Magurran, A.E., Illian, J.B. and Newson, S.E. 2011. The geometric mean of relative abundance indices: a biodiversity measure with a difference. Ecosphere 2(9), Article 100.

Buckland, S.T., Yuan, Y. and Marcon, E. 2017. Measuring temporal trends in biodiversity. Advances in Statistical Analysis 101, 461-474.

Harrison, P.J., Buckland, S.T., Yuan, Y., Elston, D.A., Brewer, M.J., Johnston, A. and Pearce-Higgins, J.W. 2014. Assessing trends in biodiversity over space and time using the example of British breeding birds. J. App. Ecol. 51, 1650-1660.

Harrison, P.J., Yuan, Y., Buckland, S.T., Oedekoven, C.S., Elston, D.A., Brewer, M.J., Johnston, A. and Pearce-Higgins, J.W. 2016. Quantifying turnover in biodiversity of British breeding birds. J. App. Ecol. 53, 469-478.

Studeny, A.C., Buckland, S.T., Harrison, P.J., Illian, J.B., Magurran, A.E. and Newson, S.E. 2013. Fine-tuning the assessment of large-scale temporal trends in biodiversity using the example of British breeding birds. J. App. Ecol. 50, 190-198.

Yuan, Y., Buckland, S.T., Harrison, P.J., Foss, S. and Johnston, A. 2016. Using species proportions to quantify turnover in biodiversity. Journal of Agricultural, Biological and Environmental Statistics 21, 363-381.