Linking indices for biodiversity monitoring to extinction risk theory

Michael A McCarthy, Alana L Moore, Jochen Krauss, John W Morgan, Christopher F Clements

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Biodiversity indices often combine data from different species when used in monitoring programs. Heuristic properties can suggest preferred indices, but we lack objective ways to discriminate between indices with similar heuristics. Biodiversity indices can be evaluated by determining how well they reflect management objectives that a monitoring program aims to support. For example, the Convention on Biological Diversity requires reporting about extinction rates, so simple indices that reflect extinction risk would be valuable. We developed 3 biodiversity indices that are based on simple models of population viability that relate extinction risk to abundance. We based the first index on the geometric mean abundance of species and the second on a more general power mean. In a third index, we integrated the geometric mean abundance and trend. These indices require the same data as previous indices, but they also relate directly to extinction risk. Field data for butterflies and woodland plants and experimental studies of protozoan communities show that the indices correlate with local extinction rates. Applying the index based on the geometric mean to global data on changes in avian abundance suggested that the average extinction probability of birds has increased approximately 1% from 1970 to 2009.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1575-83
Number of pages9
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Butterflies/physiology
  • Ciliophora/physiology
  • Conservation of Natural Resources/methods
  • Extinction, Biological
  • Magnoliopsida/physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Population Density


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