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Nature Index: a new way to measure the state of biodiversity

News of a new approach - developed in Norway - for measuring the state of biodiversity

Scientists in Norway have been working for several years developing a new method for measuring the state of biodiversity; the Nature Index. The method builds on the Natural Capital Index and the Biodiversity Intactness Index. New features are:

  • Indicators (species or surrogates) are selected according to a set of representation criteria to avoid over-representation of certain groups of species;
  • A weighting system is introduced to minimize skewness in indicator sets. Also keystone species and elements has been given extra weight due to their importance in the ecosystem;
  • The Nature Index includes terrestrial, liminic and marine ecosystems;
  • An uncertainty level is included for each indicator and in the final index;
  • Both expert judgments and data series can be included in the same index, thus the method might be used in both data rich and data poor areas;
  • Long-time data series are often collected within areas at a 'bad' state. When having the opportunity to use expert judgments, the experts (data owners) have to decide if they shall use the data directly in the index, or only use them as background information for expert judgments to give area-representative data. The opportunity to use expert judgments also makes it possible to include information previously not used in indexes (e.g. threatened species);
  • Results may be presented as both maps and graphs, where resolution is dependent on data quality;
  • The political objectives are separated from the reference state. The political objective may be set at an acceptable deviation from the reference state, as is done in the Water Frame Directive (see page 19 in report).

A short report on the results is available (see below), and see also the link to the paper published in PLOS http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0018930. This includes a demo computer program (‘R’). The demo database is in Norwegian, but can be viewed at: http://naturindeks.nina.no/. The database is to be improved. Please feel free to contact Signe Nybø at the Norwegian institute for nature research (signe.nybo@nina.no) if you have any questions.

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