Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Assessment


Aggregating biodiversity indicators for policy purposes: sense or nonsense?

For years there was a debate among scientists and between scientists and policymakers/politicians on the usefulness of aggregating biodiversity parameters and indicators into indices. Scientists were concerned with detail, reliability, replicability, accuracy, etc. (in indicator criteria mostly summarized as ‘sound science’), whereas high-level politicians were interested in the broader picture, the key message, preferably a value of biodiversity condensed into one figure on a scale from 0 to 10. This project proposed to investigate this dilemma by reviewing existing indices, their value for reporting on progress in achieving the 2010 target (CBD, EU and pan-Europe) and their robustness from the perspective of science. In addition, ways of how best to communicate these indices were explored.

This was a subproject of the ALTER-Net project.

Project objectives and activities

  1. Increase knowledge on development of policy-oriented composite indices;
  2. Enhance understanding between scientists and policymakers on pros and cons of composite indices;
  3. Explore ways to communicate index-based information to policymakers.

Time frame

December 2005 - September 2006


  • ECNC-European Centre for Nature Conservation (Coordination)
  • UNIBUC ECO-University of Bucharest, Department of Systems Ecology, Romania
  • Alterra, the Netherlands
  • ILE SAS-Institute of Landscape Ecology of Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovak Republic
  • CONECOFOR-Corpo Forestale dello Stato, Italy
  • FERC/Unigoe-Forest Ecosystems Research Centre, University of Göttingen, Germany
  • PRI-Plant Research International, the Netherlands (ECNC partner)
  • MNP-Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, the Netherlands


This project was funded by the ALTER-Net project with a contribution from all the participant organizations.


The main outputs of this project were:

  • Joint literature review paper;
  • Contribution of LTER data to selected indices;
  • Workshop bringing together policymakers, producers and users of biodiversity indices;
  • Joint peer-reviewed publication with recommendations for improvement of indices and on ways of communication.