The Living Planet Index: using species population time series to track trends in biodiversity

Author: Loh, J., Green, R. E., Ricketts, T., Lamoreux, J., Jenkins, M., Kapos, V., Randers, J.
Date Published: January 2005

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B 360 (1454)

The Living Planet Index was developed to measure the changing state of the world's biodiversity over time. It uses time series data to calculate average rates of change in a large number of populations of terrestrial, freshwater and marine vertebrate species. The dataset contains about 3,000 population time series for over 1,100 species. Two methods of calculating the index are outlined: the chain method and a method based on linear modelling of log-transformed data.
The dataset is analysed to compare the relative representation of biogeographic realms, ecoregional biomes, threat status and taxonomic groups among species contributing to the index. The two methods show very similar results: terrestrial species declined on average by 25 from 1970 to 2000. Birds and mammals are over-represented in comparison with other vertebrate classes, and temperate species are over-represented compared with tropical species, but there is little difference in representation between threatened and non-threatened species.
Some of the problems arising from over-representation are reduced by the way the index is calculated. It could be possible to reduce this further by post-stratification and weighting, but new information would first need to be collected for data-poor classes, realms and biomes.