'Red List Index' will help measure rate of species loss
In 2002, the 188 countries party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) pledged to significantly slow biodiversity loss by 2010. Reaching the target will not be the only challenge because assessing progress towards the goal will be difficult too.
In this article in Nature, Thomas Brooks and Elizabeth Kennedy of Conservation International comment on the 'Red List Index' described by Butchart and colleagues in the current issue of PloS Biology. The index — based on the World Conservation Union's 'Red List' of endangered species — assesses changes in extinction risk between 1988 and 2004 for all bird species. It shows that extinction risk has risen greatly during that period — particularly for Asian forest species and seabirds affected by long-line fishing.
The new index should be added to the eight indicators approved in February 2004 for assessing progress towards the CBD's 2010 target, say Brooks and Kennedy. Although the index currently focuses on birds, indices for mammals and amphibians are already underway. Other groups, such as reptiles, fish and plants, are also being assessed. But these and other conservation activities need significant funding and support to meet the 2010 goals, say the authors.
References: Nature 431, 1046 (2004) / PLoS Biology 2: e383