Setting temporal baselines for biodiversity: the limits of available monitoring data for capturing the full impact of anthropogenic pressuresReport as inadecuate

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1 Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ GERMANY 2 CESCO - Centre d-Ecologie et des Sciences de la COnservation 3 CTFC - Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia 4 Centre de Recerca Ecològica i Aplicacions Forestals CREAF 5 CSIC - Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Spain 6 The Natural History Museum London 7 ECOLAB - Laboratoire Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Environnement - ECOLAB

Abstract : Temporal baselines are needed for biodiversity, in order for the change in biodiversity to be measured over time, the targets for biodiversity conservation to be defined and conservation progress to be evaluated. Limited biodiversity information is widely recognized as a major barrier for identifying temporal baselines, although a comprehensive quantitative assessment of this is lacking. Here, we report on the temporal baselines that could be drawn from biodiversity monitoring schemes in Europe and compare those with the rise of important anthropogenic pressures. Most biodiversity monitoring schemes were initiated late in the 20 th century, well after anthropogenic pressures had already reached half of their current magnitude. Setting temporal baselines from biodiversity monitoring data would therefore underestimate the full range of impacts of major anthropogenic pressures. In addition, biases among taxa and organization levels provide a truncated picture of biodiversity over time. These limitations need to be explicitly acknowledged when designing management strategies and policies as they seriously constrain our ability to identify relevant conservation targets aimed at restoring or reversing biodiversity losses. We discuss the need for additional research efforts beyond standard biodiversity monitoring to reconstruct the impacts of major anthropogenic pressures and to identify meaningful temporal baselines for biodiversity. A comprehensive understanding of biodiversity responses to anthropogenic pressures is necessary if human development is to remain within planetary boundaries 1 , and for assessing its impact on biological evolution in the Anthropocene 2. Temporal baselines are essential for reliably measuring changes in biodiversity over time 3 , for instance by mitigating the consequences of the shifting reference syndrome 4–6. Further, temporal baselines also frame conservation objectives by identifying the biodiversity reference states aimed for guiding the feasibility of and efforts required to reach those objectives 7 , and by defining the time-period within which progress and change are to be evaluated 8. In this respect, the lack of knowledge about biodiversity states prior to the rise of harmful anthropogenic activities is a critical limitation for understanding the full impact of such pressures and, therefore, for implementing appropriate conservation goals and strategies. Failing to set relevant temporal baselines for biodiversity.

Author: Jean-Baptiste Mihoub - Klaus Henle - Nicolas Titeux - Lluís Brotons - Neil Brummitt - Dirk Schmeller -



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