Information Gaps in Our Understanding of Threats to Global Biodiversity

Only 5% of global threat data sets meet a “gold standard”

In the age of information, where massive and widespread collections of data are being digitized and shared, one would expect that there would be extensive information on the threats to global biodiversity. Having such information would lead to better understating on how to reduce biodiversity loss and achieve environmental goals. However, a Policy Forum piece recently published in Science found that threat data is not readily available, making it difficult to fully understand the threats to biodiversity and difficult to identify the steps necessary to alleviate those threats.

"I went in to this project expecting to find dozens if not hundreds of examples of amazing data that could be easily used to understand threats to global biodiversity - the drumbeat of news stories about 'big data' and the information revolution would have you think we are awash in data. It turns out the reality is the opposite."

      - Ben Halpern, NCEAS Deputy Director

The study finds that the frequency of threats to marine and terrestrial species found on the IUCN Red List are not proportional to the data available on those threats. While data needed for effective conservation exist in some cases, those data are often not available to those advising on conservation policy.

Joppa et al. suggest that in order to fill these data gaps, a 'gold standard' dataset needs to be compiled for each major class of biodiversity threat. Additionally, new innovative partnerships with data providers need to be developed in order to ensure relevant data sources are openly available to be used in conservation planning efforts.

Filling the Biodiversity Threat Gaps
L. Joppa, B. O'Connor, P. Visconti, C. Smith, J. Geldmann, M. Hoffmann, J. Watson, S. Butchart, M. Virah-Sawmy, B. Halpern, S. Ahmed, A. Balmford, W. Sutherland, M. Harfoot, C. Hilton-Taylor, W. Foden, E. Di Minin, S. Pagad, P. Genovesi, J. Hutton, N. Burgess
Science, 22 April 2016, Vol. 352, Issue 6284, pp. 416-418.  DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf3565

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Posted on April 22, 2016