Mihoub J.-B., Henle K., Titeux N., Brotons L., Brummitt N.A. & Schmeller D.S. (2017) Setting temporal baselines for biodiversity: the limits of available monitoring data for capturing the full impact of anthropogenic pressures. Scientific Reports, 7, 41591. [PDF]
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 20th 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.