The 2010 biodiversity target CAN be [could have been] achieved

The European Platform for Biodiversity Research Strategy (EPBRS) and the BIOSTRAT project have run an e-conference on “Targets for biodiversity beyond 2010: research supporting policy”. 

I addressed the question, “What research do we need to set and monitor biodiversity targets for 2020?”

I argued:
We do not need to abandon the 2010 target of reduced rate of biodiversity loss – we need to abandon our weak approach to it. An approach that is linked to the idea of achieving new balances/synergies, with both wholesale biodiversity and other needs of society on the table - means that we can have a realistic, achievable, target for a reduced rate of biodiversity loss.

Figure: 2010 regional tradeoffs

Figure: 2010 regional tradeoffs
Photographer:  © DP Faith

Here is an excerpt from my contributions to the e-conference -

The interest in targets “beyond 2010” seems to be based on a perceived inability to achieve the 2010 biodiversity target (“a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss”). However, I think we need to re-consider our typical perspectives on the 2010 target.

I propose that:
1) A goal to achieve a reduced rate of biodiversity loss is achievable,
2) A biodiversity target/goal that truly is about “biodiversity” (=living variation), will incorporate consideration of overall biodiversity, including the vast amount of biodiversity that is still unknown to science, and
3) At the same time, a successful approach to a biodiversity target must stop focussing just on “biodiversity” and explicitly include other needs of society.

We need indicators for beyond-2010 targets that do not simply look at biodiversity on its own, but consider how efficiently we can balance biodiversity conservation with other needs of society. Because achieving a balance achieves biodiversity conservation with lower opportunity cost (in terms of other needs of society) it can mean a reduced rate of biodiversity loss. We refer to such efficient, balanced, planning and conservation strategies under the broad umbrella of “systematic conservation planning” (SCP). Simply put, land-use planning and other decision making that more efficiently balances conservation with other needs of society implies reduced biodiversity losses, compared to business-as-usual (see example figure at and references below). Thus, future achievable targets can justifiably continue to focus on a significant reduction in the rate of loss of biodiversity.

This approach suggests at least three research areas:
• The SCP approach depends on good measures of overall (wholesale) biodiversity. Research might focus on how existing biotic data can be integrated, in “surrogates” strategies, with environmental data to extend the predictive power of biodiversity models (e.g. based on new community-level approaches). Research is needed to ensure that models of overall biodiversity are robust enough to be used in indicators. Similar models can incorporate genetic diversity, perhaps by extending the innovative approaches used at the regional and global scales by microbial workers (see references).
• These biodiversity models must be integrated with socio-economic, threats, and land/water use data for SCP. Research is needed to determine the particular planning and conservation instruments that are most useful for achieving efficiencies in different contexts. This research will be relevant to the development of policies relating, for example, to payments to private land-owners, eco-forestry, collaborative benefits from carbon offsets. etc.
• Research is needed to determine how to monitor, at the regional and global scales, not only biodiversity losses, but also achievements in implementing SCP type approaches. Indicators can either trace estimated changes in rate of biodiversity loss, or may simply record and in some way credit new implementations of SCP. Research opportunities to implement monitoring linked to 2020 targets exist through links to GEO BON (see references). For example, we need to develop approaches that can use remote sensing to supply time series on change in condition of land, and then interpret this information through the biodiversity “lens” provided by robust global biodiversity models.

Conclusion -

My suggestions for the development of targets and indicators for 2020 is based on the idea that the 2010 target was OK, but our approach to addressing it was not. A 2020 biodiversity target could remain much the same as the original. But it requires research to develop acceptable, robust, models for overall biodiversity, research to develop indicators of success for the policies implementing efficiency, and research on how to carry out ongoing monitoring. Such new research is needed, so that we can avoid “dusting-off” old indicators, and avoid falling back into focussing only on well-known, easily measured, supposedly-most-important components of biodiversity.


Faith, DP & Ferrier S (2005) Good news and bad news for the 2010 biodiversity target. Science Online, 6 Mar 2005.

Faith, DP (2006) 2010 indicators for overall biodiversity. In: Actions for the 2010 biodiversity target in Europe – how does research contribute to halting biodiversity loss? Report of an e-conference. (eds. Young, J., Ahlbeg, M., Niemelä, N., Parr, T., Pauleit, S. and Watt, A.D.), pp. 94-95. Available at:

Faith, DP, Williams, KJ (2006) Research needs and challenges for the “systematic conservation planning” approach to the 2010 biodiversity target. In: Actions for the 2010 biodiversity target in Europe – how does research contribute to halting biodiversity loss? Report of an e-conference. (eds. Young, J., Ahlbeg, M., Niemelä, N., Parr, T., Pauleit, S. and Watt, A.D.), pp. 27-29. Available at:

Faith, D. P. (2007) "Biodiversity", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

Faith DP (2008) GEO BON and the 2010 biodiversity target. pp.28- 29. In Grant, F., Török, K., Kull, T. and Watt, A.D. (Eds.). European contribution to GEO BON. Report of the BioStrat e-conference, September 2008.

Faith DP, C.A. Lozupone, D.Nipperess and R.Knight (in review) The cladistic basis for the PD (phylogenetic diversity) measure links evolutionary features to environmental gradients and supports broad applications of microbial ecology’s “phylogenetic beta diversity” framework. International Journal of Molecular Sciences

Dr Dan Faith , Senior Principal Research Scientist email:danfaith8[at]
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