The University of Queensland, 4068

How is the index created?

We have used the Living Planet Index approach. The Living Planet Index was designed by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London. The index tracks changes in global vertebrate biodiversity through time and is used to report against international targets such as those of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Living Planet Index compiles data from published scientific literature and accessible reports and web pages to track the population abundance of thousands of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians around the world.

This research is the first endeavour to bring together all of the monitoring data on threatened species in Australia. This data often only exist in a raw form on people’s computers, in reports of recovery teams or in State and Territory repositories. We have signed agreements for data sharing of datasets which were never available to the public before. Data were received from over 130 individuals from about 70 organisations. The present Threatened Species Index is based on 57 Australian threatened and Near Threatened bird species and subspecies. An automated scientific workflow was created to streamline all data processing steps and calculations once data are uploaded to the database. This has been essential as large volumes of data are involved. So far, the index combines data from 350,000 individual surveys on threatened and Near Threatened birds from over 10,000 locations in across Australia.

The overall multi-species index was calculated as a geometric mean over many single-species trends combining them into a composite index. Each index produced can be drilled down to produce reports tailored to the particular needs of the user based on region (e.g. Queensland), species group (e.g. shorebirds), or a combination thereof (Queensland shorebirds). Each index comes with diagnostic tool which allow for an assessment of how representative the trend is based on the species/subspecies included and the spatial representativeness of the data. The cloud around each index shows the range of trends for the individual species that make up the overall multi-species index. It can be seen as the variability between single-species trends that build the composite.