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Essential Biodiversity Variables

What are Essential Biodiversity Variables?

Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) are measurements required for study, reporting, and management of biodiversity change.

EBVs facilitate the harmonization of existing monitoring schemes and guide the implementation of new monitoring schemes, especially in gap areas where information on biodiversity change is still very sparse. Examples of essential variables are the allelic diversity of selected wild and domestic species, the population abundances for groups of species representative of some taxa (eg. birds), the three-dimensional structure of the habitats, and the nutrient retention rate in sensitive ecosystems. These variables can be modeled globally, combining satellite remote sensing observations with local observations obtained by citizens scientists, and local, national and regional organizations. EBVs are crucial for robust calculation of the indicators to assess progress towards the 2020 targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity. They can also be used to develop scenarios for the future of biodiversity under different development policies.

  • EBVs are sensitive to change over time
  • EBVs are focussed on 'state' variables
  • EBVs should be of relevance to the broader biodiversity community (incl. scientists/researchers, governments, decision/policy makers, assessment bodies, conservation professionals and conventions)
  • EBVs should be feasable in terms of monitoring (e.g. if the technology for monitoring it is unlikely to be available in the near future, the EBV isn't feasable)


EBV Workshop, February 2012

A workshop on EBVs was held from 27 to 29 February 2012 in Frascati, Italy. The workshop explored the concept of EBVs, developed a conceptual framework for EBVs, defined an initial list of EBVs, their inter-relationships, and the inputs they depend upon, as well as draft components of a peer-reviewed EBV paper.

All workshop documents can be found here.


Paper on EBVs (Science 339, 18 January 2013)

"Reducing the rate of biodiversity loss and averting dangerous biodiversity change are international goals, reasserted by the Aichi Targets for 2020 by Parties to the United Nations (UN) Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). However, there is no global, harmonized observation system for delivering regular, timely data on biodiversity change. With the first plenary meeting of the Intergovernmental Science- Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) soon under way, partners from the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) are developing—and seeking consensus around—Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) that could form the basis of monitoring programs worldwide." [...]

Read full paper and supplementary materials on EBVs here.



If you’ve looked at the EBV materials and would like to get involved in EBV development, please register to get on the mailing list for future updates (this will be a low volume mailing list).

To participate, please download and fill out the EBV registration form and send it to Jörg Freyhof (joerg.freyhof_AT_idiv.de).



For additional information, please contact Jörg Freyhof (joerg.freyhof_AT_idiv.de).

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