Establishing indicators for biodiversity

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Authors: Jurgen Brauer, Brian Czech, David L. Trauger, Joshua Farley, Robert Costanza and Herman E. Daly
Date: May 6, 2005
From: Science(Vol. 308, Issue 5723)
Publisher: American Association for the Advancement of Science
Document Type: Letter to the editor
Length: 1,237 words

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IN THEIR POLICY FORUM "THE CONVENTION on Biological Diversity's 2010 target" (l 4 Jan., p. 212), A. Balmford et al. argue that "conservation scientists have a lot to learn ... from economists" in regard to the establishment of indicators that are "rigorous, repeatable, widely accepted, and easily understood." By way of example, they refer to gross domestic product (GDP) and write that the "global imperative to protect biodiversity and ecosystem services must become as politically significant as economic growth ..."

GDP may be a repeatable and widely accepted measure, but it is not rigorous and it is easily misunderstood. GDP measures a country's dollar market value of legal, final (nonintermediate) goods and services produced during the course of an accounting period, such as one year. That can be a problem. Consider two examples: First, people become ill on account of pollution and have to seek medical treatment; more medical services are produced and counted in GDP at their market value. GDP rises. Economies grow. But we are not better off for having been polluted in the first place. Second, the more wars we fight, the more funds governments expend in the arms market, but we cannot argue that states are better off for fighting wars. Conversely, if we become healthier and fight fewer wars, GDP falls and economies shrink.

Economics can make tremendously valuable contributions to biology, but GDP and economic growth measures are not among them.


College of Business Administration, Augusta State University, Augusta, GA 30904, USA, and Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, Economists for Peace and Security, Annandale on Hudson, NY 12405, USA. E-mail:

IN THEIR POLICY FORUM "THE CONVENTION on Biological Diversity's 2010 target" (14 Jan., p. 212), A. Balmford et al. describe the need for biodiversity indicators pursuant to the Convention on Biological Diversity. They identify gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of...

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Source Citation
Brauer, Jurgen, et al. "Establishing indicators for biodiversity." Science, vol. 308, no. 5723, 2005, p. 791+. Accessed 8 Mar. 2021.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A132678090