Looking back on biodiversity change: lessons for the road ahead

Maria Dornelas *, Jonathan M. Chase, Nicholas J. Gotelli, Anne Magurran, Brian J. McGill, Laura H. Antão, Shane A. Blowes, Gergana N. Daskalova, Brian Leung, Inês S. Martins, Faye Helen Moyes, Isla H. Myers-Smith, Chris D. Thomas, Mark Vellend

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Estimating biodiversity change across the planet in the context of widespread human modification is a critical challenge. Here, we review how biodiversity has changed in recent decades across scales and taxonomic groups, focusing on four diversity metrics: species richness, temporal turnover, spatial beta-diversity and abundance. At local scales, change across all metrics includes many examples of both increases and declines and tends to be centred around zero, but with higher prevalence of declining trends in beta-diversity (increasing similarity in composition across space or biotic homogenisation) and abundance. The exception to this pattern is temporal turnover, with changes in species composition through time observed in most local assemblages. Less is known about change at regional scales, although several studies suggest that increases in richness are more prevalent than declines. Change at the global scale is the hardest to estimate accurately, but most studies suggest extinction rates are likely outpacing speciation rates, although both are elevated. Recognising this variability is essential to accurately portray how biodiversity change is unfolding, and highlights how much remains unknown about the magnitude and direction of multiple biodiversity metrics at different scales. Reducing these blind spots is essential to allow appropriate management actions to be deployed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20220199
Number of pages15
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1881
Early online date29 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2023


  • Diversity
  • Wildlife
  • Ecosystem
  • Species
  • Global change
  • Loss


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