Tracking global change in ecosystem area: The Wetland Extent Trends index

M. J. R. Dixon, J. Loh, N. C. Davidson, C. Beltrame, R. Freeman, M. Walpole

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    188 Citations (Scopus)


    We present a method for estimating broad trends in ecosystem area based on incomplete and heterogeneous data, developing a proof-of-concept for the first indicator of change in area of natural wetland, the Wetland Extent Trends (WET) index. We use a variation of the Living Planet Index method, which is used for measuring global trends in wild vertebrate species abundance. The analysis is based on a database containing 1100 wetland extent time-series records and the method identifies and addresses ecological and biogeographic biases in the dataset. Globally, the natural WET index, excluding human-made wetlands, declined by about 30% on average between 1970 and 2008. Declines varied between regions from about 50% in Europe to about 17% in Oceania over the same period. The WET index fills an important gap in the ecosystem coverage of global biodiversity indicators and can track changes related to a number of current international policy objectives. The same method could be applied to other datasets to create indicators for other ecosystems with incomplete global data.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)27-35
    Number of pages9
    JournalBiological Conservation
    Early online dateNov 2015
    Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2016


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