The Living Planet Index (LPI) is a measure of biodiversity that is often misinterpreted. In my accompanying article on the Living Planet Index, I describe these misinterpretations in detail, and what it actually tells us about the state of global biodiversity.
In this short page I answer some commonly-asked questions about this measure of biodiversity.
The Living Planet Index (LPI) provides a measure of wildlife abundance. It measures the average decline in population size since 1970 across a wide range of species.1
The Living Planet Index does not measure:
- Number of species lost
- Number of populations or individuals that have been lost
- Number or percentage of species or populations that are declining
- Number of extinctions
The LPI only includes data from vertebrate populations. This includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Taxonomic groups including insects, corals, fungi, and plants are not included.
In its latest report, published in 2022, 31,821 populations across 5,230 species were included. It includes species and populations across all continents. This breakdown is given in the table.
|Region||Number of species included|
|Latin America & Caribbean||1,261|
|Europe and Central Asia||627|
Only vertebrate species are included in the LPI: this includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Taxonomic groups including insects, corals, fungi and plants are not included.
Only a small percentage of known species in these groups are included. The number of populations and species from each group is shown in the table. This also details the percentage of known species that are included.
|Taxonomic group||Number of populations included||Number of species included||Percentage of known species that are included|
|Amphibians and Reptiles||1,373||561||3%|
The underlying data for the LPI comes from a combination of published scientific articles, online databases and government reports. To be included, data points must contain a time series of vertebrate populations spanning any number of years from 1970 onwards.
The latest results from the LPI indicate an average decline in the studied wildlife populations of 69% between 1970 and 2018.
Note that this does not mean that we have lost 69% of wildlife over this period. For a clear example of why this is the wrong conclusion, and how the LPI is calculated, see our example here.
No, the results of the LPI show that around half of the studied species are increasing in abundance, while half are declining. The fact that there is such a large average decline suggests that the magnitude of the decline across many species is much larger than magnitude for increasing species.