Development ‘for signiﬁcant reduction in the cur-rent rate of loss of biological diversity’. It is by nowgenerally accepted that the 2010 target will not bemet, and of course there are many reasons for this,one of which is the ongoing debate about how bestto measure biological diversity.The measurement of biological diversity has res-onances with the parable of the blind men andthe elephant where one felt the trunk, one an ear,one a tusk and another a leg, only to ﬁnd thatthey disagreed about the nature of the creature theyhad encountered. Quantifying biological diversityis in some ways like trying to measure an elephant(Nanney 2004). An elephant might be described interms of its morphology or behaviour or neural cir-cuitry, or DNA. Gene expression might be trackedthrough time or compared amongst individuals.The social interactions in different herds might also be explored. All of these approaches are valid, butclearly different. The investigator needs to spec-ify which aspect of the elephant is being assessed,and then make the case that the types of measuresadopted are employed correctly and are suitablefor the purpose for which they are bring used.In the same way that there is no single methodthat entirely captures the essence of elephantness,so there is no one metric that perfectly quantiﬁes biological diversity. A large, and growing, num- ber of diversity measures have been developed(Southwood&Henderson2000;RoyalSociety2003;Magurran 2004). Southwood (1978) (p. 421) wrylynoted the ‘explosive speciation’ of diversity indicesand the habit of inventors of new measures to con-demn their predecessors. Biodiversity assessmentembraces not just the classical measures of richness,evenness, and species abundance distributions butalso evaluations of occurrence, range size, and vul-nerability as well as functional traits and phyloge-netic diversity. It is clear that there can be no single‘best buy’ index that will suit all needs. Instead,clusters of measures have been developed to cap-ture a certain aspect of biodiversity, with someof these performing this task better than others.Although it may seem like a disadvantage to haveto choose amongst a range of metrics, the ability toexamine biological diversity in different ways notonly helps ecologists gain a deeper understandingof how ecosystems function, but also sheds light onissues of practical concern such as the link betweendiversity and ecosystem services.The quantiﬁcation of biological diversity proba- bly began with Darwin, who in 1855 recorded allthe plants in the meadow, Great Pucklands, nextto his family home at Downe. His list ran to 142species. It was over 50 years before the ﬁrst accountof the relative abundance of species was pub-lished by Raunkaier in 1909. Other early, yet piv-otal, papers by Motomura (1932) and Fisher (Fisheret al. 1943) laid the foundations for the investiga-tion of species abundance distributions. Additionalinsightful and signiﬁcant contributions (includingthose by Preston (1948), MacArthur (1960), May(1975), Pielou (1975), Taylor et al. (1976), and Sug-ihara (1980) followed. These provide the frame-work within which biodiversity is measured, andstill repay careful reading. Two developments thatoccurred towards the end of the twentieth century,however, shifted the measurement and assessmentof biological diversity to a new gear. The ﬁrst ofthesewastherecognitionthatbiologicaldiversityisa crucial global resource as well as one that is beinglost at an accelerating rate, the second the advancesin computing power that have fostered substan-tial improvements in statistical and modellingtechniques.
1.3 What is in this book
Although vastly improved analytical and comput-ing resources are of tremendous beneﬁt to ecolo-gists, the rapid development of new methods, theinconsistent and sometimes confusing applicationof old ones, and the lack of agreement in the liter-ature about the best approach means that users can be bewildered. This book provides an up-to-dateaccount of the methods used to measure and assess biological diversity and places particular empha-sis on the practical issues involved in measure-ment. It extends the discussion in Magurran (2004)and includes many new developments as well as are-examination of familiar approaches. Our focus ismeasurement of the variety, abundance, and geo-graphical occurrence of taxa, reﬂecting the sensein which Darwin used the term ‘diversity’. Theauthors have wide experience of the measurementof biological diversity and have contributed to