Scale and trends in species richness: considerations for monitoring biological diversity for political purposes


Correspondence: Darius Weber, Hintermann & Weber AG, Ecological Consultancy, Planning & Research, Hauptstrasse 52, CH-4153 Reinach BL, Switzerland. E-mail:


Switzerland's governmental ‘Biodiversity Monitoring’ program is designed to produce factual information on the dynamics of biodiversity within the country for governmental agencies, politicians, and the general public. Monitoring a complex issue like biodiversity in order to give relevant and accurate messages to the general public and politicians within a politically relevant timescale and at moderate cost means focusing on few elements. Because relevant human impacts on biodiversity operate differently at different spatial scales, we need at least three different indicators to observe changes over time in local (‘within-habitat’), landscape (‘habitat-mosaic’), and macro-scale (‘regional’) diversity. To keep things as simple as possible, we use species richness as an indicator for all three levels of diversity, just defining three different spatial scales (10 m2, 1 km2, regions, respectively). Each indicator is based on a number of taxonomic groups which have been selected mainly on the basis of costs and the availability of appropriate methods.