Living Planet Index

The Living Planet Index (LPI) for the Netherlands has risen marginally in the past decades. Populations of mammals, reptiles and dragonflies have grown on average, as well as those of most native amphibian species. Butterflies on the other hand have shown a decline as a group. Reintroduced species such as beavers and otters influence the trend positively, as do southern species that occur more and more northerly as a result of climate change. Aquatic species are benefiting from improving quality of fresh water.

The issue

The Living Planet Index reflects the average trend of native species of mammals, breeding birds, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, dragonflies and fresh and salt wate) fish. The rationale of the LPI is that the more species show negative or positive population trends and the stronger the overall decrease or increase, the worse or better the state of nature is. The LPI is widely used internationally to describe changes in biodiversity over time.

Analysis

The LPI is the average trend of all species for which sufficient data are available, or a selection of those species.
Apart from describing average trends for species groups, the LPI can also be used to identify quality changes in ecosystems by measuring the presence/abundance of species typically associated with certain habitats, so called habitat specialists. If the LPI is broken down by ecosystem, it appears that the increase in the overall LPI in the Netherlands is mainly attributable to population increases of species typically associated with fresh water and marshlands. In farmland (see the farmland bird indicator) and open natural areas (heathland, dunes and semi-natural grassland), the average trend of habitat specialists decreased, sometimes strongly. In woodlands, the LPI remained largely stable.

The Dutch LPI represents the development of populations of native species for the Netherlands, including species of marine and brackish habitats., The marine LPI has been further developed in 2017, and extended to include trends of birds, benthos and fish in the North Sea, the South-West delta, the coast and the Wadden region. These trends have not yet been incorporated to the overall Dutch LPI.

International comparison

The global LPI (WWF 2014, 2016) includes population data on more than 3 thousand vertebrates (mammals, breeding birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish).The global LPI decreased by 52 percent in the period 1970-2012, and, since 1990 (the start of the Dutch time series), the trend has continued to be downward. So, the marginally upward trend in the Netherlands observed since 1990 and the subsequent stabilisation are at odds with the overall global trend.

Broken down by groups of countries with different income levels (according to World Bank criteria), it turns out that the LPI has risen in high-income countries (WWF 2014), similar to the Dutch trend. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the increase is an indication of recovery after severe loss of biodiversity, which partly occurred prior to 1970 and proves that restoration of natural environment is possible today because rich countries are prepared to mobilise more financial resources for projects aimed at restoring the natural environment. Furthermore, goods are often imported from low-income countries which then suffer the negative effects on biodiversity of the massive production of these goods.