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Neutral theory exposes the challenge of bending the curve of biodiversity loss for the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework
  • Falko Buschke
Falko Buschke
University of the Free State
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In May, nations of the world will meet to negotiate the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework under the Convention on Biological Diversity. An influential ambition is “bending the curve of biodiversity loss”, which aims to reverse the decline of global biodiversity indicators. A second relevant, yet less prominent, milestone is the 20th anniversary of the publication of The Unified Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography. Here, I apply neutral theory to show how global biodiversity indicators for population size (Living Planet Index) and extinction threat (Red List Index) decline under neutral ecological drift. This demonstrates that declining indicators alone do not necessarily reflect deterministic species-specific or geographical patterns of biodiversity loss. Thus, “bending the curve” could be assessed relative to a counterfactual based on neutral theory, rather than static baselines. If used correctly, the 20-year legacy of neutral theory can be extended to make a valuable contribution to the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework