Behind-the-scenes of the LPRC 2020

The Living Planet Report Canada 2020 is full of data. But who crunches all the numbers? We spoke to Jessica Currie, a specialist in our science, knowledge and innovation team, about what goes into producing the LPRC.

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How do you gather data for a huge report like this?

A lot of population trend data can be accessed via WWF and Zoological Society of London’s Living Planet Index Data Portal. However, we worked to compile even more data to ensure that we could more fulsomely report on the state of wildlife in Canada. We reached out to government experts, academics, students and other organizations to see if they would be willing to contribute relevant data. We also scanned the academic literature and open data online, gathering thousands of additional data records over the span of a year. In total, our final database consists of 3,781 data records for 883 species — approximately half of the vertebrate wildlife in Canada.

What exactly is the Living Planet Index?
Much like the stock market measures economic trends over time, the Living Planet Index (LPI) is a biodiversity indicator used to track the state of vertebrate species at global, national or local scales. It’s used to measure ecological performance by tracking patterns in wildlife population size over time.

How do you interpret the results from the Living Planet Index?
The LPI was assigned a benchmark value of 1.0 in 1970. An increase in the index means there’s an increase in wildlife population abundances since this time, which would be reflected by an upward trend in the index value. The magnitude of the change in the LPI can be reported as a percentage — so if the index value increases from 1 to 1.2, that’s an increase of 20 per cent. If it decreases from 1 to 0.8, this is a decrease in 20 per cent. Any finding within five per cent of the baseline is considered stable.

Why is data from the Living Planet Index important?
We need to base conservation actions on facts, and one way to do this is through the use of the LPI. If we’re taking action, but a species population continues to decline, then it’s clear that we’re not doing the right thing, or not doing enough of the right thing.