Protecting biodiversity on a global scale: ready-to-use genetic diversity indicators

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Illustration Global biodiversity protection: ready-to-use genetic diversity indi
Illustration Global biodiversity protection: ready-to-use genetic diversity indicators © Coalition for conservation genetics
Genetic diversity is fundamental to the maintenance and resilience of species and ecosystems. In the context of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (CMBKM), of which France is a signatory, an international consortium, including INRAE, Claude Bernard Lyon 1 University and the Conservatoire d’espaces naturels d’Occitanie, has developed and demonstrated the feasibility of using 2 genetic diversity indicators based on existing and available data without the need for DNA. A full-scale test was carried out in 9 countries and on over 900 species. The results, published in Ecology letters, show that the indicators can be calculated rapidly with limited investment. For 58% of the species assessed, existing populations are too small and are losing genetic diversity, jeopardizing their long-term survival. From 2026 onwards, the 196 signatories will have to report on the state of genetic diversity in their territory using these reference indicators. To help them get started, workshops will be organized and co-constructed with national and local stakeholders in biodiversity management.

To preserve and restore biodiversity, it is important to know and preserve the genetic diversity of each species. Indeed, too little genetic diversity can lead to the decline of a species, and ultimately its extinction. The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KMGBF), adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2022, aims for the first time to protect the genetic diversity of all wild and domesticated species, to ensure their long-term survival. From 2026 onwards, the 196 signatory parties, including France and the European Union, will have to report on their progress in conserving this genetic diversity. To facilitate this dynamic, an international scientific consortium has developed 2 genetic diversity indicators based on population data 1 , with and without DNA data, peer-reviewed and adopted by the CMBKM. To verify the feasibility of their use for wild species, the scientists carried out a full-scale test in 9 countries with different levels of biodiversity and socio-economic situations: Australia, Belgium, Colombia, France, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden and the USA.

Indicators based on existing population data

Each living species is divided into several geographically separate populations. In all, the scientists calculated indicators for 919 species of animals, plants and fungi representing 5,271 populations, distributed across the 9 countries. Based on data already available (population counts, geographical distribution data, demographic monitoring, DNA data, etc.), they calculated a first indicator for the proportion of populations large enough to sustain their genetic diversity (comprising more than 5,000 individuals, on average), and therefore their long-term survival, and a complementary indicator for the proportion of populations maintained within a species.

Across the 9 countries, while 53% of species maintain all their populations, the situation remains critical for genetic diversity, as for 58% of species, all populations are too small to support their genetic diversity. Only 19% of species have sufficiently large populations. In France, for example, indicators for the capercaillie (a protected wild bird species) show that 2 populations have become extinct, and only 1 of the 4 remaining populations is large enough to support its genetic diversity. For the estuary angelica, a plant species found only in France, only 2 of the 4 existing populations are large enough, but none have been lost.

Indicators that meet operational needs

The advantage of these indicators is that they are applicable and comparable in all countries and for all species. They do not require DNA research or special infrastructures, and all useful information is based on recent or current estimates of population sizes or numbers, even approximations may suffice (less than 1,000, several thousand...). These data may come from research reports, institutional databases, NGOs, local knowledge, participatory science programs... The operational requirements for calculating these indicators are above all human staff, ideally with knowledge of biodiversity management, to compile the information (around 400 working hours to evaluate 100 species).

The results on the application of genetic diversity indicators show that the situation is critical for the majority of species assessed, and that it is necessary to take these indicators into account in order to adapt biodiversity protection measures. For the future, the scientists will be organizing workshops on the use and application of these indicators, co-constructed with national and local stakeholders (representatives of the Ministry of Ecology, national park managers, the National Biodiversity Observatory, etc.) as part of the European GINAMO project, coordinated in France by INRAE and financed by the European Biodiversa+ partnership for biodiversity research.

[1 ] A population refers to all members of the same species living in the same geographical area and able to reproduce among themselves.


Mastretta-Yanes A., da Silva J M. et al. (2024) Multinational evaluation of genetic diversity indicators for the Kuming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework. Ecology letters DOI :­/ele.14461

"Genetic diversity indicators for the Global Biodiversity Framework have been developed, tested and are ready for use," Coalition for conservation genetics policy note:

note-politique-indicateurs-diversite-genetique.pdf pdf - 2.19 MB