The 2010 biodiversity target agreed by signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity directed the attention of conservation professionals toward the development of indicators with which to measure changes in biological diversity at the global scale. We considered why global biodiversity indicators are needed, what characteristics successful global indicators have, and how existing indicators perform. Because monitoring could absorb a large proportion of funds available for conservation, we believe indicators should be linked explicitly to monitoring objectives and decisions about which monitoring schemes deserve funding should be informed by predictions of the value of such schemes to decision making. We suggest that raising awareness among the public and policy makers, auditing management actions, and informing policy choices are the most important global monitoring objectives. Using four well-developed indicators of biological diversity (extent of forests, coverage of protected areas, Living Planet Index, Red List Index) as examples, we analyzed the characteristics needed for indicators to meet these objectives. We recommend that conservation professionals improve on existing indicators by eliminating spatial biases in data availability, fill gaps in information about ecosystems other than forests, and improve understanding of the way indicators respond to policy changes. Monitoring is not an end in itself, and we believe it is vital that the ultimate objectives of global monitoring of biological diversity inform development of new indicators
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