A tool for biodiversity monitoring, multi-stakeholder communication and policy/action decision-making

The main goal of this project is to develop an index for biodiversity measurement understandable to governments, businesses, non-profit organization and academia, and appropriate to be used to design improvements, monitor progress and make comparisons at different scales.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, at Cornell University, and Latin-American Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development, at INCAE Business School, have joined efforts in the development of the Biodiversity Progress Index, considering:

  • the strong dependence of human welfare on biodiversity and environmental health
  • the urgent global calls for environmental restoration and conservation (e.g. Bonn challenge, Sustainable Development Goals, Convention on Biological Diversity);
  • that these commitments of the private and public sectors require a measure of biodiversity that is understandable by an array of different stakeholders, applicable to different scales, of low cost and that is convenient to design improvements, monitors progress and make comparisons.

Birds as indicators of biodiversity

Birds use a wide range of natural and human-managed environments, and many species respond quickly to changes in their surroundings. This makes them highly reliable and scalable (farm to landscape) indicators of environmental health. Furthermore, birds are colorful, sing, and are easily identifiable by anyone with a minimum amount of training. This means that most people, including producers and consumers, as well as scientists, can actively contribute to measure how bird diversity is affected by changes in the ecosystem. We will combine cutting-edge technological tools developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology such as automated bird-song recorders and the eBird and Merlin platforms, with community training for bird monitoring and environmental education, and supported by a validation-verification methodology.

Sustainability as a condition for Development

Biodiversity and environmental health only tell a part of the sustainability story. Sustainability is about achieving the balance between human needs and environmental integrity and has frequently been described as having three pillars or dimensions: environment, economy, and society. We propose to use the Social Progress

Index to understand the social and economic situation of households, businesses, landscapes or regions. This index defines social progress “as the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential” (socialprogress.org/index). It uses 51 indicators that creates a picture of what everyday life looks like focusing on Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity. The Social Progress Index already proposes a solid measurement model designed thinking in a diversity of stakeholders, scales and with the objective of generating collaborations for sustainable development, which will guide the design of a Biodiversity Progress Index. INCAE is a strategic partner for the Social Progress Imperative.

The Social Progress Index and the Biodiversity Progress Index (using birds as indicators) provides an integral picture of sustainability. They are complementary and generate a decision-making tool, so that different actors and sectors can align messages, coordinate interventions and optimize resources around a sustainability strategy.


Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Cornell University

Cornell Lab of Ornithology has the mission to interpret and conserve the Earth's biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds; It has a world-known expertise, infrastructure and tools on biodiversity monitoring and conservation. (birds.cornell.edu)

Jean-Yves Duriaux Chavarría

Researcher and Project Coordinator of the “Biodiversity Progress Index


Viviana Ruiz-Gutierrez

Research Associate and Project Leader of the “Biodiversity Progress Index


Centro Latinoamericano para la Competitividad y el Desarrollo Sostenible (CLACDS) - INCAE Business School

The Latin American Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development (CLACDS) is the think tank of INCAE Business School. Its mission is to promote sustainable development in the region through research, capacity building and dialogue. CLACDS uses a methodology of four working axes that unites competitiveness, social progress, environmental performance and governance.

Jaime García

Researcher and Projects Director for the Social Progress Index