Measuring Biocultural Diversity

Endangered languages, vanishing cultures, loss of traditional knowledge: linguists and anthropologists have been talking for years about all this as part of an alarming trend that parallels the ongoing decline in the world’s biodiversity. Dave Harmon, Terralingua’s co-founder, has in fact suggested that we’re witnessing a “converging extinction crisis” of diversity in all its forms.

But while biologists had long developed ways to quantify the state and trends in species diversity, and therefore could provide reliable evidence of what’s happening with biodiversity, there was nothing comparable to allow us to know in non-anecdotal terms what’s happening with linguistic and cultural diversity.

That’s why we at Terralingua decided to develop some brand new indicators to assess the state and trends of two key components of biocultural diversity: languages and traditional environmental knowledge. You can read more about the results of this work by visiting the pages of the two projects below, where you’ll also find a number of relevant resources.

biocultural diversity

Learn about the Index of Linguistic Diversity, which computes trends in the number of speakers of the world’s languages, and the Index of Biocultural Diversity, which combines measures of linguistic, cultural, and biological diversity to portray the state of global biocultural diversity.

biocultural diversity

Learn about the Vitality Index of Traditional Environmental Knowledge, a locally appropriate, yet globally applicable tool that allows for assessing the persistence or loss of traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) and the extent of its intergenerational transmission.