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Introducing the new IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology

03 / Mar / 2020Global Ecosystem Typology

Introducing the new IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology

The Red List of Ecosystems Thematic Group and the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management are pleased to announce that the IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology is now available!

The IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management co-ordinated a series of workshops and meetings during 2017-2019 to develop, review and refine the IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology. The development of this new classification represents an extraordinary achievement in terms of global ecosystem research. This typology includes a nested hierarchy of levels to support applications at different scales and allows the integration of established classifications whenever possible.

This categorization into different hierarchies manages to unify in a general way the global classification of ecosystems allowing researchers around the world to follow the same protocol at ecosystem assessments.


Why another ecological classification?

Existing global-scale ecological classifications were designed to meet different needs, not the IUCN RLE current demand for ecosystem assessment. The main purposes of this new typology are to:

  • Provide a “globally applicable classification framework” that could support the ecosystem risk assessments. Most existing global classification systems are based primarily on biogeographic or bioclimatic features but don’t incorporate all the components of the biosphere.

  • Provide a system that represents ecological processes, especially those that operate at the scales of landscapes and seascapes.

How it works?

The IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology comprises six hierarchical levels to support applications across global and local scales. The three upper levels classify ecosystems based on their functional characteristics, irrespective of species composition. The three lower levels of classification distinguish functionally similar ecosystems based on compositional resemblance, enabling integration of already established classifications, and incorporate infrastructure policies at national level. This is crucial, as relevant conservation actions occur at local level, where most expertise resides.

Future development

The theoretical framework underpinning the typology is critical to ensuring classification robustness with a changing knowledge base plus the flexibility to accommodate new information.

Ensuring the divulgation of the typology among researchers will promote testing and refinements, which will be incorporated into subsequent versions and extension to local levels. IUCN welcomes feedback to assist future application of the typology; therefore a site is dedicated to open consultation and review of profiles for Biomes (level 2) and Ecosystem Functional Groups (level 3) of the IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology.


Written by: Deyarling Bersovine

Style and format: Lila García




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