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IUCN Red List of Ecosystems in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

20 / Jun / 2022Targets and Indicators

IUCN Red List of Ecosystems in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

Data from the IUCN RLE can provide biodiversity indicators for use at national or global levels, and support national action planning.

The Fourth meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to be held from June 21 - 26 in Nairobi, Kenya will most likely approve the use of several indicators designed and powered by the RLE Thematic Group.

Red list data can support the post-2020 monitoring framework through indicators for Goal A on ecosystem area, integrity and connectivity. The Red List Index of Ecosystems (RLIE) summarises trends in collapse risk for terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems, at national or global scales, integrating data on ecosystem area and integrity. Red List assessments can support national planning processes, including biodiversity-inclusive spatial planning (Target 1), restoration planning (Target 2), and identification of new protected areas (Target 3), and provide key data for natural capital accounting.

RLE as an integrative framework

Because the RLE criteria assess changes in ecosystem extent and integrity, RLE can serve as an integrative framework for other biodiversity indicators, placing them in the context of ecosystem collapse risk. For example, headline and complementary indicators of ecosystem extent and integrity from the post-2020 draft monitoring framework were used in RLE assessments of coral reefs (Western Indian Ocean and Meso-American Reef) and forests (Mozambique and the Americas).

7 2022 Rlie in The Post2020 Gbf Fig 1

RLE assessments of coral reefs integrate indicators of extent and integrity.

Over 4000 ecosystems have been assessed using the RLE protocol, the majority in national assessments (next figure). National RLE assessments are available for approximately 60 countries, which can form the basis for a Red List Index of Ecosystems (RLIE) at national levels, along with subsets of ecosystems for another 20 countries (e.g., forests across the Americas). Some countries have already undertaken repeat assessments (e.g. South Africa, Norway and Finland) providing RLIE time-series. Some national assessments are undertaken by governments, others in partnership with NGOs, while others are done independently of government processes or support. A global RLE for terrestrial ecosystems is anticipated by 2025.

7 2022 Rlie in The Post2020 Gbf Fig 2

Current availability of RLE assessments (June 2022); systematic assessments include national or regional assessments of all ecosystems or a subset of ecosystems (e.g. all forests); strategic assessments target one or a few ecosystems.

RLE as a headline indicator in the post-2020 monitoring framework

The RLIE summarises the status and trends in the risk of ecosystem collapse, using data from the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems. The RLIE reports on the proportion of ecosystems in each Red List category, is applicable to all ecosystems (marine, terrestrial and freshwater), and complements the widely used Red List Index of species. Other indicators summarise data on change in area (Ecosystem Area Index, EAI) and integrity (Ecosystem Health Index, EHI).

Is the Red List Index of Ecosystems (RLIE) sensitive?

A key question for indicators is how sensitive they are to biodiversity change. Analysis from Norway found that the RLIE could differentiate alternative policy scenarios. Our model-based tests of the sensitivity of the RLIE found that:

  • RLIE can clearly differentiate between low and high threat levels

  • RLIE responds quickly (within 5 years) to changes in threat levels, both increases in threats (e.g. climate change) and decreases (e.g., due to effective conservation policy).

  • RLIE detects changes in both area and ecosystem integrity.

How can RLE support national planning and natural capital accounting?

The Red List of Ecosystems and its indicators can support national planning and action, as well as monitoring. RLE assessments contain a wealth of data including ecosystem maps and classifications, and quantitative, spatial evaluations of change in ecosystem area and integrity. These data can form the basis of complementary and component indicators, and provide input for biodiversity-inclusive spatial planning (Target 1), protection area designation (Target 3) and restoration planning (Target 2). RLE assessments at national scales have supported these types of actions. RLE data can also be used in ecosystem accounting, including the UN System for Environmental Economic Accounting – Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA).

Learn more about it with these brochures:

The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework

Sensitivity of the Red List of Ecosystem indicators

Impacts of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems on conservation policy and practice


Written by: Emily Nicholson and Jessica Rowland

Style & format: Susana Barreto and Lila Garcia




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