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Conservation impacts of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems

Impact review shows the tremendous influence RLE has had in countries where the still relatively new tool  has been implemented.

Nowadays, efforts to conserve the world’s biodiversity are focusing more and more on ecosystems – that is, the ecological communities that underpin the survival of species and people. International bodies and policies, including the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, now recognize the importance of conserving ecosystems.

In the past, however, methods to understand threats to ecosystems and inform threatened listings differed among countries, meaning that ecosystems listed as Endangered in different jurisdictions were not necessarily equivalent. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) sought to remediate the problem, and a new global criteria to list threatened ecosystems was adopted in 2014. Nearly five years on, an impact evaluation framework was used to identify the influence of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) on conservation so far, and things are looking up!

RLE impacts

According to the “Impacts of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems on Conservation Policy and Practice” (preprint, Bland et al. 2018) evaluation's results, the Red List of Ecosystems has already had some great outcomes and impacts in the last five years. To date, more than 1,300 ecosystem types have been assessed in 100 countries. Furthermore, countries that used disparate methods to assess their ecosystem are now using the Red List of Ecosystems (e.g., South Africa and Finland), and other countries are not only developing their first Red Lists (e.g., Colombia and Chile) but also reaping the conservation benefits.

The review also shows that countries with ecosystem red lists are using them to inform legislation, land-use planning, protected area expansion, reporting, and ecosystem management. In Australia, for example, the assessment of the Coastal Upland Swamps (Endangered) influenced legal protection and government recommendations for changes to the design of proposed mines. In many countries, the presence of threatened ecosystems acts as direct regulatory triggers for legal protection and changes to land-use planning.

Moreover, researchers found that Red List assessments are, often on a voluntary basis, being used in a variety of innovative ways in order to protect ecosystems. In Norway, for instance, the Red List of Ecosystems serves as an important input for timber certification schemes.

Looking ahead…

The review shows that the Red List of Ecosystems has already had tremendous impacts in the countries where it has been implemented and, while RLE can inform international reporting through national mechanisms, researchers estimate that the conservation tool will play a much more important role regarding global biodiversity monitoring in the coming years. Expanding the global coverage of assessments, building capacity to undertake them, and establishing both stronger alliances and  policies to manage threatened ecosystems will be key to maximizing the conservation impacts of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems over the coming decades.



Written by: Lucie Bland

Style and format: Lila García and Clara Gómez

Provita Dec 12, 2018


IUCN Red List of Ecosystems


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