New RLE assessments for France and Finland now published and available online.
The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) is a source of information meant to facilitate the implementation of conservation strategies and policies, natural resource use and conservation decisions, in a world where the political and societal importance of biodiversity conservation issues at the ecosystem level grows day by day.
According to data managed by the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Thematic Group, the number of countries that have developed, or are in the process of developing their first Red Lists at either national, regional or global level has continued increasing during the last five years. Recently (December 2018) Finland completed their national Red List of Ecosystems and France advanced in the publication of the second chapter of the national RLE.
France: French Mediterranean forests under pressure
As part of the “Red List of Ecosystems in France”, the IUCN French Committee in partnership with the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) and in collaboration with National Botanical Conservatories, among others, assessed the ecosystems risk of collapse of 19 Mediterranean forest ecosystems in metropolitan France. Four of these 19 ecosystems were assessed as either Vulnerable (VU) or Endangered (EN). 7 other forest ecosystems were classified as Near Threatened (NT) due to their high sensibility, 3 as Least Concern (LC) and 5 as Data Deficient (DD) due to a the lack of quantified data regarding almost all Mediterranean riparian forests, though it is thought possible that they have suffered a sharp decline.
The main pressures and threatening processes in these ecosystems were linked to the artificialization of soils, particularly due to urban sprawl; the introduction of non-native species and pathogens; and climate change, which breeds aridification of the Mediterranean climate and intensification of fire regimes. These assessments also emphasize changes in the composition of certain forests, which are now expanding and maturing, due to the abandonment of agricultural and pastoral practices; the significant de-intensification of their exploitation; and the effectiveness of the fight against forest fires during the twentieth century.
For each ecosystem risk assessment produced, the IUCN French Committee (of which the French government is a member) gathers technical expertise as well as some decision-making institutions - such as administrative regions - into a technical committee. The results of the assessments are approved by this technical committee and, therefore, recognized by the major French research and nature conservation institutions.
Finland: The status of natural habitats in Finland continues to deteriorate
Finland completed its second, nationwide habitat type threat status evaluation by using the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems global standard methodology for the first time. Funded by Finland's Ministry of the Environment, and under the coordination of the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), more than 120 experts from various research institutions, universities and agencies, assessed nearly 400 habitat types across the country. In order to be assessed, habitat types were divided into 8 main groups: the Baltic Sea, its coast, inland waters and shores, mires, forests, rocky habitats, semi-natural grasslands and grazed woodlands, and fell habitats. Almost half (48%) were classified as either Endangered or Critically Endangered (CR).
The proportion of threatened habitats is clearly higher (59%) in southern Finland than in than in northern Finland (32%). According to the results, furthermore, the status of habitat types has not improved during the past decade; instead, estimates show that the trend among many habitat types is declining. The main pressures and threatening processes in these ecosystems were linked to forestry, drainage, clearing of areas for arable land, construction and eutrophication. It is also estimated that climate change will gain considerable significance as a threat factor in the future.
Though, based on these results, Finland will not reach its target of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2020, the state of habitats can be improved - and research information plays an important role in the process. Following a broad-based preparatory work, the information gathered in the nationwide ecosystem risk assessment might be incorporated - among others - into any or all of the following:
- The Habitats Directive reporting in spring 2019;
- The upcoming updates of the national action plans related to the improvement of the state of biological diversity; and
- Finland's international commitments
Given the global state of affairs, all countries either are facing important conservation challenges or will face them in the future. Knowing this, the possibility of ecosystem risk assessments coming up with unpleasant results should be taken into account from the beginning. A reality that should not deter stakeholders from making use of this tool to monitor biodiversity, but rather be a factor that further promotes said tool’s use. Expanding the global coverage of RLE assessments is key to obtain the data that will make it possible to establish stronger policies and maximize the conservation impacts of threatened ecosystems management plans.
For more information regarding either France’s or Finland’s ecosystem risk assessments, visit our website’s Media coverage section.
Written by: Aurélien Carre, Clara Gómez and Tytti Kontula
Style and format: Clara Gómez and Lila García
Provita Mar 06, 2019