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Red Lists of Ecosystems: A new global standard

On May 20th, during the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) 83rd meeting, held at Gland, Switzerland, the categories and criteria for the identification of threatened ecosystems and the creation of Red Lists of Ecosystems were officially adopted.

This marks the end of a process that started in 2007, with Provita and the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research’s (IVIC) published article entitled Assessing extinction risk in the absence of species-level data: quantitative criteria for terrestrial ecosystems, written by Jon Paul Rodríguez , and co-authored by Jennifer K. Balch and Katherine Rodríguez-Clark. The results of this research were used to support a resolution approved by the World Nature Conference in 2008 (Barcelona, Spain), which promoted the first call to create the categories and criteria to assess ecosystems.

Since 2009, Jon Paul RodríguezProvita´s President and researcher at IVIC, has coordinated the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems workgroup, along with David A. Keith, Professor at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Ecosystem Red Lists are a new tool for biodiversity conservation, and furthermore, this is one of the few examples where a technique conceived in a developing country becomes the global standard.

Technical workshop of IUCNRLE's team under the Alaska to Patagonia Project. IVIC, Caracas, Venezuela  

During the 5th IUCN Nature Conservation Congress, held at Jeju, Korea, on September 2012, motion 72 was approved. This motion supported the consolidation of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems to be one of the IUCN consciousness products. This represented another step taken by IUCN in order to create a global standard for ecosystem risk assessment.


In 2011, a second scientific paper entitled Establishing IUCN Red List Criteria for Threatened Ecosystems, where the product of several years of discussions and analysis on the development of ecosystem´s red list were incorporated, establishing the first criteria´s version. In May 2013, the second version of these criteria is published, Scientific Foundations for an IUCN Red List of Ecosystems, by David A. Keith, which represented the final stage in the consolidation of the criteria and categories as a scientific method to assess the risk of ecosystem collapse. The whole process of developing the criteria, since its inception, was accompanied closely by the Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM) and the Global Ecosystem Management Program IUCN, as key players.

One of the first products of this initiative was the Red List of the Venezuelan Terrestrial Ecosystems (Libro Rojo de los Ecosistemas Terrestres de Venezuela) , where the first version of the categories and criteria were applied. On 2012, the continental project From Alaska to Patagonia: Red List of the Continental Ecosystems of the Americas coordinated by Dra. María A. Oliveira-Miranda. This constituted the first application of the categories and criteria adopted by the IUCN council at a continental scale. The publication of this list is expected by mid-2015. Within the framework of this project are the national assessments of Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. Currently, there are other ongoing initiatives for continental, regional and national assessments. The first global assessment of terrestrial, marine, aquatic and underground ecosystems is expected by 2025.

         Technical workshop of the IUCNRLE's team. Boulder, United States

Furthermore, the Red List of Ecosystems can be vital to support the achievement of the Aichi, particularly Goal 5, according to which is expected that by 2020 the rate of loss of all natural habitats has been reduced to less half and, if possible, to zero. Furthermore, a significant reduction in the degradation and fragmentation is expected.

IUCN Red List of Ecosystem´s website was launched at the V World Conservation Congress in Jeju during 2012. In it, you can find news, scientific materials, information on ongoing initiatives, criteria and categories application examples in different parts of the world. This information is available in the three IUCN official languages (Spanish, English, and French). The website also provides scientists around the world that are developing assessments the opportunity to publish their data as a Case Study. As an almost indispensable element in the times we are living, the IUCN Red List of Ecosystem is also present through social networks from September 2012, through their accounts IUCN-Red-List-of-Ecosystems (Facebook) and @redlisteco (Twitter).

To date has over 1300 followers on Facebook and over 1400 on Twitter.

For the IUCN Red List of Ecosystem’s team, located in different parts of the world (Venezuela, Australia, Switzerland, England, Kenya) it is a real honor and an achievement that IUCN has adopted these criteria as the global standard for risk assessment of the world's ecosystems. This is a process where the sum of experiences resulted in improvements that, in the end, seek a better strategy to support biodiversity conservation process in the world.

Part of the IUCNRLE's team and their national initiatives (Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Equador and Peru) Congress of Capacity Building for Conservation. Villa de Leyma, Colombia

Provita Jun 20, 2014

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