The Red List of Ecosystems
Everyone knows that coral reefs are in danger, and that rainforests are disappearing, but what do we actually know? How much of these ecosystems remain, and how likely are they to disappear? The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems seeks to serve as a tool to provide answers to these questions.
The RLE is a global standard for how we assess the conservation status of ecosystems, applicable at local, national, regional and global levels. By monitoring the status of ecosystems, current degradation as well as positive impacts of conservation measures can be recognized.
The Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) evaluates whether ecosystems have:
- reached the final stage of degradation (a state of Collapse),
- whether they are threatened at Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable levels,
- or if they are not currently facing significant risk of collapse (Least Concern).
This standard is based on a set of rules, or criteria, for performing evidence-based assessments of the risk of ecosystem collapse, as measured by reductions in geographical distribution or degradation of the key processes and components of ecosystems (See more in section RLE Categories & Criteria ).
Since the state of conservation of ecosystems is constantly changing, the reality is that a red list represents the equivalent to a photograph of an ecosystem’s risk of collapsing at the time of its assessment. The strength of the Red Lists of Ecosystems comes from its regular and periodical application, with the goal of generating a changing image, like a film, of the evolution of the ecosystems threats and their recovery in response to conservation measures.
Global Context for the RLE
Since 1950, humans have changed ecosystems at a faster rate than in any other period in history. Therefore, it is necessary that public policies have a solid foundation to curb or reduce these losses. However, efforts to monitor the status of ecosystems were hindered by the lack of a consistent scientific framework, with transparent criteria to identify which of these ecosystems were more likely to disappear. Upon recognition of this important scientific void, the IV IUCN World Conservation Congress (Barcelona, Spain, 5-14 October 2008) approved a motion to initiate the development of a global standard for assessing ecosystem risk, which was officially recognized by IUCN in 2014.
The primary goal of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) is:
“To support conservation in resource use and management decisions by ranking different ecosystem types according to their risk of collapse.”
By assessing relative risks of biodiversity loss at the ecosystem level, the RLE accounts for broad scale ecological processes and important dependencies and interactions among species and also addresses trends in common species, which define ecosystem identity and have major influences on ecosystem form and function. The joint application of the RLE with other IUCN knowledge products provides a unique opportunity for conservation planning.