Red List of Ecosystems

Everyone knows that coral reefs are in danger, and that the rainforests are disappearing – or do we? What do we actually know in scientific terms? How much of these ecosystems are left, and how likely are they to disappear? IUCN is developing a new tool to provide answers to these questions – the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems.

The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Categories and Criteria will be a global standard for how we assess the status of ecosystems, applicable at local, national, regional and global levels. We will be able to say whether an ecosystem is not facing imminent risk of collapse, or whether it is vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. This will be measured by assessing losses in area, degradation or other major changes such as conversion.

How will the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems be used?

Conservation: to help prioritise action, for example, in terms of ecosystem restoration and land use practices, and as a means to reward good and improved ecosystem management.

Land use planning: to highlight the risks faced by ecosystems and ecosystem services as important components of land use planning, for example, clean water, maintenance of soil fertility, pollination, and natural products.

Improvement of governance and livelihoods: to link ecosystems services and livelihoods, and explore how appropriate governance methods can improve ecosystem management and livelihood security.

Macro-economic planning: to provide a globally-accepted standard that will enable planners to evaluate the risk and related economic costs of losing ecosystem services, and, conversely, the potential economic benefits of improved management.

Forest converted to pasture

Forest converted to pasture

Photo: IUCN


Case studies