With the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation we will undertake a new challenge during 2012–2014: the IUCN Red List of the Continental Ecosystems of the Americas. Activities will be structured around three themes that can be broadly defined as science, public awareness, and biodiversity policy. The scientific aim will be to assess fully the conservation status of the continental ecosystems of the Americas by developing a series of baselines across the continental distribution of each type, assessing land cover change against these baselines, quantifying the drivers of change, and applying the Red List criteria to ecosystems at the regional and national level.

Core organizationsOur public awareness aim is to improve public access to information on the status of ecosystems by creating an online open-access toolbox for housing and analysing scientific data, developing a portfolio of scientific and popular publications, improving public knowledge, and integrating the Red List of Ecosystems with the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and World Database of Protected Areas to enhance biodiversity conservation planning. The biodiversity policy aim is to use the Red List of Ecosystems to engage actively with governments in the region in the development of national Red Lists of Ecosystems, informing regional economic, social and environmental cooperation organizations, and maintaining a high profile at key global biodiversity-related scientific meetings.

By using the experience of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as a model, the present effort has the potential to influence the allocation of conservation resources to threatened ecosystems throughout the world, and to influence the policy process of biodiversity-related international conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (e.g. Aichi Biodiversity Target 5 on rates of loss of natural forests, adopted in Nagoya in October 2010) and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. Similar effects could also be expected at the national level, as public knowledge of ecosystem risk increases and countries around the world implement Red Lists of Ecosystems. An IUCN Red List of Ecosystems also has the potential to serve as an important instrument to guide investments for several Millennium Development Goals, as poverty reduction and improvements in health are dependent on properly-functioning ecosystems that provide important goods and services for human well being.