Since May 2014, the categories and criteria underpinning the Red List of Ecosystems have been officially recognized and adopted by the IUCN as a global standard for assessing the risks to ecosystems. It is expected that this tool, along with other IUCN knowledge products such as the Red List of Threatened Species and the World Database on Protected Areas, will become an ideal complement for the implementation of environmental and conservation policies.
Risk assessment takes into account the ecosystems’ key processes, their biotic and abiotic elements, their distribution and menacing factors as well as their variations and impact on the structure, functionalities and ecosystem services.
The idea of establish IUCN’s Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) has circulated since the 80’s. However, the defining moment did not come until 2004 when a specific proposal was presented during the III World Conservation Congress. By 2009, the RLE Thematic Group had been formed within the Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM) with the aim of developing a research agenda on the subject, testing the methodology and making it known around the world.
Since the adoption of resolution 4.020, “Quantitative thresholds for categories and criteria of threatened ecosystems”, at the 4th World Conservation Congress, held in Barcelona, 2008, and resolution 5.055, “Consolidation of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems”, at the 5th World Conservation Congress, held in Jeju, 2012, the Red List of Ecosystems consultations have reached thousands of experts in 20 countries. Moreover, through its website, launched on 2012, the Red List of Ecosystems has spread over most parts of the globe.
By keeping up the pace, we aim to assess the conservation status of the world’s terrestrial, freshwater, marine and subterranean ecosystems by 2025, creating thus the first IUCN Red List of Ecosystems of the World. This methodology has, without a doubt, an enormous potential and has been widely praised from the outset but, like any other tool, it is going through a natural and necessary process of refinement sustained by research, testing and implementation. It remains nonetheless available and useful as a resource for decision-making.
A detailed timeline of the progress of the initiative is available in the document The Red List of Ecosystems (RLE). A Summary Briefing Note of Progress to Date