Caribbean Red List of Threatened Species: A Key Step towards Improved Regional Management of Biodiversity
Caribbean Red List
Biodiversity Conservation in the Caribbean
The Insular Caribbean constitutes only 0.15% of the Earth’s surface; nonetheless, it boasts an impressive wealth of species with a surprisingly high level of endemism. It is estimated that 54% of its vertebrates and 59% of its plants are endemic. The Caribbean islands are known for being among the top four places in the listing of 34 “Biodiversity Hot Spots” in the world.
The Caribbean ecosystems supply important resources for human livelihood and wellbeing, such as food, medicinal plants, materials and fuel. By means of the provision of countless number of ecosystem services, such as coastal protection against sea surge, as well as soil conservation and water protection; nature also supports regional and international economies.
Despite the above, this profuse biodiversity is under serious threat. Only 10% of the original forest cover exists and occurs solely in small and disperse areas, experiencing an ongoing reduction. At present, at least 50 Caribbean species have been driven to extinction, mainly due to the appearance of invasive alien species.
The insular region has a human population of approximately 35.5 million, which implies a population density of 155 individuals per square kilometer. This human population—much of which depends directly on biodiversity as a means of subsistence—has had a significant impact on the region’s biological diversity. Deforestation, overexploitation and the introduction of alien species have degraded the natural systems in the region to a level of destruction that is currently being exacerbated by Climate Change.
There is an urgent need to promote conservation actions which require reliable information concerning the distribution, habitat and health of animal/plant populations, as well as the identification of their major threats. In the absence of such information, most of the economic development initiatives go forward at a steady pace, without a clear notion of the impact being exerted upon biodiversity.
The implementation of international conservation policies such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as well as regional accords such as the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) Protocol, through the development of national laws on biodiversity, all require high-quality information in order to determine the conservation status of the species.
In response to a resolution passed during the IUCN World Conservation Conference in 2004 in Thailand, the IUCN Regional Office for Mesoamerica and the Caribbean has developed and implemented an initiative since 2008 focused on supporting the Insular Caribbean on conservation and sustainable development issues. It is from this effort that the need and opportunity arises to prepare a Red List of Species for the Caribbean, which action has been pinpointed as key to reach the conservation goals set forth.
The Red List of Threatened Species is an internationally recognized methodology to evaluate the status of biodiversity and may be used to monitor trends for decision making on conservation. In 2003, in response to a growing demand for this type of information, IUCN developed a transparent and quantitative set of evaluation criteria to assess the status of species at the regional level. This approach is now being accepted as an international parameter and is being applied in many countries and regions worldwide.
Many countries and territories within the Caribbean have launched initiatives to evaluate the conservation status of their own fauna and flora, such as Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe and Martinique. Some organizations have been conducting species evaluations for the entire Caribbean; a few examples of these organizations are Birdlife and diverse groups of experts from the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the IUCN.
The Red List will cover the entire Insular Caribbean, in such a manner that all the Caribbean islands are in themselves a relevant biological point of interest.
Of special concern for the area are the fish species, both for their importance within the ecosystem and for their key role in the provision of livelihood for local inhabitants in terms of their capacity to meet the needs for food and economic income. Hence, the first group of species to be evaluated and to implement the methodology and criteria of the IUCN Red List shall be marine fish.
This initiative is one of the projects to be financed within the Framework Agreement between the IUCN and the Government of France, and is being implemented by the IUCN Regional Office for Mesoamerica and the Caribbean (ORMA, by its Spanish acronym). In order to carry out its work, ORMA has an office in the island of Guadeloupe, as well as the support from the Union’s members, partner organizations and experts.
The Red List of the Caribbean is a process that has been initiated and is ongoing. It aims to evaluate the conservation status of flora and fauna from the wide diversity of ecosystems in key areas of biodiversity throughout the Caribbean region, as well as to mobilize and disseminate the existing knowledge to all the social agents concerned with conservation.
The Red List of the Caribbean searches for ways to liaison non-governmental organizations and scientists in order to provide governments and international organizations the information they need in order to implement and monitor conservation in the field.
Among its specific goals we should mention:
- Establish a base line that takes into account the status of biodiversity within the Insular Caribbean across countries, the different groups of species, and the ecosystems.
- Increase the taxonomic coverage of the Red List in the Insular Caribbean by means of the evaluation of complete taxonomic series or groups of marine and land ecosystems.
- Strengthen the regional expert network by including universities, scientists, and non-governmental organizations, as well as capacity building for species conservation in the region.
- Present data on biodiversity to the public domain by means of generating regional reports and awakening public interest.
- Develop robust systems to monitor the status of biodiversity and predict its future trends.
- Inform planners and decision makers on possible conservation priorities and how these may be taken into consideration in the development planning process.
- Generate information to aid the countries in implementing the Cartagena Convention and its Protocols (especially the SPAW Protocol), and the Convention on Biological Diversity, and support and guide the conservation actions.
- Improve the scientific understanding of biodiversity in order to conduct evaluations of the status of species and develop indicators.
- Improve the scientific understanding of the importance that biodiversity has for human beings.
- Monitor the impact that public and private investments have on biodiversity.
- Increase the coverage of the Global Red List.
Evaluation Method and Process
Red List has developed a method and process to asses the species status all around the world.
The different steps for evaluating species are:
• Compile a list of species to be evaluated
• Involve groups of experts on species
• Identify regional experts
• Compilation of data, generation of lists and mapping by experts
• Expert evaluation workshop
• Streamlining of data and analysis
• Publication on the global web site (www.redlist.org) and public dissemination
• Use and dissemination of the lists.
Criteria and Categories of the IUCN Red List
The Red List project covers the entire Insular Caribbean and, as such, the most relevant biodiversity zones in this geographic area of the world
The state of conservation of the Caribbean species is evaluated by applying the “Criteria and Categories of the IUCN Red List 2001: Version 3.1, as well as the Red List criteria application guidelines at the regional level (version 3.0). (http://www.iucnredlist.org/technical-documents/categories-and-criteria)
For futher information, please contact:
This project is coordinated by the Regional Office for Mesoamerica and the Caribbean Initiative of IUCN.
UICN-Initiative Caraïbe c/o Parc National de Guadeloupe Montéran 97120 Saint-Claude GUADELOUPE (French West Indies)
Tel.: +590 (0)590 80 86 00
Fax.: +590 (0)590 80 05 46
This initiative is one of the projects undertaken with funds originating from the Framework Agreement 2009-2012 between the IUCN and the French Government. The evaluation of marine fish is conducted with resources from the French Development Agency, and its continuous improvement and expansion will happen gradually over time.