Laying the foundation for an IUCN Red List of Ecosystems

Momentum is gathering behind the case for a Red List of Ecosystems which, modeled on the influential IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, is hoped will generate better environmental management.

Relic forest

Experts gathered at the Smithsonian Institution recently to develop the scientific basis for the initiative. Examples from Australia, South Africa, the United States and Venezuela of how ecosystems could be listed were discussed and the proposed criteria refined. How to make sure the ecosystems Red List is compatible with the Red List of Threatened Species was a key focus of the discussion.

“There is a great potential to link the Red List of Ecosystems with the Millennium Assessment discussion on ecosystem services—the benefits we get from ecosystems. This in turn provides a powerful link into how ecosystems do (or do not) benefit the livelihoods of rural people, and so create greater responsibility for sustainable ecosystem management,” says Edmund Barrow, Acting Head of IUCN’s Ecosystem Management Programme.

The Red List of Ecosystems work will help build strong links between ecosystems, livelihoods, health and well-being in a way that can be used to guide and influence conservation and national development agendas, reflecting the true value of ecosystem goods and services.

Next steps include publishing papers in key scientific journals and producing an IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Categories, Criteria and Guidebook in English, Spanish and French.

A motion will be presented to the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress, calling for strengthening and consolidating the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems initiative.

“This workshop generated a lot of enthusiasm for this important process. It also overcame some of the arguments on the fine details that have hindered past efforts to develop such a red list,” says Jon Paul Rodríguez, of IUCN’s Commission on Ecosystem Management who is coordinating the initiative. “It also acknowledged the powerful links between the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems and wider societal processes, such as national economic and development planning.”

The meeting was organized by IUCN’s Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM) with funding support from the MAVA Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, EcoHealth Alliance and Provita, all IUCN Members.

For more information, please contact:

Jon Paul Rodríguez, Thematic Group Lead, Ecosystems Red List Thematic Group, IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management,
Edmund Barrow, Acting Head, IUCN Ecosystem Management Programme,

Work area: 
Protected Areas
South America
North America
East and Southern Africa
West and Central Africa
West Asia
North America
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