Co-hosted in IUCN's Washington D.C. Office and at the headquarters of Member organisation Conservation International (CI) in Arlington, Virginia, the Biodiversity Assessment Unit (BAU) is a collaborative project between IUCN and CI with the mandate of expanding the taxonomic and geographic coverage of the IUCN Red List.
Since its inception in 2001, the BAU, working in close association with the IUCN Global Species Programme and other partners, has conducted the first-ever assessment of the world’s 6,000 amphibians (the Global Amphibian Assessment or GAA); completed a major revision of the conservation status of the world’s mammals (Global Mammal Assessment, or GMA); initiated a comprehensive assessment of some 20,000 selected marine species (the Global Marine Species Assessment, or GMSA) and some 9,000 reptiles (the Global Reptile Assessment, or GRA); and raised more than US$500,000 in funding to support the Global Freshwater Biodiversity Assessment. Most recently the BAU has additionally supported a review of the conservation status of the world’s cacti species (Global Cactus Assessment).
The assessment process typically includes the organization of regional workshops, attended by the world’s leading experts, on particular species groups. Scientifically rigorous data are collected on the geographic range of the species (including a range map); population status; habitat and ecology; threats to the species; conservation measures needed and in place; and finally, once the supporting information is available, the allocation of a standardized IUCN Red List Category indicating the degree of extinction risk.
All of the data collected during the assessment process are made publically available on the IUCN Red List.
The comprehensive information gathered can be used to inform the planning of individual species conservation efforts (such as the development of action plans); to identify sites for conservation action (such as the designation of protected areas); to inform broader policy and management (at scales from local to international level); to evaluate the state of biodiversity (allowing geographic and taxonomic comparisons); and to monitor the changing state of biodiversity (including the IUCN Red List Index).