Story | 08 Dec, 2021

Using ecosystem risk assessment science for ecosystem restoration

A new guide demonstrates how to apply the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems to ecosystem restoration, throughout planning, implementation, and monitoring.

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Photo: Photo: Southern Cross University

Ecosystems form a core component of biodiversity. They provide habitat to the rich diversity of life and support complex interactions among species. They provide humans with multiple benefits – a stable climate, water, food, materials and protection from disaster and disease. Despite their importance, widespread degradation is leading to a decline in the benefits that people receive from ecosystems. Ecosystem restoration aims to address this decline.

In 2021, the United Nations launched the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration: a call for countries, practitioners, scientists, communities and other stakeholders to work together to reverse ecosystem degradation.

Ecosystem restoration includes a range of restorative activities. The guide Using ecosystem risk assessment science for ecosystem restoration was developed to explore how the Red List of Ecosystems and ecosystem restoration can be jointly deployed to reduce risk of ecosystem collapse.

The Red List of Ecosystems uses five criteria that reflect different pathways to collapse:

  1. reduction in ecosystem distribution
  2. restricted distribution
  3. degradation of the abiotic environment
  4. disruption of biotic processes
  5. the probability of ecosystem collapse from a quantitative model.

RLE Restoration GraphicPhoto: IUCN

A Red List of Ecosystems assessment uses these five criteria to place ecosystems in easy-to-understand categories of risk. The risk categories scale from the highest category of Collapsed (CO), through three threatened categories – Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN) and Vulnerable (VU) – to the categories with lower risk of collapse, Near Threatened (NT) and Least Concern (LC).

Ecosystem restoration is playing an increasingly large part in building a sustainable future, and will guide priorities for years to come. Ecosystem risk assessment science provides a wealth of information that is useful across the entire cycle of restoration:

  1. At the knowledge gathering stage to define ecosystems and describe trends
  2. At the planning stage to identify priorities and set targets
  3. At the implementation stage to set the context and identify restoration activities
  4. At the monitoring and learning stage to measure and report progress, and to share lessons
  5. At the policy level to guide evidence-based policy and funding decisions

To learn more about the process of applying the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems to ecosystem restoration, see the publication “Using ecosystem risk assessment science for ecosystem restoration” available here and a supplemental StoryMap viewable here.


For any further questions, contact Marcos Valderrábano.

RLE Restoration Guide CoverPhoto: IUCN

Suggested citation for publication: Valderrábano, M., Nelson, C., Nicholson, E., Etter, A., Carwardine, J., Hallett, J. McBreen, J. and Botts, E. (2021) Using ecosystem risk assessment science in ecosystem restoration: A guide to applying the Red List of Ecosystems to ecosystem restoration. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.