Story | 16 Aug, 2018

Promoting the protection of endangered ecosystems

IUCN CEM Red List of Ecosystems Steering Committee met in Gland, Switzerland in June 2018 to discuss how all IUCN Commissions can better promote protection of endangered ecosystems.

Since the end of the 19th century, humans have changed ecosystems at a faster rate than during any other period in history, and today, many of them are on the brink of extinction. To assess which ecosystems are the most endangered in the world and which of those need urgent action, including legal protection,  to avoid disappearing, IUCN has developed the Red List of Ecosystems (RLE).  This list is a cutting-edge conservation tool that defines criteria to assess the conservation status of ecosystems and is applicable at local, national, regional, and global levels.

Although most RLE assessment criteria are still being developed and improved, some analyses have already been made at the global and regional level. These studies demonstrated, for example, the ecological collapse of the Aral Sea in central Asia resulted from excessive use of its waters for irrigation. A global RLE assessment is due by 2025.

To discuss progress on the assessment of strategic ecosystems and how to improve the use of the Red List in public policies, the RLE Steering Committee gathered in Gland, Switzerland, during the last week of June 2018.  Raul Silva Telles do Valle, chair of the WCEL Forest Specialist Group, represented the Commission at the meeting to speak about ways to use the Red List to legally protect endangered ecosystems and how to strengthen cross-Commission collaboration.

A precise and scientifically based list of endangered ecosystems at the national or local level can be of great value to establish or improve biodiversity offset schemes. An example is the legislation currently in place in New South Wales, Australia, that demands from the developer or anyone that wants to clear native vegetation to purchase “biodiversity credits” from landholders that protect important ecosystems on their lands. RLE information can also guide the creation of protected areas or provide elements to allow forest authorities to analyze and decide on requests for forest conversion.

In the coming years, the Forest Specialist Group will carry out a comparative analysis on forest legislations from different countries in an effort to understand and promote the best legal and institutional arrangements, that is, those that have made the measurable difference to protect or restore important forestland.  One of the outcomes of the CEM meeting was that this comparative exercise will have a special focus on understanding how legal systems protect threatened ecosystems and best practices.


Raul Telles do VallePhoto: WCEL
Raul Silva Telles do Valle
Chair, WCEL Forests Specialist Group