IUCN Red List of Ecosystems

S.A.P.I.E.N.S.Jon Paul Rodriguez

We begin by briefly examining the achievements of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and offering it as the model and motivator for the creation of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems (RLE). The history of the RLE concept within IUCN is briefly summarized, from the first attempt to formally establish an RLE in 1996 to the present. Major activities since 2008, when the World Conservation Congress initiated a “consultation process for the development, implementation and monitoring of a global standard for the assessment of ecosystem status, applicable at local, regional and global levels,” have included: development of a research agenda for strengthening the scientific foundations of the RLE, publication of preliminary categories and criteria for examination by the scientific and conservation community, dissemination of the effort widely by presenting it at workshops and conferences around the world, and encouraging tests of the system for a diversity of ecosystem types and in a variety of institutional settings. Between 2009 and 2012, the Red List of Ecosystems Thematic Group of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management organized 18 workshops and delivered 17 conferences in 20 countries on 5 continents, directly reaching hundreds of participants. Our vision for the future includes the integration of the RLE to the other three key IUCN knowledge products (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, World Database on Protected Areas and Key Biodiversity Areas), in an on-line, user-driven, freely-accessible information management system for performing biodiversity assessments. In addition we wish to pilot the integration of the RLE into land/water use planning and macro-economic planning. Fundamental challenges for the future include: substantial expansion in existing institutional and technical capacity (especially in biodiversity-rich countries in the developing world), progressive assessment of the status of all terrestrial, freshwater, marine and subterranean ecosystems, and development of a map of the ecosystems of the world. Our ultimate goal is that national, regional and global RLEs are used to inform conservation and land/water use decision-making by all sectors of society.

NatureServe Author(s)


  • Rodríguez JP, Rodríguez-Clark KM, Keith DA, Barrow EG, Benson J, Nicholson E and Wit P. (2012) IUCN Red List of Ecosystems. S.A.P.I.EN.S, 5(2).