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Documenting At-risk Status of Terrestrial Ecosystems in Temperate and Tropical North America
Conservation Science and Practice

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) is an emerging global standard for ecosystem risk assessment that integrates data and knowledge to document the relative risk status of ecosystem types. Here, we summarize initial findings from applying four IUCN RLE criteria to 655 terrestrial ecosystems in temperate and tropical North America, or 8.5% of the global land surface. A series of indicators are measured for each criterion to address trends in ecosystem extent (A), the relative restricted nature of its distribution (B), and the extent and relative severity of environmental degradation (C), and the extent and relative severity of disruption of biotic processes (D); all to gauge the probability of range wide “collapse.” Ecosystems are listed as collapsed, critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, near threatened, least concern, data deficient, or not evaluated. Taking uncertainty into account, 219 (33%) of terrestrial ecosystem types were listed as threatened (i.e., either critically endangered, [7%], endangered [14%], or vulnerable [13%]). Examples include tallgrass prairies, oak savannas, longleaf pine woodlands, floodplain forests, mesic hardwood forests, and dry tropical forests. Historically, these threatened ecosystems occurred across about 45% of the continental study area, and today account for about 30%. The RLE provides one important focus for prioritizing conservation effort.

Comer, P. J., Hak, J. C., & Seddon, E. (2022). Documenting at-risk status of terrestrial ecosystems in temperate and tropical North America. Conservation Science and Practice, 4( 2), e603.