IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, IUCN

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Photo: IUCN The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species. It uses a set of quantitative criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species. These criteria are relevant to most species and all regions of the world. With its strong scientific base, The IUCN Red List is recognized as the most authoritative guide to the status of biological diversity.

At a glance

112,400 +
species assessed

30,000 +
threatened species

160,000 target
species assessed by 2020

Read more and explore

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The IUCN Red List in a nutshell

A global authority

The IUCN Red List assesses the conservation status of species at a global level, drawing on expert knowledge from around the world.

Who uses the Red List?

The IUCN Red List is used by institutional, business and community users such as :

  • national and international government agencies
  • wildlife departments
  • conservation-related non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
  • natural resource planners
  • educational organisations
  • zoos and aquariums
  • students
  • media
  • the business community

How is the Red List used ?

IUCN Red List data are used for a variety of purposes:

  • International agreements use IUCN Red List data to guide decision making and as an indicator of the status of nature . These include, b ut are not limited to agreements such as CITES, the Ramsar Convention, UN Sustainable Development Goals and CBD Aichi Targets
  • World Bank Group Performance Standard PS6 uses The IUCN Red List Index to minimise the risk to biodiversity from large-scale infrastructure and natural resource extraction projects
  • Government agencies rely on IUCN Red List data to guide policies such as National Parks regulations
  • Zoos use The IUCN Red List Categories to educate the public about species’ status
  • Scientists use IUCN Red List data as a primary data source in their analyses and publications
  • Teachers and students use IUCN Red List data in college projects
  • Journalists use IUCN Red List data to inform their articles

The IUCN Red List is a key indicator for the SDGs and Aichi Targets

Photo: United Nations / CBD Data from The IUCN Red List are used as indicators for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 15: Life on Land.

The IUCN Red List is an essential resource for global, regional and thematic reports

UN bodies, academic institutions and civil society organisations rely on the IUCN Red List to inform a range of global, regional and thematic assessments and reports. Recent examples include the:

  • Annual UN Sustainable Development Goals reports
  • Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
  • UN Convention on Biological Diversity Global Biodiversity Outlook
  • Ramsar Convention Global Wetlands Outlook
  • WWF Living Planet Report, BirdLife International State of the World’s Birds, and Royal Botanic Garden Kew’s State of the World’s Plants

The IUCN Red List Partnership

The IUCN Red List is produced by the Red List Partnership, currently: Arizona State University, BirdLife International, Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Conservation International, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), NatureServe, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Sapienza University of Rome, IUCN Species Survival Commission, Texas A&M University, and Zoological Society of London.

Learn more about the experts and browse the IUCN SSC Specialist Groups directory

The IUCN Red List Categories

Photo: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™

The IUCN Red List Categories define the extinction risk of species assessed. Nine categories extend from NE (Not Evaluated) to EX (Extinct).

Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN) and Vulnerable (VU) species are considered to be threatened with extinction.

The Red List Index

The IUCN Red List Index (RLI) provides a clearer view of real trends within different taxonomic groups, and for biodiversity as a whole.

Photo: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ The RLI is available for groups in which all species have been assessed at least twice. Currently, the Index is available for five groups : birds, mammals, amphibians, corals and cycads.

The RLI clearly demonstrates that the status of these five major groups continues to decline.
Read more about the Red List Index

A critical indicator

The IUCN Red List is an authoritative indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity.

Far more than a list of species and their status

  • a powerful tool to inform and catalyse action for biodiversity conservation and policy change,
  • critical to protecting the natural resources we need to survive.
  • provides information about range, population size, habitat and ecology, use and/or trade, threats,
  • provides information about conservation actions that will help inform necessary conservation decisions.

We welcome your support

The IUCN Red List aims to assess 160,000 species by 2020 and relies on donations to fund the assessment and re-assessment of species.

Key support

A key partnership with Toyota Motor Corporation established in 2016 is helping us achieve our 2020 target.

Contact us and see how you can get involved !

www.iucn.org

UK conservation status explained

The UK’s birds can be split in to three categories of conservation importance — red, amber and green.

The red list

Red is the highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action.

Red list criteria includes:

  • Species is globally threatened.
  • Historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995.
  • Severe (at least 50%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years, or longer-term period (the entire period used for assessments since the first BoCC review, starting in 1969).
  • Severe (at least 50%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years, or the longer-term period.

Birds of Conservation Concern 4

The population status of birds in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

This contains the full list of red and amber categorised species.

The amber list

Amber is the next most critical group.

Birds in the amber list will be subject to at least one of the relevant factors listed below:

  • Species with unfavourable conservation status in Europe (SPEC = Species of European Conservation Concern).
  • Historical population decline during 1800–1995, but recovering; population size has more than doubled over last 25 years.
  • Moderate (25-50%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years, or the longer-term period.
  • Moderate (25-50%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years, or the longer-term period.
  • Moderate (25-50%) decline in UK non-breeding population over last 25 years, or the longer-term period.
  • Rare breeder; 1–300 breeding pairs in UK.
  • Rare non-breeders; less than 900 individuals.
  • Localised; at least 50% of UK breeding or non-breeding population in 10 or fewer sites, but not applied to rare breeders or non-breeders.
  • Internationally important; at least 20% of European breeding or non-breeding population in UK (NW European and East Atlantic Flyway populations used for non-breeding wildfowl and waders respectively).

The green list

Species on the green list are the least critical group.

Species that occur regularly in the UK but do not qualify under any or the above criteria.

Introduced species

This is not a conservation status category, but indicates a species that has escaped and bred in the wild or has been deliberately released into the wild at some point in the UK’s history.

As these species are not native to the UK, they have no specific conservation status here.

The story behind the red list

Curlews and puffins have joined other species like cuckoos, house sparrows and turtle doves on the list of birds whose populations are in big trouble.

But what does being on the list actually mean? And what do we do with this list? We talked to Dr Mark Eaton, one of the RSPB’s Principal Conservation Scientists.

«The red list in the Birds of Conservation Concern 4 report (BoCC4) is a big thing for me,» admits Mark. «I’m responsible for collating the data from many sources. I work with a group of experts, representing the nine BoCC4 partners, to assess the data, produce the red, amber and green lists, and then write this up so we can publish the findings both as a scientifically rigorous paper so the facts are there for scrutiny, and as a summary report.»

Mark and his team analyse hundreds of statistics from monitoring schemes such as the Breeding Bird Survey and the Wetland Bird Survey.

Mark explains where the data comes: «Thanks to thousands of volunteers – counting birds, doing surveys, getting their data to organisations such as the RSPB, BTO and WWT – birds are probably amongst the best monitored groups of wildlife on the planet, and especially so in the UK. We produce lots of stats which enable us to assess whether each species should go onto one of our lists of conservation concern. Either amber for moderate concern or red which are the ones we are really worried about.

«To be on the red list you need to be a bird of highest conservation concern, meaning you’re in a pretty bad way. You’ve declined very rapidly, you’re at risk of extinction globally, or you are historically depleted, meaning you are much lower population levels that you were in the past.'»

The species that worry us most

Mark explains that there are 20 new species on the red list and highlights which species worry him most.

«The most noticeable thing is that we’ve got a number of new upland species on the red list. So we have increased concern there, particularly for curlews as our UK population is internationally important. We have about a quarter of the world’s curlews breeding in the UK and we know that they are doing badly elsewhere as well. So there is real international concern for curlew.»

It’s not just upland birds — Mark draws attention to our seabirds that are also of heightened concern.

«We’re seeing kittiwakes, puffins and shags join the red list this time around. So we’re particularly worried about what’s happening to our marine ecosystems and the impact that’s having on our seabirds.»

Mark’s been working on Birds of Conservation Concern for many years and in his time in conservation he’s seen some huge changes. He says, «Three species have disappeared as breeding species in UK. Wrynecks were once very widespread, breeding in 54 UK counties in the 19th century. If you look in the RSPB magazine back in 1908 we were selling nest boxes suitable for wrynecks to be put in gardens, but now they’re gone.»

Hope for species recovery

It’s not all doom and gloom. There is hope as species move from red to amber and amber to green.

Mark says, «We’ve seen bitterns and nightjars move from red list to the amber list. Bitterns are a wonderful story because they were almost extinct from the UK, with less than a dozen males 20 years ago, but because of our conservation action it’s now thriving. Red kites have also moved onto the green list. The very first red data book had a red kite on the cover because it was a perfect example of a threatened bird, hanging on in a just a few Welsh valleys, but now they’re widespread, a common sight in many places.

«What’s particularly pleasing is that thanks to the support of from our members, and partners from other organisations we have been able to demonstrate that we can turn things around if we have resources and support. It’s not a one way journey – we can bring them back.

We’re using the red list to focus our conservation efforts

A number of our garden birds like house sparrows, starlings and song thrushes have been on the red list for a while; this time around we see the addition of mistle thrushes. Five of the six species of UK breeding thrush are now on the red list. Mark explains what we can do to help.

«We use the red list to prioritise our action. We use it to identify which species need help immediately and take action. So, if there is research to do to find out the what the problem is, and how to tackle it, then we’ll do that, then once we know what needs to be done to help them we’ll get on with it, whether it’s land management, species recovery projects or lobbying government.

«Prioritising is vital as we don’t have money and resources to work on everything, even within the red list we can’t prioritise action for all 67 species. In some cases we have to just keep a watching brief on a species until we have more resource to take action.»

«The first step is considering what to do in your own outdoor spaces to create better habitats for wildlife. Those who have a garden could consider wildlife friendly gardening — create a pond, plant pollen rich flowers, or plant shrubs with berries for birds.

«Most of the data we use if collected by volunteers –if you know a little bit about birds you could get involved in data gathering with monitoring schemes, such as those run by the BTO in partnership with the RSPB.»

www.rspb.org.uk

News from IUCN

Conservation efforts bring cautious hope for African rhinos

The African Black Rhino remains Critically Endangered, but its population is slowly increasing as conservation efforts counter the persistent threat of poaching, according to today’s update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

Species recoveries bring hope amidst the biodiversity crisis

Conservation efforts have led to improvements in the status of ten species, according to today’s update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species TM . This includes the recovery of the Guam Rail, a bird previously listed as Extinct in the Wild.

Over half of Europe’s endemic trees face extinction

Over half (58%) of Europe’s endemic trees are threatened with extinction. The introduction of invasive species, unsustainable logging and urban development are key threats causing the decline of tree species, such as the horse-chestnut across Europe.

What is The IUCN Red List?

Established in 1964, The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species.

The IUCN Red List is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity. Far more than a list of species and their status, it is a powerful tool to inform and catalyze action for biodiversity conservation and policy change, critical to protecting the natural resources we need to survive. It provides information about range, population size, habitat and ecology, use and/or trade, threats, and conservation actions that will help inform necessary conservation decisions.

The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria

The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria are intended to be an easily and widely understood system for classifying species at high risk of global extinction. It divides species into nine categories: Not Evaluated, Data Deficient, Least Concern, Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, Extinct in the Wild and Extinct.

Data Deficient (DD)

A taxon is Data Deficient (DD) when there is inadequate information to make a direct, or indirect, assessment of its risk of extinction based on its distribution and/or population status. A taxon in this category may be well studied, and its biology well known, but appropriate data on abundance and/or distribution are lacking.

Least Concern (LC)

A taxon is Least Concern (LC) when it has been evaluated against the Red List criteria and does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable or Near Threatened.

Near Threatened (NT)

A taxon is Near Threatened (NT) when it has been evaluated against the criteria but does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable now, but is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.

Vulnerable (VU)

A taxon is Vulnerable (VU) when the best available evidence indicates that it meets any of the criteria A to E for Vulnerable, and it is therefore considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Endangered (EN)

A taxon is Endangered (EN) when the best available evidence indicates that it meets any of the criteria A to E for Endangered, and it is therefore considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

Critically Endangered (CR)

A taxon is Critically Endangered (CR) when the best available evidence indicates that it meets any of the criteria A to E for Critically Endangered, and it is therefore considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

Extinct In The Wild (EW)

A taxon is Extinct In The Wild (EW) when it is known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalized population (or populations) well outside the past range. A taxon is presumed Extinct in the Wild when exhaustive surveys in known and/or expected habitat, at appropriate times (diurnal, seasonal, annual), throughout its historic range have failed to record an individual. Surveys should be over a time frame appropriate to the taxon’s life cycle and life form.

Extinct (EX)

A taxon is Extinct (EX) when there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual has died. A taxon is presumed Extinct when exhaustive surveys in known and/or expected habitat, at appropriate times (diurnal, seasonal, annual), throughout its historic range have failed to record an individual. Surveys should be over a time frame appropriate to the taxon’s life cycle and life form.

Our goals

To date, more than 116,000 species have been assessed for The IUCN Red List.

This is an incredible achievement. However, our work is nowhere near complete. We need to more than double the number of wild species (plants, animals and fungi) assessed

Our new goal is 160,000 species by 2020. Meeting this goal will provide the most up-to-date indication of the health of the world’s biodiversity to guide critical conservation action. This is only achievable with support from people like you.

Goal statistics

116,177

160,000

251 days remaining

43,823 species remaining

Resources and Publications

IUCN 2020. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2020-1.

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

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Red Lists

In the 1960s, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) developed the first standard approach for dealing with the presentation of information on rare and threatened species.

More formal IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria were developed in the early nineties to further objectively assess and prioritise species for conservation purposes at a global scale. A review of these categories and criteria was completed in 1998 and 1999 and the current version the IUCN Red list categories and criteria (Version 3.1) is now widely used around the world for species assessments (IUCN 2001). The IUCN also produce regularly updated guidelines for using the categories and criteria (IUCN 2010), and have produced guidelines for applying the criteria at a regional level (IUCN 2003).

NPWS and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency are working together with national experts and with the National Biological Data Centres North and South to produce regional Red Lists for the island of Ireland. The production of Red Lists is an action under our National Biodiversity Plans. Red Lists are published on an irregular basis, as datasets and the necessary national expertise for taxonomic groups become available.

BirdWatch Ireland and the RSPB NI have produced a list of Birds of Conservation Concern (BoCCI) in Ireland. This was updated by: Lynas, P., Newton, S.F. & Robinson, J.A. (2009) The status of birds in Ireland: an analysis of conservation concern 2008-2013. Irish Birds, 8(2): 149-166.

Series Editors: Ferdia Marnell & Brian Nelson
ISSN 2009 — 2016

www.npws.ie

Why you may have been eating insects your whole life

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If you are horrified by the thought of eating insects, the bad news is that you have probably done so many, many times.

This is because one of the most widely used red food colourings — carmine — is made from crushed up bugs.

The insects used to make carmine are called cochineal, and are native to Latin America where they live on cacti.

Now farmed mainly in Peru, millions of the tiny insects are harvested every year to produce the colouring.

A staple of the global food industry, carmine is added to everything from yoghurts and ice creams, to fruit pies, soft drinks, cupcakes and donuts.

It is also used extensively in the cosmetics industry and is found in many lipsticks.

Carmine continues to be widely used because it is such a stable, safe and long-lasting additive whose colour is little affected by heat or light.

Supporters also point out that it is a natural product first discovered and used by the Maya and then the Aztecs more than five centuries ago. They claim that it is far healthier than artificial alternatives such as food colourings made from coal or petroleum by-products.

But even fans of carmine agree that it should be more clearly labelled, and there are a growing number of natural red colouring alternatives that don’t come from insects.

Look for the word «carmine» on a food product that contains it, and you might not actually see it written in the list of ingredients.

Instead it might say «natural red four», «crimson lake» or just E120, to give carmine its European Union food additive classification number.

Amy Butler Greenfield, author of A Perfect Red, a book about carmine and its history, says that while she «feels strongly» that it should always be labelled, it is a natural product that has stood the test of time.

«Carmine is an incredibly stable and reliable natural food dye that can be used to create a wide range of colours — pinks, oranges, purples, as well as reds.

«A few people have serious allergic reactions to it, but overall it has a great, long-term safety record.»

Peru now leads the way in production of carmine, and according to the Peruvian Embassy to the UK, the country has a 95% share of the international market.

This creates work for no less than 32,600 farmers, the embassy adds.

The bugs, which are about 5mm or 0.2 inches long, are brushed off the pads of prickly pear cacti. It is the wingless females that are harvested, rather than the flying males.

The red colour comes from carminic acid, which makes up almost a quarter of the bugs’ weight, and deters predation by other insects.

Ms Butler Greenfield says: «Generally the bugs are dried first. nowadays food-grade cochineal dye is put through many filters to remove insect parts.»

Last year Peru exported 647 tonnes of carmine for a total value of $46.4m (£33m).

Given what the dye is made from, you might think it would be a declining industry.

However, demand is rising and because the supply is finite — it is difficult for Peruvian farmers to substantially boost supplies — the price has soared in recent years.

Back in 2013 Peru’s exports of carmine totalled 531 tonnes, which was worth $22m. So over the past four years, the price per tonne has risen by 73%.

UK-based Premier Foods, which owns brands including Mr Kipling cakes and Bachelor soups, continues to use carmine, but does consider switching to alternative colourings.

«We use carmine in some of our products, because it is natural and uniquely provides a particularly stable range of red and pink colours that do not fade,» says a Premier Foods spokesman.

«[But] we continue to look for alternatives, which in addition to being natural, would also be suitable for vegetarians.»

Animal rights group Peta would ideally like the use of carmine to be phased out all together.

«It reportedly takes up to 70,000 individual insects to produce just 500g of dye, so naturally, it’s a product that compassionate consumers will want to avoid.

«Fortunately, the rapid growth in the number of people following a vegan lifestyle is encouraging more and more companies to develop animal-friendly products, so it’s never been easier to choose vegan items for which no animal of any size has suffered.»

One company that in recent years has moved away from carmine is US coffee shop giant Starbucks.

Back in 2012 customers complained after it was revealed that Starbucks used carmine in some of its iced coffees, smoothies and cakes. Starbucks responded by saying it would switch from carmine to lycopene, a natural, tomato-based extract.

Other natural food colouring alternatives include extracts from berries and beetroot. Yet none are as long-lasting and easy to use as carmine.

For example, betanin, the food colouring obtained from beetroots, degrades when exposed to light, heat and oxygen. It therefore typically only used in foodstuffs that have a short shelf life, or are frozen.

Ms Butler Greenfield says it is important to remember that carmine is a natural product that it is a vital source of income for poor farmers in Peru.

«People, mostly Peruvian, and mostly very poor, depend on carmine for their livelihood,» she says.

www.bbc.com

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