Classics: Red List of Threatened Species

22 08 2008

‘Classics’ is a category of posts highlighting research that has made a real difference to biodiversity conservation. All posts in this category will be permanently displayed on the Classics page of ConservationBytes.com

© M. McDowell
© M. McDowell

Mace, G.M. & Lande, R. (1991). Assessing extinction threats: toward a re-evaluation of IUCN threatened species categories. Conservation Biology, 51, 148-157.

I was recently fortunate enough to have the chance to speak with Georgina Mace, current president of the Society for Conservation Biology, to ask her which was the defining paper behind the hugely influential IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. There is little doubt that the Red List has been one of the most influential conservation policy tools constructed. Used as the global standard for the assessment of threat (i.e., extinction risk) for now > 40000 species, the Red List is the main tool by which most people judge the status, extinction risk, and recovery potential of threatened species worldwide. Far from complete (e.g., it covers about 2 % of described species), the Red List is an evolving and improving assessment by the world’s best experts. It has become very much more than just a ‘list’.

Indeed, it is used often in the conservation ecology literature as a proxy for extinction risk (although see post on Minimum Viable Population size for some counter-arguments to that idea). We’ve used it that way ourselves in several recent papers (see below), and there are plenty of other examples. From extinction theory to policy implementation, Mace & Lande’s contribution to biodiversity conservation via the Red List was a major step forward.

See also:

CJA Bradshaw

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17 08 2014
World Heritage Species | ConservationBytes.com

[…] and national ‘protected’ species legislation. The IUCN Red List is without doubt the gold standard in this arena for threatened species, and there are many international treaties that value and […]

11 10 2012
The Biodiversity Club « ConservationBytes.com

[...] and critique. With pros and cons (3-6), and intrigues (7, 8), the list has established itself as an important tool for assessing the state of biodiversity globally and, more recently, [...]

30 11 2011
Better SAFE than sorry « ConservationBytes.com

[...] SAFE (Species Ability to Forestall Extinction) that could enhance the information provided by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species for assessing relative extinction threat. I won’t go into all the detail here (you can read [...]

16 11 2009
Conservation Scholars: Georgina Mace « ConservationBytes.com

[...] Mace. She is famous for many things, although one thing in particular stands out – the IUCN Red List. We’re really lucky to have someone of Georgina’s calibre, highly demanding schedule [...]

4 11 2009
Not so ‘looming’ – Anthropocene extinctions « ConservationBytes.com

[...] about the release of the 2009 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. I’ve blogged about the importance of the Red List before, but believe we have a lot more to do with species assessments and getting prioritisation [...]

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