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

3_en_redlist_rgb_sitoMace, 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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