Conservation assessments can be undertaken at a variety of scales using a variety of methods, but their essential goal is to determine how likely it is that a species will go extinct in the near future.
Global IUCN Red List Assessments
The most trusted global assessment programme is the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The IUCN Red List uses a well-established, quantitative protocol that is universally applicable to all species (marine or terrestrial, plant or animal). Using this protocol, volunteer experts — including members of IUCN SSC Specialist Groups — work with IUCN staff and other experts to assess global populations. Their assessments serve as a spur to conservation action for threatened species.
Regional IUCN Red List Assessments
Conservation assessments are often also undertaken at the scale of large geographic regions. The purpose of such assessments is to determine whether species are at risk of regional extirpation due to the threats they face. Regional assessments make it easier to implement conservation actions in particular areas, which may not have been apparent at the global scale. The IUCN hosts regional workshops with experts from the area in order to complete these assessments.
Countries around the world often undertake conservation assessments at the national scale in order to gauge their contribution to conservation and report on national biodiversity commitments such as the Convention on Biological Diversity. Such assessments can help a country to determine whether their environmental stewardship is adequate for the species within their borders. Although most countries follow the IUCN Categories and Criteria, others modify them based on their own needs, and some even take on their own assessments independent of IUCN protocols.
What is the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species?
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ provides taxonomic, conservation status and distribution information on plants and animals that have been globally evaluated using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria.
As an IUCN Red List Authority, the Seahorses, Pipefish, and Seadragons Specialist Group ensures that all species within our jurisdiction (all fishes in the order Syngnathiformes) are correctly assessed against the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria at least once every ten years and, if possible, every five years. The intention is that no new species assessment will be included on the IUCN Red List until it has been reviewed by one or more members of the RLA. This review system places greater responsibility on the SSC network and its partners to ensure that what appears on the IUCN Red List is credible and scientifically accurate.
Learn More About IUCN Red List Assessments
You can learn all about the IUCN, the Red List, and the protocols used for the assessments in the online course offered by the IUCN. If you complete the course and pass the exam, you can even perform Red List assessments on species you are interested in. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to help out with assessments of species within our remit.
IUCN Red List Online Course: Assessing Species’ Extinction Risk Using IUCN Red List Methodology
In addition to the readings below, be sure to check the IUCN’s online Red List resources for further information on applying the IUCN Categories and Criteria, the IUCN Red List assessment process, training modules and further references.
Akcakaya, H. R., Butchart, S. H. M., Mace, G. M., Stuart, S. N. and Hilton-Taylor, C. 2006. Use and misuse of the IUCN Red List Criteria in projecting climate change impacts on biodiversity. Global Change Biology 12(11):2037-2043.
Butchart, S. H. M., Akcakay, H. R., Kennedy, E. and Hilton-Taylor, C. 2006. Biodiversity indicators based on trends in conservation status: Strengths of the IUCN Red List Index. Conservation Biology 20(2):579-581.
Collen, B., Dulvy, N.K., Gaston, K.J., Gardenfors, U., Keith, D.A., Punt, A.E., Regan, H.M., Bohm, M., Hedges, S., Seddon, M., Butchart. S.H.M., Hilton-Taylor, C., Hoffmann, M., Bachman, S.P. and Akcakaya, H.S. 2016. Clarifying misconceptions of extinction risk assessment with the IUCN Red List. Biology Letters 12(2):
Hayward, M. W. 2011. Using the IUCN Red List to determine effective conservation strategies. Biodiversity Conservation 20(12):2563-2573.
Hoffman, M., Brooks, T. M., da Fonseca, G. A. B., Gascon, C., Hawkins, A. F. A., James, R. E., Langhammer, P., Mittermeier, R. A., Pilgrim, J. D., Rodrigues, A. S. L. and Silva, J. M. C. 2008. Conservation planning and the IUCN Red List. Endangered Species Research 6(2):113-125.
Keith, D. A., Rodriguez, J.P., Brooks, T.M., Burgman, M.A., Barrow, E.G., Bland, L., Comer, P.J., Franklin, J., Link, J., McCarthy, M.A., Miller, R.M., Murray, N.J., Nel, J., Nicholson, E., Oliveira-Miranda, M.A., Regan, T.J., Rodriguez-Clark, K.M., Rouget, M. and Spalding, M.D. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems: Motivations, Challenges, and Applications. Conservation Letters 8(3):214-226.
Reynolds, J. D., Dulvy, N. K., Goodwin, N. B. and Hutchings, J. A. 2005. Biology of extinction risk in marine fishes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 272(1579):2337-2344.
Rodrigues, A. S. L., Pilgrim, J. D., Lamoreux, J. F., Hoffman, M. and Brooks, T. M. 2006. The value of the IUCN Red List for conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 21(2):71-76.
Rodriguez, J.P., Keith, D.A., Rodriguez-Clark, K.M., Murray, N.J., Nicholson, E., Regan, T.J., Miller, R.M., Barrow, E.G., Bland, L.M., Boe, K., Brooks, T.M., Oliveira-Miranda, M.A., Spalding, M. and Wit, P. 2015. A practical guide to the application of IUCN Red List of Ecosystems criteria. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 370(1662)