Why Is The IUCN Red List Important?

IUCN Colors

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) publishes the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This list identifies and helps determine if a species of plant, wildlife or bird are threatened or at risk of extinction. 

The IUCN Red List is used for scientific research, to inform policies, to influence fund allocations and guide planning for conservationists. The Red List is also used to improve devision-making, help students, and help research in the fields of health and medicine.

I often look at the IUCN Red List for my research on this site, and to help me in my daily job. I wondered who else uses the Red List, and what they use it for. What I found made me appreciate the work they put into the list even more.


Why Is The IUCN Red List Important?

Without the Red List, many animal or plants would have disappeared from the face of the earth without anyone even noticing.

The Red List is a rich source of information on various species including their habitats, distribution, and the speed of decline in recent years. It also covers the population of the remaining individuals, their ecological requirements, and chances they might vanish completely over the next 100 years.

A thorough assessment is done to ensure that all the species put on the Red List belong there. The results of an evaluation are reviewed by a team of experts who then agree if a certain species of plant or animal should be included on the Red List.

The Red List consists of various categories. There are categories for extinct, threatened, and for lower risk. The species are further classified based on their population, geographical distribution, rate of decline, and distribution disintegration. 

What Are The Groups On The IUCN Red List?

  • Extinct – The species no longer exists and has already disappeared completely.
  • Extinct in the wild – These species do not exist in the wild. They survive only outside the native range or in captivity. Surveys are carried out in all regions before the IUCN comes to this conclusion.
  • Critically endangered – These are in a very critical state and on the brink of extinction.
  • Endangered – Species at a high risk of extinction while in the wild.
  • Vulnerable – The species is considered to be at risk of human or unnatural extinction without any human intervention.
  • Near threatened – Might be at a high risk of extinction soon in the future.
  • Least concern – May not become extinct or even threatened soon.

Among these groups, endangered, critically endangered, and vulnerable are all put in the threatened category. This particular category requires immediate intervention and measures to protect the species. If appropriate action is not taken to reduce the threats a species is facing, it may quickly reach the extinction category. 

Photo of cougar

All groups are created based on the extinction risks of a species. The IUCN Red List is an essential tool that environmentalists and conservationists use to get help from governments to protect endangered species.

How the Red list is Used

The Red List is more than a list that shows which particular species are in danger of extinction. It helps determine what species require conservation and further attention. The Red List is a library of information that can be used in biodiversity decision-making. 

Here are more ways the IUCN Red List is used;

Scientific Research

The IUCN Red List data is a source of information and reference used by many research institutions from all over the world. The IUCN uses a website with all the details and data. This contains information on different kinds of species that are endangered or on the brink of extinction. The website makes the process simple and easy to download the data and use it for research purposes.

Many of the scientific journals and conservation articles cite the IUCN Red List and its vital contribution to conservation planning.

Informing Policy and Convention

The multilateral environmental agreements use the IUCN Red List to make informed decisions. It is used as a guide used to revise the basis of international treaties such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and Convention on Migratory Species.

The IUCN Red List is also used as a source of data for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. They use the list in determining their progress in achieving sustainable development goals.

killer whale

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) relies on data from the IUCN Red List. They used the data to calculate the Red List Index (RLI). The RLI is a crucial indicator of biodiversity and used to monitor progress and achievements towards their targets.

Another importance of the IUCN Red List is in the assessment of freshwater species. The Ramsar convention specifically makes use of this information to select sites for freshwater biodiversity.

The Red List is a great reference and an essential source of information for many other conventions and policy platforms. Many decisions are made after analyzing the Red List data, and information is reviewed. This is useful in making improved and wiser decisions.

Influences Resource Allocations

Many foundations and funding organizations depend heavily on data from the IUCN Red List to make guided investments in conservation. There are many species of animals that are endangered and vulnerable requiring immediate conservation measures.

Foundations interested in conservation use the Red List assessments to determine which species they should focus on.

Organizations such as the Global Environmental Facility use information from the Red List to guide its resource allocations. The Red List is an important tool for determining which species of plants or animals to put higher on the conservation list.

The IUCN Red List also provides information on which regions have the least population of the species and what should be done to protect them.

Check out this list of the top wildlife organizations in North America.

Guides Conservation Planning

Conservation planning occurs in large part due to the IUCN Red List. The Red List is essential in identifying key biodiversity areas that can be used for conservation. 

Endangered or critically endangered species have to be relocated to areas where they can thrive and survive. A good indicator of these areas is through the Red List. The list has all the essential information and criteria that the conservation sites need.

Want to find out the official mammal of your state. Find out here.

Improves Decision-Making

The IUCN Red List is often crucial in environmental impact assessments. Decision-makers use the Red List to inform them of potential environmental impacts of implementing proposed projects. 

Some projects can have adverse consequences on particular species or their habitats. The thoroughly researched information from seasoned conservationists in the IUCN quickly point this out to prevent causing harm.

The IUCN Red List is used in site rehabilitation planning and biodiversity management. The IUCN explores all the possibilities that can help reduce any negative impacts on biodiversity, fostering sustainable production. 

The mining, petrochemical, and aggregate sectors all benefit from the wealth of information on the Red List about the distribution and conservation statuses of various species.

Read this article I have written to find out ten keystone species of North America.

Raising Awareness

The IUCN updates information on the Red List. Species that have increased in the risk of extinction, those that are no longer threatened or endangered and newly threatened species. 

Smiling Baluga whale

The new information evokes interest from the media. Many articles are written and posted on the internet, with information printed in newspapers and discussed on radio and TV. This greatly raises public awareness on the status of different species and the environmental threats they are facing. 

The IUCN Red List website is used by students and teachers all over the world for their projects and classwork.

Contributes to Human Health and Livelihood

The IUCN Red List is not a simple list. It has crucial information for the health and existence of human beings. Researchers in the health sector will investigate the distribution of species, most concentrating on those that are suspected or known carriers of diseases. 

Without measures and solutions put in place, such species can easily infect humans or domestic animals with life-threatening illnesses.

Furthermore, assessed IUCN Red List species can be essential for human health. The Red List can highlight plant species that have medicinal value and their benefits. This way, they can be protected to secure the livelihood and health of all humans.

Black bear with two adorable cubs in a tree.

Updates on the Red list

Many people think that the Red List is about endangered species. Whilst this is true, they also help to discover new species. The species at the top of the list are the ones at higher risk of extinction within a short period of time. At times, a species is uplifted, and its status changes from threatened to endangered or critically endangered. 

Some species are downlisted because they are no longer at risk. More new species are also added on the list if they become threatened or endangered. The IUCN Red List helps to protect biodiversity.

I have written an article about ten of the most endangered articles. You can read it here.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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