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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The percentage of species in several groups which are listed as      critical,      endangered, or      vulnerable on the 2007 IUCN Red List.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (also known as the IUCN Red List or Red Data List), founded in 1948, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species. A series of Regional Red Lists are produced by countries or organizations, which assess the risk of extinction to species within a political management unit.

The IUCN Red List is set upon precise criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies. These criteria are relevant to all species and all regions of the world. The aim is to convey the urgency of conservation issues to the public and policy makers, as well as help the international community to try to reduce species extinction.

Major species assessors include BirdLife International, the Institute of Zoology (the research division of the Zoological Society of London), the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and many Specialist Groups within the IUCN's Species Survival Commission (SSC). Collectively, assessments by these organizations and groups account for nearly half the species on the Red List.

IUCN Red List is widely considered to be the most objective and authoritative system for classifying species in terms of the risk of extinction.[1]

The IUCN aims to have the category of every species re-evaluated every 5 years if possible, or at least every ten years. This is done in a peer reviewed manner through IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Specialist Groups, which are Red List Authorities responsible for a species, group of species or specific geographic area, or in the case of BirdLife International, an entire class (Aves).[2]


2006 release

The 2006 Red List, released on 4 May 2006 evaluated 40,168 species as a whole, plus an additional 2,160 subspecies, varieties, aquatic stocks, and subpopulations.

From the species evaluated as a whole, 16,118 were considered threatened. Of these, 7,725 were animals, 8,390 were plants, and three were lichen and mushrooms.

This release listed 784 species extinctions recorded since 1500 CE, unchanged from the 2004 release. This was an increase of 18 from the 766 listed as of 2000. Each year a small number of "extinct" species may be rediscovered, becoming Lazarus species, or may be reclassified as "data deficient". In 2002, the extinction list dropped to 759 species, but has been rising ever since.[3]

2007 release

On 12 September 2007, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) released the 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the latest update to their online database of species' extinction risks. In this release, they have raised their classification of both the Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and the Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) from Endangered to Critically Endangered, which is the last category before Extinct in the Wild, due to Ebola virus and poaching, along with other factors. Russ Mittermeier, chief of Swiss-based IUCN's Primate Specialist Group, stated that 16,306 species are endangered with extinction, 188 more than in 2006 (total of 41,415 species on the Red List).[4] The Red List includes the Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) in the Critically Endangered category and the Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) in the Endangered category.[5]

2008 release

The 2008 Red List was released on 6 October 2008, at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, and "has confirmed an extinction crisis, with almost one in four [mammals] at risk of disappearing forever".[6] The study shows at least 1,141 of the 5,487 mammals on Earth are known to be threatened with extinction, and 836 are listed as Data Deficient.[7]


Icons for Red List categories
Summary of 2006 IUCN Red List categories.

Species are classified in nine groups, set through criteria such as rate of decline, population size, area of geographic distribution, and degree of population and distribution fragmentation.

  • Extinct (EX) - No individuals remaining.
  • Extinct in the Wild (EW) - Known only to survive in captivity, or as a naturalized population outside its historic range.
  • Critically Endangered (CR) - Extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
  • Endangered (EN) - High risk of extinction in the wild.
  • Vulnerable (VU) - High risk of endangerment in the wild.
  • Near Threatened (NT) - Likely to become endangered in the near future.
  • Least Concern (LC) - Lowest risk. Does not qualify for a more at risk category. Widespread and abundant taxa are included in this category.
  • Data Deficient (DD) - Not enough data to make an assessment of its risk of extinction.
  • Not Evaluated (NE) - Has not yet been evaluated against the criteria.[8]

When discussing the IUCN Red List, the official term "threatened" is a grouping of three categories: Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable.


1994 categories and criteria

Icons for Red List categories
1994 IUCN Red List categories (version 2.3), used for species which have not been reassessed since 2001.

The older 1994 has only a single "Lower Risk" category which contained three subcategories:

In the 2001 system, Near Threatened and Least Concern have now become their own categories, while Conservation Dependent is no longer used and has been merged into Near Threatened.

Possibly Extinct

The additional category of Possibly Extinct (PE)[9] is used by Birdlife International, the Red List Authority for birds for the IUCN Red List.[10] Birdlife International has recommended PE become an official category. BirdLife International has not stated whether a "Possibly Extinct in the Wild" category should also be added, although it is mentioned that Spix's Macaw has this status. "Possibly Extinct" can be considered a subcategory of "Critically Endangered", like the Chinese River Dolphin, which is considered extinct.


The IUCN Red List has come under criticism on the grounds of secrecy (or at least poor documentation) surrounding the sources of data.[11] The allegations have led to efforts by the IUCN to improve its documentation and data quality, and to include peer reviews of taxa on the Red List. The list is also open to petitions against its classifications, on the basis of documentation or criteria.[12] A Nature editorial defended the Red List's relevance in October 2008 [13].

It has been suggested that the IUCN Red List and similar works are prone to misuse by governments and other groups, to draw possibly inappropriate conclusions on the state of the environment or to effect exploitation of natural resources.[14]

See also


  1. ^ "Birds on the IUCN Red List". BirdLife International. Retrieved 2007-02-01.  
  2. ^ "Establishment of Red List Authorities". The IUCN SSC Red List Programme. Retrieved 2006-11-12.  
  3. ^ "Data figures for Wikipedia citations". IUCN Red List website. Retrieved 2008-02-28.  
  4. ^, Gorillas now 'critically endangered'
  5. ^ news release, Extinction crisis escalates: Red List shows apes, corals, vultures, dolphins all in danger
  6. ^ IUCN Red List reveals world’s mammals in crisis
  7. ^ IUCN Red List reveals world’s mammals in crisis
  8. ^ IUCN About the IUCN Red List
  9. ^ S. H. M. Butchart, et al.. "Going or gone: defining 'Possibly Extinct' species to give a truer picture of recent extinctions" (pdf). Bull. B.O.C. 2006 126A.  
  10. ^ "Birds on the IUCN Red List". BirdLife International. Retrieved 2007-01-26.  
  11. ^ N. Mrosovsky (1997). "IUCN's credibility critically endangered". Nature 389: 436. doi:10.1038/38873.  
  12. ^ "Information sources and quality". IUCN Red List website. Retrieved 2008-09-19.  
  13. ^ Nature 455, 707-708 (9 October 2008) "The Red List still matters" | doi:10.1038/455707b;
  14. ^ Hugh P. Possingham et al. (November 2002). "Limits to the use of threatened species lists". Trends in Ecology & Evolution 17 (11): 503–507. doi:10.1016/S0169-5347(02)02614-9.  

Further reading

External links

Redirecting to IUCN Red List


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:




Red List

  1. a list of endangered species, created by the World Conservation Monitoring Center

See also

  • IUCN Red List


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