The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Categories and Criteria is a global standard for how we assess the conservation status of ecosystems, applicable at local, national, regional and global levels. The Red List of Ecosystems evaluates whether ecosystems have reached the final stage of degradation (a state of Collapse), whether they are threatened at Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable levels, or if they are not currently facing significant risk of collapse (Least Concern). It is based on a set of rules, or criteria, for performing evidence-based, scientific assessments of the risk of ecosystem collapse, as measured by reductions in geographical distribution or degradation of the key processes and components of ecosystems.
The central goal of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Categories and Criteria is to support conservation in resource use and management decisions by identifying ecosystems most at risk of biodiversity loss. To meet this goal, a balance of four qualities was sought in the design of the RLE protocol: generality, precision, realism, and simplicity (Keith et al. 2013). The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems will support three major products:
- A global assessment of the ecosystems of the world by 2025. Partial results, focusing on specific regions, will become available from 2015 onwards.
- Technical support will be provided for stakeholders to carry out finer scale assessments at national and regional levels. These may be led by government agencies, NGOs, academic institutions, IUCN national and regional offices and their networks of collaborators.
- The Red List criteria may be applied to assess individual ecosystems of particular interest to stakeholders.