Modelled on the influential IUCN Red List of Threatened Species?, the Red List of Ecosystems will identify if an ecosystem is vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered, based on an agreed and internationally accepted set of criteria for risk assessment. In addition to providing a global standard for assessing the status of ecosystems, the outputs of the Ecosystem Red List could also be used to inform on the current and future threats to the services that such ecosystems provide, such as clean water, climate regulation and natural products.
An ecosystem refers to an area of land/water, the biodiversity that lives there and the associated physical environment (air, water, rocks etc.) that interact together. Examples of ecosystems include lakes, mountains, riverine systems and coral reefs.
The process for establishing an IUCN Red List of Ecosystems was launched at IUCN's World Conservation Congress in 2008 and since then the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management has focused on consolidating assessment criteria for categorizing ecosystems according to their risk of collapse and piloting this in different countries, such as Venezuela and Senegal. Though the process for assessing the world's ecosystems is ongoing, and regional assessments will be published as they become available, complete global coverage of all of Earth's marine, terrestrial, freshwater and subterranean ecosystems is planned for 2025.
"Natural environments are under increasing pressure from unsustainable use and other threats," says Jon Paul Rodriguez, Leader of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management's Ecosystems Red List Thematic Group. "Functional ecosystems are essential to our livelihoods and wellbeing."