What are Conservation Assessments?

Species conservation assessments are carried out in order to systematically determine the conservation status of a species. There are many different types of assessments that can be undertaken at a variety of scales and with a variety of methods, but they all essentially aim to determine how likely it is that a species will go extinct in the near future.

Global IUCN Red List Assessments

Assessments that are undertaken at this scale require a species’ entire global population to be assessed. The most trusted global assessment programme is the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The IUCN Red List assesses species under a well-established, quantitative protocol that is universally applicable to all species (marine or terrestrial, plant or animal). Volunteer experts (including those that are members of IUCN SSC Specialist Groups) collaborate to author the assessments with the help of other expert reviewers and IUCN staff.

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.

National Conservation 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 Red List Categories and Criteria, others modify them based on their own needs, and some even take on their own assessments independent of IUCN Red List 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.

Our Role

IUCN Red List Authorities have been established for all major taxonomic groups included on the IUCN Red List. In our case, the IUCN Red List Authority (RLA) is the SSC Specialist Group for Seahorses, Pipefish, and Sticklebacks. RLAs facilitate species assessments for the IUCN Red List by collating data and maps and coordinating their review by well-qualified experts, and by contributing directly to the assessments.

Our Specialist Group’s role as the IUCN Red List Authority is to ensure that all species within our jurisdiction (all fish in the orders Gasterosteifiormes and 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 iucn@projectseahorse.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

Further reading

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(4): doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2015.0843

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)

Banner image of Pontoh's seahorse (H. pontohi) by Tom van Hout/Guylian Seahorses of the World