Biodiv Sci ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (10): 22445.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2022445

• Reviews • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Progress and application of IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Yan Xie1,2,*()   

  1. 1. Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101
    2. China Species Specialist Group of Species Survival Commission (CSSG/SSC), World Nature Conservation Union (IUCN), Beijing, 100101
  • Received:2022-08-03 Accepted:2022-10-27 Online:2022-10-20 Published:2022-11-01
  • Contact: Yan Xie


Aim: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN Red List) has become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global extinction risk status of animal, fungus and plant species, a critical indicator of the health of biodiversity and a powerful tool to catalyse action for biodiversity conservation and policy decision. The purpose of this paper is to comprehensively introduce the development and application of the IUCN Red List, to promote Chinese species assessment and wide application in China.
Review Results: (1) The history of the IUCN Red List. During the phase of Red Data Book of Endangered Species, it was largely dependent on individual experts’ personal judgement to make decisions on threatened categories. From 1991, the criteria gradually became quantified and unified for all taxon groups. Since IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1 published in 2001, the categories and criteria has been kept stable and become widely applied around the world. Until now, more than 140,000 species (among them, 10,846 species are distributed in China) have been evaluated at the global level, over 55,000 species evaluated at China country level, and over 100 countries/regions have developed their regional/national Red List.
(2) Global criteria and assessment. The category system covers all species in the world, among which, three categories regarded as “threatened”, i.e., Critical Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN) or Vulnerable (VU), must be evaluated by the five set of criteria. The current global level assessment work is mainly completed by the IUCN Species Survival Committee (SSC) and its partners, and there are strict requirements for the assessment.
(3) National and regional criteria and applications. Compared with the global application, the category and criteria are applicable to regional applications, only the assessment results should be adjusted if the species population communicates with neighboring regions (or countries).
(4) Assessment status of China Red List. The first comprehensive assessment began in 2000 for 10,211 species, and the China Red List of Species was published in 2004. The second comprehensive assessment began in 2008, and the official release began in 2013. By the end of 2021, over 55,000 species assessments were completed, including all terrestrial vertebrates and higher plants, some marine fishes, invertebrates, and large fungi. Yunnan Province has issued the first provincial red list.
(5) Application of the Red List. The application of Red List continues to grow rapidly, both globally and in China. The Red List Index is used to measure biodiversity changes over time. The Red List is also applied for decision-making on species conservation priorities and key priority conservation areas, implementation of international conventions, formulating (revising) key protected species list of countries (regions) and protected area management and effective allocation of resources and public awareness raising.
(6) Major discussions on Red List application. Since the publication of the Categories and Criteria, major discussions are on the methodology of obtaining data. While a few experts believe that some criteria are flawed and need to be improved, and some others calls for maintaining a long-term relative stable of criteria for comparisons over time.
(7) Recommendations on sustainable mechanism and application in China. We recommend to establish China Red List Committee, develop a professional website for China Red List, build capacity of Red List assessors, establish mechanism for receiving and reviewing assessment reports, and strengthen international cooperation to promote application and development of global and China Red List.

Key words: IUCN Red List, Categories and Criteria, National Red List, China Red List