The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species. From its small beginning, the IUCN Red List has grown in size and complexity and now plays an increasingly prominent role in guiding conservation activities of governments, NGOs and scientific institutions. The introduction in 1994 of a scientifically rigorous approach to determine risks of extinction that is applicable to all species, has become a world standard. In order to produce the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, the IUCN Species Programme working with the IUCN Survival Commission (SSC) and with members of IUCN draws on and mobilizes a network of scientists and partner organizations working in almost every country in the world, who collectively hold what is likely the most complete scientific knowledge base on the biology and conservation status of species.
The IUCN Red List is underpinned by information management tools (the Species Information Service ) which facilitate the collection, management and processing of species data from workshop to publication on the IUCN Red List.
The goals of the IUCN Red List are to:
Identify and document those species most in need of conservation attention if global extinction rates are to be reduced; and
Provide a global index of the state of change of biodiversity.
The first of these goals refers to the "traditional" role of the IUCN Red List, which is to identify particular species at risk of extinction. The role of the IUCN Red List in underpinning priority-setting processes for single species remains of critical importance. However, the second goal represents a new development for IUCN and for the Red List, as it focuses on using the data in the Red List for multi-species analyses in order to identify and monitor trends in species status.
To achieve these Goals, the IUCN Red List aims to:
Establish a baseline from which to monitor the change in status of species;
Provide a global context for the establishment of conservation priorities at the local level;
Monitor, on a continuing basis, the status of a representative selection of species (as biodiversity indicators) that cover all the major ecosystems of the world.
The high profile, standards and scientific integrity of the IUCN Red List are maintained in the following ways:
The scientific aspects underpinning the IUCN Red List are regularly published in the scientific literature (see examples cited in the Publications section);
The assessment process is clear and transparent;
The listings of species are based on correct use of the Red List Categories and Criteria and are open to challenge and correction;
All assessments are appropriately documented and supported by the best scientific information available;
The data are freely available through the World Wide Web to all potential users;
The IUCN Red List is updated regularly, but not all species are reassessed with each update – many assessments simply roll-over from the previous edition; and
Analyses of the findings of the Red List are regularly published, approximately every four to five years, usually at the time of the World Conservation Congress.
IUCN's work on Red List assessments is coordinated by the staff of the Species Programme working closely with the network of expert volunteers in the SSC. This work is supported through Global Species Assessment projects, and through partnerships with other organizations, such as the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science at Conservation International, BirdLife International, NatureServe and the Zoological Society of London. Further details about the assessment processes and the governance aspects can be seen at http://cms.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/red_list/about_the_red_list/index.cfm . The processes that have been established help to maintain the high profile and scientific integrity of the IUCN Red List.