How does the IUCN Red List Work?

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The IUCN, or International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Red List of Threatened Species is a comprehensive inventory of almost all of the known species of plant and animal in the world. The list is meant to evaluate the status of each species and their risk for extinction. With such a large and complicated list, how does the IUCN go about categorizing and evaluating each species?

Since 1994, the IUCN has been constantly updating and adding to its inventory of over 70,000 plants and animals. Every species falls into one of nine categories: Least Concern, Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, Extinct in the Wild, Extinct, and Not Evaluated or Data Deficient. A specific set of guidelines and criteria are used to determine which category a plant or an animal falls into. Every IUCN status is open to change via petition in accordance with IUCN category criteria.

Aside from being a world list of species and their status as endangered or not, the IUCN Red List is an indicator and a monitor as to where to focus conservation efforts. This information can be a specific as where the species’ habitat is located and alert local governments and authorities so they can do as they see fit to preserve the species. Around eighty percent of the species included in the Red List are well documented and monitored. Global Species Assessment Projects are sometimes organized to fill in missing information or update the files of species.

The IUCN Red List is posted on the internet and is accessible to anyone. It provides the most accurate statuses on most world species and can be a good jumping off point for anyone curious about specific plants or animals.

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