Red List news: Latest coverage and figures from our National Red List database

It’s been a while since we last blogged, but since then, a lot has happened on the National Red List website. For starters, we are about to go live on a new server which means this site will be a lot more stable than it has been in the past. To celebrate, we have been busy preparing more assessments from around the globe for upload (think Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jordan, and Antigua and Barbuda).

But before we get on with uploading more assessments, let’s take stock of where we are at. Following a period of intensive cleaning of our databases, we have the latest facts and figures at hand on National Red List coverage.

The current total number of local, national or regional Red Lists in our assessments database is fast approaching 300,000 and currently stands at 269,994 assessments. This would not be possible without our contributors who send their Red Lists to us, so we would like to say a massive thank you to all our contributors for providing such a wealth of data!

So, what does our data tell us about the status of species? First of all, it indicates that a large number of Red Lists produced since 2009 (i.e. Red Lists we consider up-to-date because they have been compiled over the past ten years) include information for those species which are generally under-represented in the global IUCN Red List, namely plants, invertebrates, and even fungi. For example, of the 207 National Red Lists we know were produced since 2009 (representing no fewer than 72 countries), 44% contain data for vertebrates; however, 42 and 39% contain data for invertebrates and plants, respectively, with another 11% containing information on fungi and lichens (Table 1).

 

Table 1. Taxonomic coverage of National Red Lists (NRLs) indicates a repository of information on extinction risk and conservation status of species groups currently under-represented on the IUCN Red List.

  All NRLs NRLs since 2009
Taxon group No. NRLs % No. NRLs %
Vertebrates 312 47.6 91 44.0
Invertebrates 204 31.1 86 41.5
Plants 289 44.1 80 38.6
Fungi and lichens 81 12.3 22 10.6
Multi-Taxa Red List (unspecified) 5   1  
TOTAL 656   207  

 

Of course, in order to utilise these data, we need to extract taxonomic information and status of species from a large number of National Red Lists – which come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. For example, we receive many of our National Red Lists in pdf format, which makes data extraction time-consuming. Since December 2013, we have been working hard on extracting assessment data from regional, national and sub-national Red Lists into our assessment database (which you can access and search here). To be precise, we have uploaded 196,879 species assessments since then (see Figure 1 for our steady progress to date). The total now stands at the 269,994 assessments mentioned above, comprising 35,307 vertebrate assessments, 84,602 invertebrate assessments, 120,072 plant assessments and 29,974 assessments for fungi and lichen, as well as a few other species groups (see taxonomic split for up-to-date assessments (no older than 2009) in Figure 2). Of assessments that are up-to-date, i.e. no older than 2009, this translates into 120,866 assessments comprising 87,397 unique taxa (species, subspecies, varieties, hybrids etc.).

Figure 1. Cumulative number of assessments in our assessments database (www.nationalredlist.org).

Figure 2. Taxonomic coverage of our assessments database: A. taxonomic coverage of assessments (since 2009); B.  taxonomic coverage of unique taxa recorded in assessments (since 2009) (www.nationalredlist.org).

We are now trying to work out how we can use regional and national-level assessments to inform the global status of species. Of course, this is easy when we are considering species which are endemic to a country – here, their country-level status equals the global status. But what about those species which occur over larger areas and for which we may hold data for some, but not all, of their range? To start off with, we are currently double-checking and tidying up our taxonomy in the database – after all, different countries may not use the same taxonomic names for species. TO aid this, we have added complexity to our database: we now store the taxonomy as used in the original Red List publication, as well as a matched taxonomy. Once we have updated our taxonomy, we will start to analyse all these data that we gathered over the past years.

Conveniently, most of the Red Lists use the standard IUCN system, which is slightly amended for use at national and regional levels. For example, of the 207 National Red Lists drawn up since 2009, at least 116 use the IUCN system, with an additional 7 using a modification thereof (Figure 3), meaning that assessments are in many instances broadly comparable across countries. For some Red Lists, we haven’t identified the criteria system used yet – this is clearly a data gap we need to address next, while also adding the respective assessments to our database. 

Figure 3. Use of criteria system in National Red Lists since 2009.

So there is still much more to do – but we also feel we are now at a stage to harness the data for large-scale, global analyses. Speaking of global analyses, what is our latest global coverage of National Red Lists? Figure 4 shows how many regions with few National Red Lists are slowly being filled in, so we are making progress. A full complement of maps of the latest coverage will go online once our website move is complete. So stay tuned for more updates in the near future. If you want to contribute assessments from your country or region, feel free to contact us at info@nationalredlist.org. We’re always happy to hear from you!


Figure 4. Global coverage of National Red Lists, as of August 2018, showing countries with up-to-date National Red Lists (red) and out-of-date National Red List (pink).

 

 

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