Regional, national and sub-national Red Lists – latest coverage and figures from our Red List database

Once again, apologies, it’s been a while since we last blogged – time flies when you are having fun with National Red Lists!

The team has been very busy receiving and uploading Red List data into our National Red List database. To illustrate just how busy we were, our current total of national or regional Red List assessments in our assessments database is 259,093 assessments, which is around 38,000 more than last year! And the fun doesn’t stop there – just a few weeks ago we received more Red Lists, including the likes of fungi of the Netherlands. 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 2007 (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 251 National Red Lists we know were produced since 2007 (representing no fewer than 82 countries), 46% contain data for vertebrates; however, 43 and 40% contain data for plants and invertebrates, 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. In the case of very biodiverse countries, their National Red Lists can be vast and take a while to process. For example, National Red Lists from Brazil and China alone have contributed close to 12,000 species assessments combined!

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 185,975 species assessments since then (see Figure 1 for our steady progress). The total now stands at the 259,093 assessments mentioned above, comprising 33,678 vertebrate assessments, 80,615 invertebrate assessments, 114,774 plant assessments and 30,007 assessments for fungi and lichen, as well as a few other species groups (Figure 2).

 

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

Figure 2. Taxonomic coverage of assessments held within our assessments database (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? An example: we currently have 114,774 plant assessments in our database. Initial matching of taxon names against taxonomic databases suggests that we have data for 36,515 unique plant taxa; for more than 7,000 of these, we have data from more than one country. We are now going to investigate if we can predict global status from regional and national assessments, as a way to fill data gaps in our knowledge of the global status of species.

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 251 National Red Lists drawn up since 2007, 142 use the IUCN system or a modification thereof (Figure 3), meaning that assessments are in many instances broadly comparable across countries. For some Red Lists, we haven’t gathered data on 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. 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. 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 3. Use of criteria system in National Red Lists since 2007

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