Have ever heard about the Red List? Established in 1964, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global extinction risk status of animals, fungus, and plant species. According to IUCN, the Red List is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity. In fact, it is far more than a list of species and their status, but rather a powerful tool to inform and catalyze action for biodiversity conservation and policy change, critical to protecting the natural resources that human beings need to survive.
The IUCN Red List divides species into nine categories: Not Evaluated (NE), Data Deficient (DD), Least Concern (LC), Near Threatened (NT), Vulnerable (VU), Endangered (EN), Critically Endangered (CR), Extinct in the Wild (EW), and Extinct (EX). In addition to assessing newly recognized species, the Red List also re-assesses the status of some existing species, sometimes with positive stories to tell.
According to a new assessment by the IUCN (2022) in July, it is estimated that there are between 3,726 and 5,578 tigers (Panthera Tigris) alive in the wild today (; translating to around 5,600 more tigers). This means that there are about 40% more tigers in the wild than in 2015. “Tiger population recovery shows us that solving complex conservation challenges is possible, and within our reach,” Jon Paul Rodríguez, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission said, adding that “We need to learn from these conservation successes, share them with the public, and increase our investment in evidence-based conservation action.”
As in the case of the tiger, there are good reviews of several species down-listing (i.e., improving) on the Red List due to conservation efforts. However, the decrease in biodiversity due to the climate crisis is affecting all species. Currently, there are more than 147,500 species on the Red List, with more than 41,000 species threatened with extinction, including 41% of amphibians, 38% of sharks and rays, 34% of conifers, 33% of reef building corals, 27% of mammals, and 13% of birds.
South Korea is conducting an evaluation of the National Red List by classifying the risk of extinction of domestic native species according to the IUCN Red List. CBT reporters conducted an e-mail interview with researcher Jeon Mi-jeong, who is conducting a study on the registration criteria and management base for the national list of species of Korea at the Animal Resources of the National Institute of Biological Resources.
Regarding the difference between the IUCN Red List and Korea’s National Red List, and why the National Red List is needed separately, the researcher Jeon said “The IUCN Red List categories and criteria are developed to assess and classify the risk of extinction of wildlife and can be divided into the ‘Global Red List’ that evaluates at the global level to categorize global extinction risks, and the ‘National Red List’ that evaluates at the regional, national, or local level and creates a list within a limited area. Since 2011, Korea has established a ‘National Red List’ for native species on the Korean Peninsula as part of the preparation of a regional Red List, and has been revising this list since 2019. Both the global and regional Red Lists are evaluated using the same criteria, but even the same species are managed with different evaluation grades due to differences in the target regions, threats, etc. For example, the mountain goats, designated as Endangered Wildlife Class I by the Ministry of Environment, were rated EN (Endangered) on the National Red List, but were rated VU (Vulnerable) on the Global Red List, which was considered less threatened. As such, there should also be grading to assess the extent of biodiversity threats at a global level. However, it is essential to analyze regional characteristics and threat factors to identify the extinction of species within the area and establish a species conservation strategy based on them.”
In addition, she responded “The National Biological Red List, a kind of regional Red List, evaluates and grades the risk of extinction based on various evaluation criteria such as population size, range of appearance, and threat factors for native species in Korea. Specially, species included in VU (Vulnerable), EN (Endangered), and CR (Critically Endangered) are designated as endangered categories. These species are managed as ‘endangered species’ and ‘biodiversity reduction observation species’ depending on the degree of threat of extinction in the future, and their habitat and risk of extinction are continuously being investigated. As such, the Red List is commonly used as a basis for determining the risk scale of native species in Korea and provides basic information necessary for continuous monitoring and proper protection of species distribution changes. Ultimately, it is responsible for communicating the urgency and scope of conservation to the general public and policymakers to engage the global community in preventing the extinction of species.”
The Red List is basic information necessary for appropriate conservation activities by evaluating the risk of extinction of species, however human beings also need an optimistic vision of species conservation that presents a road map for recovery. To achieve this, the Red List assessment process has been expanded to include new classifiers of species recovery and conservation impact. This is the Green Status of Species.
Green Status is divided into four indicators: Conservation Legacy, Conservation Dependence, Recovery, and Recovery Potential, it is marked with a Green Score ranging from 0-100%, and it shows how far the species is from being ‘fully recovered.’
The Green Status complements the Red List to provide a more comprehensive look at species conservation status. For example, some species, such as the Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus Porosus) are considered to fall in the category of Least Concern on the Red List, but have been extirpated or are most likely ecologically extinct across much of their historical range. Although the risk of extinction is low, considering the ecological judgment of the Saltwater Crocodile, it cannot be called a ‘fully recovered’ state.
The Green Status of Species also highlights the impact of past conservation and the dependence of many species on continued conservation efforts. For example, past conservation has had a major role to play in keeping these three species (Figure 1) from extinction, even though they are still considered CR. With continued conservation efforts, some have the potential to recover substantially in the future.
In the interview with this CBT, researcher Jeon said, “‘Think globally, Act locally’ has been a widely known slogan since the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio, Brazil. For the sake of the one and only planet, it includes the meaning of practicing environmental protection in the area where I live. 2022 was a year in which the world was suffering from a more severe climate crisis than ever before. And biodiversity is a key factor in solving this climate change problem. It can be said that the time has come when everyone around us needs to pay attention to climate change and biodiversity loss and act accordingly. We ask for your interest and practice.”
Through this 205 Feature, CBT would like to add its voice, asking for continued interest and practice on environmental issues.
By Park Su-min | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Seok Yeon-ji | email@example.com