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National lists of endangered species need better global coverage

27.11.2010
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National lists of endangered species need better global coverage

National lists of threatened species contribute to the monitoring of biodiversity, but new research has discovered a lack of these lists in certain countries, such as Pacific Island states, and for certain groups of wildlife, such as invertebrates. Targeted financial support, better knowledge sharing and standard systems of data collection could help bridge these gaps.

In order to reach biodiversity targets, effective monitoring is needed. Amongst indicators of biodiversity are National Red Lists (NRLs), which monitor the status of threatened species at a national level. However, the degree of development of NRLs varies from country to country.

The research conducted a comprehensive review of NRLs in 195 countries (those recognised by the UN and Convention on Biological Diversity) and found 109 of these had NRLs. However, 87 per cent of countries in the Oceania region had no NRLs. 64 per cent of countries in Africa had no NRLs, although there was a significant regional inequality in the continent: all southern African countries had lists but only 11 per cent of central African countries and 19 per cent of west African countries had NRLs.

The most poorly represented groups of species were invertebrates and fungi and lichens. Although invertebrates make up about 75 per cent of global biodiversity, only 53 per cent of countries with NRLs had assessed this group. Vascular plants ('higher plants', which include ferns, conifers and flowering plants) and non-vascular plants, such as mosses and algae, had the best representation. 88 per cent of countries had NRLs for vascular plants and 76 per cent for non-vascular plants.

The study found that countries with higher GDPs had a higher level of NRL coverage, indicating that coverage could be partly dependent on available financial resources. In addition, countries with the highest and most vulnerable biodiversity tended to have fewer NRLs.

Based on these results, the researchers recommended that NRLs could be encouraged using a multidimensional approach, in which some projects target specific species groups and countries for new NRLs, whilst other projects create the conditions suitable for countries to initiate their own NRLs. This could be in terms of efficient funding usage but also by providing more information on the process of creating NRLs, such as on how to deal with taxonomy, databases and peer review.

Knowledge sharing between regions could be extremely important and could be aided by collating and making available existing data, perhaps on a centralised website or through regional working groups. However, although there are internationally accepted IUCN Categories and Criteria for creating NRLs, these are often interpreted differently and greater standardisation of data is needed. With the current 2010 targets due to expire this is an opportune time to mobilise global resources and integrate efforts across regions.

Source: Zamin, T.J., Baillie, J.E.M., Miller, R.M. et al. (2010) National Red Listing Beyond the 2010 Target. Conservation Biology. 24(4): 1012-1020.

Contact: tara.zamin@queensu.ca

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