Citizen science and global biodiversity
Citizen science and global biodiversity

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Citizen science and global biodiversity

7.2 The Red List

The Red List, produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), gives the global conservation status of organisms. Species at risk are categorised using standard criteria (Figure 22). Applying these criteria gives each species’ Red List status and the list can be used to quantify the biodiversity on the planet.

Chart showing categories and criteria used to describe the status of endangered species
Figure 22 The categories and criteria used to describe the status of endangered species (Source: National Geographic [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] )

The IUCN Red List index measures overall trends in extinction risk for groups of species based on observed changes in their Red List status over time. At present, index values have been calculated for only four groups of organism (Figure 23). In order to establish a trend, at least two sets of observations are required, so there is much more work to do.

Chart showing the Red List index of species survival for four groups of animals.
(Source: IUCN)
Figure 23 The Red List index of species survival for four groups of animals. The higher the index number, the lower the risk faced by the group.

As you can be see, with just two measures of the Red List index for each of the four groups, a decline in status is apparent for all of them. This is powerful evidence that there is a rapid decline in biodiversity in some major groups. Does this mean we really are heading towards a sixth extinction event?

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