IUCN Red Listing and Climate Change

The goal of this work theme is to facilitate the incorporation of climate change projections and other aspects of climate change science into the IUCN Red List assessments.

Recent work: To date, developments related to this work theme included the following:

  • Three studies tested the ability of the IUCN Red List to identify species vulnerable to extinction due to climate change (Pearson et al. 2014; Keith et al. 2014; Stanton et al. 2015). Collectively, these studies found that the IUCN Red List criteria can identify species vulnerable to extinction because of climate change, and can do this with sufficient warning time in most cases. However they also showed that warning times may be short in data-poor situations, and if conservation action is started only when a species is listed at the highest IUCN threat category (Critically Endangered). Therefore, there is a need to further develop guidance for using the IUCN Red List system, especially in data-poor situations.
  • A commentary in Nature Climate Change (Ak├žakaya et al. 2014) summarized the findings of the studies discussed above, and proposed future directions for research and development for preventing species extinctions resulting from climate change. Proposed research directions included quantitatively testing conservation measures, and developing a tool based on criterion E to increase the warning time for short-lived species (see below).

Plans: Future developments and activities the group plans to undertake include:

  1. Analyzing the feedback we received from the SSC Specialist Groups in terms of their current efforts in incorporating climate change into their red-listing activities, and the difficulties or obstacles they are experiencing. Based on the results of this analysis, we plan to make recommendations for improving the Red List Guidelines (IUCN 2014).
  2. Proposing additions to (and perhaps a new module for) the Red List Training program that is dedicated to climate change issues. These additions will emphasize the use of the Red List Guidelines section specific to climate change, provide links to data sources and other resources for using climate change projections to model future changes in species distributions in accordance with the Red List Guidelines, and include worked-out examples.
  3. Developing a new tool for using climate change projections and other information to estimate extinction risk under Red List Criterion E for species that do not meet other criteria. This tool will be based on statistical analysis of the results of extinction risk simulations with a wide variety of life history types.
  4. Developing a decision tree tool to help SGs focus their red-listing and conservation efforts on the species that are most vulnerable to climate change. This decision tree will integrate risk-based and trait-based approaches, and help SGs decide which species need further assessment (e.g., bioclimate modeling combined with the criterion E tool described above).

These developments will be coordinated with the Red List Standards and Petitions Subcommittee, which is responsible for developing guidelines for red-listing of species.