For years the ‘red list’ of endangered species has told a tale of woe, as new species are ranked as endangered or threatened every year, and few show any improvement. Now the organization behind the list of species and their conservation status is to set up a counterpoint ‘green list’ to highlight conservation successes.
At its World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Korea, earlier this month, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) non-governmental organization agreed to set up the new list for species that are “fully conserved”.
Proposals for the species green list were pushed by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Elizabeth Bennett, WCS vice-president of species conservation, explains that it would enhance the current system, which only allows a species to be classified as of ‘least concern’ on the red list. Bennett points out that some species may not be at risk of extinction, but are still far from fully conserved.
For example, the estuarine crocodile is a ‘least concern’ species on the red list, but it has been eliminated from much of its historical range. A green list would enhance conservation and present positive messages to the world by showing which species have, in the words of WCS president Cristián Samper, “significant populations, interacting fully with a complete suite of other native species and processes”.
The IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) was already working on a green list of well-managed protected areas, which should launch fully in 2014. In the future, an even more ambitious project may see entire ecosystems ranked onto red and green lists.