What is the goal of species conservation? Many would say that it is to prevent extinctions. However, while this is a necessary first step, conservationists have long recognized that it should not be the end goal. Once a species is no longer at imminent risk of extinction, we can then turn our attention to the business of recovery: trying to restore species as functional parts of the ecosystems from which humans have displaced them. However, to do this, there must be a rigorous and objective way to measure recovery. In this paper, we introduce a framework for an IUCN Green List of Species which will provide standardized assessments of species recovery/

The Green List will work in tandem with the IUCN Red List (the standardized assessment of extinction risk used worldwide) to tell the story of a species.

The Green List of Species also assesses the impact that conservation efforts have had and could have in the future. For example, the charismatic saiga antelope (Saiga tartarica), found throughout Central Asia, is currently considered “Critically Endangered” on the Red List. However, our Green List assessment shows that in the absence of past conservation efforts, many more populations would be extinct or in worse shape today. We also show that with continued conservation, the saiga’s future prospects are bright—achievement of “Least Concern” extinction risk status, reestablishment of populations where they are currently locally extinct, and recovery of some functional populations.

We hope that the Green List of Species will help incentivise more ambitious conservation goals—moving beyond triage at the edge of extinction.

“Quantifying species recovery and conservation success to develop an IUCN Green List of Species.” http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1523-1739/

Molly K. Grace, is a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford.


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