ESR 6:137-147 (2008)  -  doi:10.3354/esr00148

Red Listing the world’s tree species: a review of recent progress

A. C. Newton1,*, S. Oldfield2

1Centre for Conservation Ecology and Environmental Change, School of Conservation Sciences, Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus, Poole, Dorset BH12 5BB, UK
2Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Descanso House, 199 Kew Road, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3BW, UK

ABSTRACT: The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species™ (RL) is widely recognised as an authoritative assessment of the conservation status of species, yet its coverage is uneven and incomplete. Trees account for approximately 20% of taxa currently included, but most of these were listed a decade ago. Over the last 10 yr, only 879 taxa have been added to the RL database, representing 11% of the number listed in 1998. However, progress has not been as limited as these data suggest. Ten recent assessments of different groups of trees are profiled, and the lessons learned from these assessments are summarised. In total, these assessments have evaluated >2500 tree taxa, but only a fraction of these have been added to the RL database, raising concerns about the process of data management. Results indicated that a mean of 42% taxa were classified as threatened. Information on the status and distribution of most tree species is severely lacking, a situation compounded by taxonomic confusion in many groups. As a result, RL assessments will continue to be highly dependent on expert knowledge originating from herbarium data, which, as demonstrated here, tends to result in a relatively high proportion of taxa being listed under RL Criteria B1 and B2. Given this situation, attempts to use the RL to support global monitoring of biodiversity appear premature, and much greater support needs to be given to collection of primary field data and expert knowledge to accurately ascertain the current status of the world’s threatened tree species.


KEY WORDS: Extinction risk · IUCN · Red List · Threatened species · Forest · Conservation ·Biodiversity loss


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Cite this article as: Newton AC, Oldfield S (2008) Red Listing the world’s tree species: a review of recent progress. Endang Species Res 6:137-147

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