The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species helps answer these questions. It is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant, fungi and animal species, used by governments, conservationists and the private sector alike.
The IUCN Red List aims to convey the urgency and scale of conservation problems to the public and policy makers, and to motivate the global community to work together to reduce species extinctions.
Species are assigned to one of eight categories of threat based on whether they meet criteria linked to population trend, population size and structure and geographic range.
Species listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable are collectively described as ‘Threatened’. The status of assessed species provides a category that indicates the risk of extinction of a species should no conservation action be taken.
The IUCN Red List is not just a register of names and associated threat categories. It is a rich compendium of information on the threats to the species, their ecological requirements, where they live, use of the species and information on conservation action that can be used to reduce or prevent extinctions. Digital range maps are now available for 30,000 species.
Assessments of all mammals, birds, amphibians, sharks, reef-building corals, cycads and conifers have been completed. Efforts are underway to assess all reptiles, fishes and selected groups of plants and invertebrates. This sample indicates how life on Earth is faring, how little is known, and how urgent the need is to assess more species. In this way, The IUCN Red List is becoming The Barometer of Life.