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Unregulated wild collection and habitat loss lead to Vulnerable status for medicinal Goldenseal

17 November 2017
Photo: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

The latest update to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ saw Goldenseal classified as “Vulnerable” on The IUCN Red List in a move that highlights concerns about the medicinal plant’s decline.

The IUCN Red List now includes 87,967 different wildlife species, of which 25,062 (approximately 28%), fall with one of the the three "Threatened" categories of Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is a long-lived perennial plant native to North America (USA and Canada) where it has undergone a decline in both its distribution and the quality of its habitat.

The plant is widely used medicinally amongst rural communities and national consumers alike given its high concentration of medicinally-active alkaloids. Its applications include treating colds and other respiratory conditions as well as curing digestive disorders such as stomach pain and swelling, diarrhoea and constipation.

“Goldenseal was widespread in eastern North American forests two centuries ago, and it has long been prized for its medicinal use,” says Leah Oliver, Senior Research Botanist with NatureServe who led the assessment.

“The main threats to Goldenseal are unregulated wild collection combined with the historic and continuing loss of its forest habitat.  However, there is a growing international market for cultivated Goldenseal, and wild-collection may be sustainable if it is carefully managed and contributes to the protection of forest habitat. These activities may slow the decline of the species.”

“Medicinal plants, including Goldenseal, are an important use of the earth’s amazing biological diversity—not just for human health,” says Danna Leaman, Co-chair of the Medicinal Plant Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

“Many subsistence incomes, as well as some substantial fortunes, continue to be made from their commercial value.  Survival of the companies and markets that rely on these species depends on adoption of sustainable wild harvest methods and habitat protection.  We are undertaking global Red List assessments of many North American medicinal plants to identify the need for sustainable wild harvest before a species becomes threatened with extinction.”

National and international demand for Goldenseal continues to rise.  The species is designated as Threatened and is protected by national legislation in Canada, but is not protected in the United States.  International trade requires a permit and is monitored by both countries under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES).  

“Goldenseal is an important species within the medicinal plant trade, both commercially and within local communities,” said Anastasiya Timoshyna, TRAFFIC’s Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Programme Leader.

“Its listing as Vulnerable to extinction should alert the industry associated with the wild harvest of Goldenseal to the urgent need for implementing sustainable wild harvesting practices—there has never been a greater need for sustainability certification systems like the FairWild Standard, which have already been instrumental in protecting other threatened plant species from over-exploitation.”

The FairWild Standard was established by TRAFFIC, IUCN, and WWF, in partnership with industry and other organizations concerned about the unsustainable sourcing of wild plant ingredients. It provides the necessary safeguards and frameworks to enable sustainable wild collection and ensure the long-term survival of wild plant species as well as fair pay and good working conditions for plant harvesters.

“FairWild Certification schemes can also give rural collectors and communities access to commercial markets to help them reap the rewards of sustainable wild harvesting,” says Timoshyna.

“It is time that sustainable certification systems become a requirement rather than just an appendage to any form of wild plant collection. Otherwise, we may see many more species declining, or disappearing completely, from the wild.”



Number of natural World Heritage sites affected by climate change nearly doubles in three years – IUCN

13 November 2017
Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Photo: IUCN / Célia Zwahlen

Bonn, Germany, 13 November, 2017 (IUCN) – The number of natural World Heritage sites threatened by climate change has grown from 35 to 62 in just three years, with climate change being the fastest growing threat they face, according to a report released today by IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, at the UN climate change conference in Bonn, Germany.

Huascarán National Park, Peru. Photo: IUCN / Elena Osipova.The IUCN World Heritage Outlook 2 – an update of the 2014 IUCN World Heritage Outlook report – assesses, for the first time, changes in the conservation prospects of all 241 natural World Heritage sites. It examines the threats, protection and management of the sites, and the state of their World Heritage values – the unique features which have earned them their prestigious World Heritage status.

According to the assessments, climate change impacts, such as coral bleaching and glacier loss, affect a quarter of all sites – compared to one in seven sites in 2014 – and place coral reefs and glaciers among the most threatened ecosystems. Other ecosystems, such as wetlands, low-lying deltas, permafrost and fire sensitive ecosystems are also affected. The report warns that the number of natural World Heritage sites affected by climate change is likely to grow further, as climate change remains the biggest potential threat to natural world heritage.

Socotra Archipelago, Yemen was hit cyclones in 2015 - a rare weather event in this part of the Indian Ocean. Photo: IUCN / Ismail Mohammed. “Protection of World Heritage sites is an international responsibility of the same governments that have signed up to the Paris Agreement,” says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General. “This IUCN report sends a clear message to the delegates gathered here in Bonn: climate change acts fast and is not sparing the finest treasures of our planet. The scale and the pace at which it is damaging our natural heritage underline the need for urgent and ambitious national commitments and actions to implement the Paris Agreement.”

World Heritage-listed coral reefs, such as the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean – the world's second-largest coral atoll, the Belize Barrier Reef in the Atlantic – the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, and the Great Barrier Reef – the biggest reef on Earth, have been affected by devastating mass coral bleaching events over the last three years, due to rising sea temperatures. The Great Barrier Reef, for instance, has suffered widespread bleaching, with up to 85% of surveyed reefs impacted in 2016.

Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania. Photo: IUCN / Elena Osipova Retreating glaciers, also resulting from rising temperatures, threaten sites such as Kilimanjaro National Park – which boasts Africa’s highest peak – and the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch – home to the largest Alpine glacier.

“Natural World Heritage sites play a crucial role supporting local economies and livelihoods,” says Tim Badman, Director of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “Their destruction can thus have devastating consequences that go beyond their exceptional beauty and natural value. In Peru’s Huascarán National Park, for example, melting glaciers affect water supplies and contaminate water and soil due to the release of heavy metals previously trapped under ice. This adds to the urgency of our challenge to protect these places.”

The broader findings of the report show further challenges to World Heritage. Other threats, such as invasive species, unsustainable tourism or infrastructure development, are also increasing. They affect ecological processes and threaten the survival of species within the sites. Invasive alien species are the most widespread of all threats. Their impacts are often aggravated by climate change, which facilitates their spread and establishment.

Overall, the report finds that 29% of World Heritage sites face significant concerns and 7% - including the Everglades National Park in the U.S. and Lake Turkana in Kenya – have a critical outlook. Two-thirds of the sites are assessed as likely to be well conserved in the near future, the same overall proportion as in 2014. 

Lagoons of New Caledonia - Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems, France. Photo: IUCN / Dan Laffoley.The report also reveals that the management of natural World Heritage sites has dropped in quality and effectiveness since 2014, notably due to insufficient funding. Fewer than half of the sites are currently being managed to good standards.

However, the report also includes some success stories, which show tangible, positive impact of effective management. Côte d’Ivoire’s Comoé National Park, for example, has seen the recovery of its elephant and chimpanzee populations thanks to effective management and international support, following political stabilisation in the country. As a result, its conservation outlook has significantly improved over the last three years. It is one of 14 sites with an improved rating since the 2014 IUCN World Heritage Outlook report.

The report is available online and its next edition is planned for 2020. All site assessments can be accessed at

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:

Ewa Magiera, IUCN Media Relations,, +41765053378

Célia Zwahlen, IUCN World Heritage Programme,, +41229990716



New study pinpoints birds of prey as hardest hit by wind farms

31 October 2017
The White-tailed Sea-eagle is one of the species most vulnerable to wind farms ©

A new study has revealed which bird and bat species are most at risk of collision with wind turbines, with birds of prey and migratory birds coming top of the list. This research is the first to take a global view of the problem, and pinpoints some possible solutions to allow birds, bats and wind turbines to share the skies with less conflict.

In this uncertain age of climate change, countries across the world are on the search for greener options for energy production. Many are increasingly turning to wind power, and as numbers of turbines soar it is vital that their full impact on birds and other wildlife is explored. Dr Chris Thaxter of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) presses the importance of finding the “delicate balance between a greener future and healthy biodiversity.”

A main concern with wind farm development is the risk of birds and bats colliding with turbines; the giant revolving blades not only capture the power of the wind, but can also catch out unsuspecting wildlife, leading to fatal collisions. This problem has been well documented in Europe and North America, however until now much less was known about the situation in other parts of the world where wind power is rapidly expanding.

For the first time, a global view of the situation has been revealed in a recent study published in Proceedings Of The Royal Society B, which has modelled rates of collision for various bird and bat species in relation to factors such as their migratory behaviour and ecology, as well as wind turbine height and capacity. This important work was led by the BTO and supported by BirdLife International, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the United Nations Environment’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and the University of Cambridge.

High collision rates in raptors could be due to their visual adaptions for hunting: they have a large blind spot directly in front of them

The most vulnerable species were found to be birds of prey, especially the White-tailed Sea-eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) - partly due to the fact that they often use artificial habitats such as farmland for their hunting, which is where onshore wind farms are most often placed. A recent Nature article suggests that the high collision rates for raptors could also be due to their visual adaptions for hunting; they have a large blind spot directly in front of them which means that a wind turbine can catch them completely out of the blue.

The high vulnerability of birds of prey is especially problematic as many such species are slow to reproduce, meaning that the loss of breeding adults in fatal collisions has a much greater effect on the population than on many other species. Added to this, many birds of prey are already globally threatened, especially African and Eurasian vultures, so windfarms in the habitats of these birds have the potential to worsen an already drastic situation for the survival of these species.

Migratory birds were also found to be highly exposed to the risk of collision, especially where wind farms are placed in important flyways; coastal and migratory pathways have the greatest numbers of vulnerable bird species, such as the Central American isthmus from Mexico to Panama and the Rift Valley of East Africa. For bats, the highest numbers of collisions were predicted in North America, with several species such as the Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus) and Eastern Red Bat (Lasiurus borealis) particularly vulnerable.

Alongside highlighting the importance of choosing the right location for windfarms (such as avoiding important migration routes), the paper suggests that building fewer, larger turbines can help to reduce the risk of fatal collisions. By informing the design and location of future projects, research such as this helps to soften the tensions between wind farms and birds so the benefits of generating renewable energy can be enjoyed and celebrated whilst minimising the effect on wildlife.

Stuart Butchart, Chief Scientist at BirdLife International, stressed the importance of the research, stating that "wind farms have a key role to play in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. This new study provides essential information to help ensure that wind energy development takes account of potential impacts on birds and bats, and that turbines are not placed in the most sensitive locations." 

This article was written by Fiona Dobson, and was originally posted on birdlife internationals website, to view the story in its original setting please click here.



Gran Paradiso, the hunting reserve that saved the Ibex

30 October 2017
Ibex in the Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy. Photo: Luciano Ramires

Awarded IUCN Green List status since 2014, the Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy’s first national park extends over five valleys around the Gran Paradiso massif.

The Gran Paradiso National Park was established in 1922, when King Victor Emanuel III donated his hunting reserve to the Italian State. The Park covers over 71,000 hectares between the Piedmont and the Aosta Valleys in the north-west of Italy. The park has broadleaf woods in the valleys, conifer woods at higher altitudes, and alpine glaciers culminating to the 4,061 meter-high Gran Paradiso peak.

Lavassey Rhemes valley, Gran Paradiso NP, Italy. Photo: Stefano BorneyThe establishment of the Gran Paradiso National Park (GPNP) was linked to the protection of the Alpine Ibex (Capra ibex). The Ibex had been decimated throughout Europe and after the Second World War only 416 Ibex were left in the world, all of which were in the park. The Ibex was saved from extinction largely thanks to the Park’s rangers, and today there are nearly 4,000 Ibex in the GPNP alone.

Protecting the Ibex remains a key priority, but the GPNP also aims to protect the Park’s biodiversity, allowing for scientific research, promoting environmental education and practicing sustainable tourism.

In addition to the emblematic Alpine Ibex, the park shelters many mammals such as chamois, marmots, mountain hare, foxes, badgers, ermines, weasels, martens, and stone martens. Raptors such as the golden eagle and the bearded vulture recently returned to nest in the protected area. There are also many reptile varieties, insects and amphibians, such as vipers, the Parnassius butterfly, newts and salamanders.

Economic and social development
Nivolet Orco valley, Gran Paradiso NP, ItalyIn order to guarantee the socio-economic development of the Park’s population, the Park management promotes innovative ways that sustainably integrate people and nature, while preserving its natural heritage,  such as the promotion of agro-silvo-pastoral activities, handicrafts and the traditional local architecture that protect traditional cultural values.

The Trademark of Quality Label, a label that the park assigns to tourism, crafts and food operators who are dedicated to quality and sustainability, guarantees the origin of the Park's territory, the quality of workmanship, environmental protection, hospitality, courtesy and the respect for local traditions. So far, 84 small businesses have obtained the label.

A few of the challenges that the Park is facing are climate change, pollution, and the invasion of alien species, but also incorrect soil use, hunting and killing of animals, and unregulated management of non-wood forest products, all of which the Park authorities aim to address in the coming years.

Striving for excellence
Thanks to an exceptional natural heritage, the good ecosystem’s state of conservation, the integration of the touristic and agricultural activities and its role as cross-border alpine protected area, the Park obtained the European Diploma of Protected Areas in 2007, a prestigious acknowledgement of the Council of Europe. The Diploma was awarded in conjunction with the Parc National de la Vanoise and the Mont Avic national park.

Nex, Valsavarenche, Gran Paradiso NP, Italy. Photo: Enzo Massa Micon.Gran Paradiso has been part of the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas programme since 2014 to strengthen its role in preserving the ecological integrity of the ecosystems for present and future generations, as well as to promote socio-economic development for the local population, and enhance and preserve the environmental characteristics of the Park itself.


Ancient ferns highly threatened in Europe – IUCN Red List

26 October 2017
Botrychium simplex (Dwarf Moonwort) - assessed as EN ©Karsten Horn

Brussels, 27 October 2017 (IUCN) – A fifth of European fern and lycopod species, a group of vascular plants that underpins healthy ecosystems, are threatened with extinction and declining, as a result of urbanisation and expanding infrastructure, according to a new report published today by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The new IUCN report – European Red List of Lycopods and Ferns - assesses, for the first time, the extinction risk of all 194 European lycopod and fern species, 53 of which only exist in Europe. It shows that a fifth of these ancient species, which date back to over 400 million years ago, are at risk of extinction, with the same proportion showing a declining trend. Aquatic ferns and lycopods have been found to be more at risk than terrestrial species. This report shows that ferns and lycopods are the most threatened plant group of those assessed by IUCN so far in Europe. Previous European assessments have covered medicinal plant species, all other aquatic plant species and wild relatives of crop plants.

 “Ferns and lycopods have been among Europe’s favourite horticultural plants for centuries, sometimes resulting in overharvesting from the wild as happened during the Victorian ‘fern craze’ in the 1800s” says Luc Bas, Director of IUCN’s European Regional Office. “Today’s IUCN Red List report shows that despite being known for their resilience, ferns and lycopods continue to be severely affected by human activities, with aquatic species most at risk. This new information must guide the implementation of European legislation and policy to reverse this devastating trend before Europe loses what are among its most important and diverse plant species.”

Isoetes malinverniana (Piedmont Quillwort) - assessed as CR ©Thomas AbeliThe findings reveal that European fern and lycopod species are primarily threatened by urbanisation and expanding infrastructure, which leads to the fragmentation and reduction of their habitats. For example, the Dwarf Moonwort (Botrychium simplex) is found in several countries including France, Sweden and Austria, and is now listed as Endangered as a result of habitat loss through land conversion to forest plantations or tourist developments.

Pollution from urban and agricultural waste also poses a serious threat to many ferns and lycopods. As a result, many terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems suffer from eutrophication – an increase in nutrients which causes local species to be outcompeted by other native or invasive alien species. This threatens aquatic species in particular, including the Critically Endangered Piedmont Quillwort (Isoëtes malinverniana). This species is endemic to Italy and has declined by more than 80% in the last 30 years, mainly as a result of pollution through inappropriate irrigation channel management.

Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, commented: “This European Red List data shows that there are many fern and lycopod species threatened with extinction. These species are a living link to the time before even dinosaurs. EU Member States should use the tools we have developed to ensure such species' protection. Now that the EU has, with considerable rigour if I may say so, assessed our nature legislation and found it fit for purpose, Member States should implement that legislation robustly”.

Polystichum aculeatum (Hard Shield-Fern) - assessed as LC ©Fred RumseyFerns and lycopods are a group of vascular plants that produce spores for reproduction, rather than using seeds and flowers like many other plants. They provide essential ecosystem services, such as preventing soil erosion, removing pollutants from the environment, taking in carbon from the atmosphere and providing shelter for small animals, such as insects or rodents. They also colonise disturbed habitats, following forest fires for example, enabling more species to inhabit the area. European hotspots of fern and lycopod species are the Macaronesian Islands, Corsica and several mountainous areas in Europe.

“It is difficult to overestimate the importance of these ancient plants, and regional and national conservation action is urgently needed to improve their status across Europe,” says Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Director, IUCN Global Species Programme. “Protected areas, such as the Natura 2000 sites, must ensure better protection for these species, and their habitats must be restored, especially in aquatic areas and wetlands affected by pollution, canalisation and drainage. A recently established monitoring programme will highlight population trends, and inform future actions to ensure the long-term survival of ferns and lycopods in Europe.”

More than 20 experts participated in the two-year assessment project, which was partially funded by the European Commission LIFE funding instrument.

For more information or interviews please contact:
Ewa Magiera, IUCN media relations, IUCN Headquarters, m +41765053378, 



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