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IUCN proposes new method for measuring species’ conservation success

26 March 2018
Photo: © N.J. Singh

A conceptual framework to help measure how conservation action helps species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species recover was presented in a paper published today in the journal Conservation Biology.

The framework, presented by the IUCN Red List Committee’s Task Force on Species Conservation Success under the working title of ‘the IUCN Green List of Species’, aims to complement the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ by providing a tool for assessing the recovery of species’ populations and measuring their conservation success.

“IUCN recognises the need to set aspirational goals for biodiversity conservation and to demonstrate that conservation does work. Preventing species extinctions and declines in biodiversity is critically important, but long-term conservation objectives are also needed to ensure that nature flourishes alongside humans. This new framework highlights an ambitious shift in conservation thinking towards ensuring the recovery of species, rather than just avoiding extinctions,” says Craig Hilton-Taylor, Head of the Red List Unit and one of the paper’s co-authors.

To improve the consistency of targets in species recovery plans the paper proposes a definition of a ‘fully recovered’ species, defining it as one that is viable and that fulfils its ecological roles in the ecosystems throughout its native range.

"In the new framework, we propose an objective, practical, and ambitious definition of a recovered species.  We also propose an objective way of measuring how important conservation is for a species; what conservation has achieved and can achieve in the future," says H. Resit Akçakaya, lead author of the paper and professor at Stony Brook University in New York.

The new method complements the current system of the IUCN Red List, which demonstrates conservation success through real changes in species' status due to conservation efforts. The IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive, objective, global approach for evaluating the extinction risk of plant, animal and fungi species.

“The concept of the new framework for measuring conservation success came from a desire to incentivise conservation action by quantifying conservation success. It uses four practical indices aimed at demonstrating conservation successes and the degree of species’ recovery, rather than threat status,” says Barney Long, Co-chair of the Task Force and Director of Species Conservation at Global Wildlife Conservation.

The proposed framework considers the impacts of past conservation; what would happen if all current conservation ceased; expected gains from conservation action, and how close to ‘fully recovered’ a species can get with effective conservation action.

For example, the Saiga Antelope moved from a classification of Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List in 1996 to Critically Endangered in 2002 and kept this status in the 2008 reassessment. However, through the proposed framework, the authors can demonstrate that past conservation efforts for this species have helped it recover and that the Saiga Antelope is dependent on future conservation actions for its survival.

The paper is the first published summary of a conceptual framework for the new method. The authors encourage feedback before launching the final product, planned for 2020. The framework will be tested extensively using many species from the terrestrial, marine and freshwater realms in order to find a system that works for all species.



Ministers commit to protecting the world’s largest tropical peatland

26 March 2018
Lukenie River of central Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo: Valerius Tygart CC BY-SA 3.0.

Commitments to conserve peatlands in the Congo basin were announced on Friday, 23 March 2018 as the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia signed the Brazzaville Declaration at the third meeting of the Global Peatland Initiative, involving IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, UN Environment and partners.

The Brazzaville Declaration promotes better management and conservation of the peatlands, which represent one of the biggest carbon stores on the planet, for climate mitigation and other benefits.

“The vast peatlands of the Congo Basin are still largely undamaged and losing even a small part of this carbon and biodiversity-rich resource would be catastrophic. The Brazzaville Declaration is a historic moment for peatlands. The declaration contains high-level political commitments from Ministers from the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia to peatland protection, restoration and sustainable management,” says Jonathan Hughes, IUCN Global Councillor and Chair of the IUCN UK Peatland Programme. “We know from countries like the United Kingdom, and more recently from Indonesia, that the draining and burning of peatlands has massive environmental, social and economic costs. The Cuvette Centrale peatlands of the Congo are globally important asset in the fight against climate change, biodiversity loss and social instability. It is essential this asset does not become an expensive liability through repeating the mistakes made in the UK, Indonesia and many other peatland nations of the world.”

The Cuvette Centrale peatland complex extends across The Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is estimated to hold about 30 billion tonnes of carbon and cover over 145,500 square kilometres. These relatively undisturbed peatland forests, which have been inhabited for more than 50,000 years, are home to unique species of plants and animals.

Peatlands are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store, containing more carbon than any other vegetation type, including the world’s forests. Peatlands provide safe drinking water, minimise the risk of flood and drought, and are critical for preserving global biodiversity. However, a lack of awareness about the value of peatlands has led to their drainage and conversion to other uses. Damaged peatlands currently contribute almost 6% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. In the UK alone, damaged peatlands release almost 3.7 million tonnes of CO2  equivalent each year.

The meeting of the Global Peatland Initiative (GPI) took place 21–23 March 2018 in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. The meeting showcased progress and ongoing work relating to the management of peatlands in the UK, which can be applied to work in the Congo basin.

The GPI is a partnership of experts and international institutions and aims to improve the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of global peatlands. IUCN is a formal partner and steering committee member of the partnership.

For more information see IUCN’s issues brief on climate change and peatlands.



From extinction to free ranging by successful reintroduction

26 March 2018
Photo: Hustai National Park

25th anniversary of the reintroduction of Przewalski’s horse.

2017 witnessed the 25th anniversary of the Przewalski’s horse (Mongolian name: Takhi) reintroduction in Mongolia. The Przewalski’s horse is the last remaining truly wild horse species in the world. Extinct in the wild in 1960’s, it survived thanks to a successful reintroduction program that began a quarter of a century ago.

Photo: Usukhjargal Dorj, Wildlife and Wild Horse Biologist, Research and Training Manager of Hustai National Park TrustThe first 16 Przewalski’s horses arrived in Hustai National Park,  Mongolia on 5 June 1992, World Environmental Day transported by the Dutch NGO FRPH and the Mongolian NGO MACNE’s. Since then, many Przewalski’s horses have come from European countries to Mongolia. Today, more than 500 Przewalski’s horses are free ranging in Mongolia, which is the highest number of free-ranging Przewalski’s horses in the world. In consequence, the world population status according to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ changed from Extinct in the Wild to Critically Endangered in 2008, and to Endangered in 2011.

The initial Draft Przewalski Horse Global Conservation Plan called for the Przewalski’s horse to be re-established in free-ranging populations in wild habitats in sufficient numbers (250 adults) to allow evolution and adaptation.  To avoid extinction by predation or random events, the plan recommended herds of five to ten adult animals. The reintroduced Mongolian Przewalski’s horse population has now met this recommendation.

Photo: Usukhjargal Dorj, Wildlife and Wild Horse Biologist, Research and Training Manager of Hustai National Park Trust.There is now, three Przewalski’s horse reintroduction sites in Mongolia, Hustai National Park, Great Gobi “B” Strictly Protected Area and Khomyn tal area. These 3 sites, together with the Mongolian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the reintroduction of the Przewalski’s horse by organising various events including a scientific workshop, a press conference, a photo exhibition and a reception to honour the people involved in this great program. 

The Mongolian NGO “Hustai National Park” Trust, an IUCN member since 2007, is continuing its reintroduction program in HNP, while the International Takhi Group and the NGO Khomyn Talyn Takhi continue the reintroduction program in their respective areas. For more information visit the Hustai National Park website or write to Takhi 



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