Due to a variety of reasons, a large number of species, both animals and plants are threatened with the possibility of extinction. Though efforts have been made over a long time for conservation of species, it has been a slow process. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was founded in 1948 and it had the goal of conserving the entire world biotic community. It made a good progress in creating a data base as well in formulating strategies.
On the initiative of IUCN, the first Red List of threatened Species was prepared in 1960s.The idea was to find out measures to prevent extinction. In 1963, The IUCN Species Survival Commission compiled profiles of a number of threatened species. The Red List describing the conservation status of more than 130,000 animal and plant species was made, and these species were periodically reclassified into categories ranging from Least Concern to Extinct. Over the years, the Red List of IUCN has acquired a formidable reputation throughout the world. The list’s assessments form the basis of international agreements such as CITES (the Convention on International Trade in endangered Species) and are used by conservation organizations and other related agencies to set priorities and measure progress of conservation. However, the Red List, though it helped in arresting the decline of species towards extinction, was not found adequate. The Red List only tells us how close or distant a species is from extinction.
In 2012, the IUCN World Conservation Congress took place in South Korea, where It was felt that it was not enough to focus on checking and reversing the decline in species. There has to be a complementary strategy for recovery of species and ecosystems. As a result, a resolution was passed and the idea of Green Status of Species was developed . In this Resolution , IUCN called for the development of “Green Lists” of Species, Ecosystems and Protected Areas in order to measure conservation success in these three areas (Species, Ecosystems, Protected Areas).
Green Status is related to recovery. Recovery is the point at which a species is healthy enough to rejoin the biotic community, that is , restarting the relationships with other species, or resumed its role in its ecosystem , or repopulated its former range. The Green Status of Species has been designed to indicate the past and potential future recovery of each species on the Red List. It provides a tool for assessing the recovery of species’ populations and measures their conservation success. The criteria for the Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas were approved in 2017, and since then, a Green List of 59 protected areas in 16 countries has been launched . Developing an assessment process for Green Status for species took longer, as IUCN scientific community first had to agree on a definition of full recovery and then establish standard methods of estimating the past and potential future recovery for various species. By May 2020, comments and responses of experts and IUCN members on draft IUCN Green Status of Species Standard were considered and changes to Standard were developed. Then began the assessment studies of Green Status of various species.
Recently, in a study of 181 species, more than 200 experts involved in the study assessed each species for its conservation legacy, (how much it has benefitted from past conservation actions), its conservation dependence (how it would fare over the next decade if conservation were to cease) , and its short- and long –term recovery potential. These assessments were used to assign each species a Green Status category ranging from Extinct to Fully recovered. The goal of Green Status assessments is now not only to prevent extinctions but also to get threatened species closer to full recovery. This is the reason why Green Status assessments are important to know and encourage. The IUCN introduced and approved the Green status of Species in the World Conservation Congress held in first week of September, 2021 in Marseille, France. Green Status of Species Outputs will now be incorporated into the Red List in the coming years.
Since the aim of recovery is to restore species to areas and ecosystems from which they have been destroyed completely, the concept of range is critical. For the purposes of the Green Status of Species, indigenous range is considered to be the distribution of a species prior to major human disturbance (plus any additional wild populations that have established since then) . The date at which indigenous range is inferred can therefore vary from species to species; 0nce relevant range has been defined, a Green Status assessment subdivides the indigenous and expected additional range into spatial units. The definition of recovery under the Green Status also includes “expected additional range”. This takes into account areas that are likely to become occupied by species within 100 years either from range shifts due to climate change or from conservation translocations.
The Green Status assesses species against three aspects of recovery:
1.The species is fully recovered if it is present in all parts of its range , even those that are no longer occupied but were occupied prior to major human impacts /disruption , and
2. It is viable (i.e., not threatened with extinction ) in all parts of the range , and 3. It is performing its ecological functions in all parts of the range.
These factors contribute towards a “Green Score” (ranging from 0% - 100%) which shows how far a species is from its “ fully recovered” state.
The Species in the same Red List category sometimes have very different prospects of recovery. This is because of the difference in the availability of suitable habitat for reintroduction of different species, and accordingly ,they have high or low Green Status. Green Status scores also reveal previously invisible successes (Conservation legacy score). Eventually, Green Status assessments could be used to characterize the current and potential future recovery of entire groups of species such as wheat and corn. Green Status indexes of these groups could help focus the attention of government and other agencies on measures most likely to support and protect the human food system.
The definition of recovery in terms of Green Status is ambitious by design. It is not expected that all species will eventually fulfil this definition of full recovery. For many species, large areas of range have been irreversibly converted for human uses. Instead ,this definition serves as a way to standardize the assessment approach between species, and to identify areas of opportunity of recovering what can be recovered. The transition from the Red List to Green Status and Green List is a major breakthrough in the history of conservation and gives hope for recovery of many dwindling species and ecosystems.