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Recovery of threatened species

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

Recovery of threatened species

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...

Recovery of threatened species

Expert Expressions

VN Garg

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.


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