The Green Leaf

The IUCN Red List

August 9th, 2016

The Oahu Elepaio is on the list (status: endangered), as is the Hawaiian monk seal (status: endangered), the Kauai bog damselfly (status: near threatened), silversword (status: vulnerable) and Cyanea kuhihewa (status: critically endangered).

The IUCN Red List, sometimes referred to as a barometer of life, has since 1964 been cataloging the conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species around the globe with details such as current status, distribution, threats and habitats essential for survival. Considered a critical indicator of the health of the world's biodiversity, it's used by government agencies, wildlife departments and organizations worldwide to set conservation and funding priorities.

Hawaii, the "extinction capital of the world," has a significant number of flora and fauna on the list and is poised to have more.

In an unprecedented collaboration, botanists in Hawaii are targeting over half of Hawaii's native plants — 780 of 1,375 natives species — for the IUCN Red List.

The National Tropical Botanical Garden spearheaded these efforts last August, when it hosted a workshop for the Hawaiian Plant Specialists Group, which is part of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. The group assessed the plant species by island, focusing first on 'single island endemics,' or species that occur on just one island.

The Geranium arboreum, endemic to Maui, is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.

The Geranium arboreum, endemic to Maui, is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Photo courtesy NTBG.

Approximately 90 percent of native flowering plant species are endemic to the islands, meaning found nowhere else, naturally. Kauai has the highest number of endemic species due its geologic age, its many steep, isolated valleys and greater distance from other islands. Before the workshop, 91 Kauai species were listed. An additional 47 have been listed, with more pending.

By the time the congress takes place in September, Oahu is expected to increase its number of red-listed plant species to 147; Maui 117; Lanai 50, Molokai 66 and Hawaii island 79.

Currently, there are more than 79,800 species on the IUCN Red List. The IUCN's goal is to assess at least 160,000 species by 2020.

A quick look at the IUCN Red List:

> There are currently more than 79,800 species on the IUCN Red List. More than 23,000 are threatened with extinction, including 41 percent of amphibians, 34 percent of conifers, 33 percent of reef building corals, 25 percent of mammals and 13 percent of birds.

> Both threatened and non-threatened species are included on the list. However, a species that is not listed may still be threatened.

> Categories range from least concern to vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, extinct in the wild and extinct.

The  World Conservation Congress, held only once every four years, is expected to bring between 6,000 to 8,000 world leaders from over 170 countries to the Hawai‘i Convention Center from Sept. 1 to 10. It is being held for the first time in the U.S.

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