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IUCN launches Green Status of Species: a new standard for species recovery

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 September 2021

Molly K. Grace
Department of Zoology, and Wadham College, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. E-mail
Elizabeth L. Bennett
Wildlife Conservation Society, New York, USA
H. Reşit Akçakaya
Department of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, New York, USA
Craig Hilton-Taylor
IUCN, Cambridge, UK
Michael Hoffmann
Zoological Society of London, London, UK
Richard Jenkins
IUCN Global Species Programme, Cambridge, UK
E.J. Milner-Gulland
Merton College, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Ana Nieto
IUCN Global Species & Key Biodiversity Areas Programme, Gland, Switzerland
Richard P. Young
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Jersey, British Channel Islands
Barney Long
Re:wild, Austin, USA


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Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Fauna & Flora International

In summer 2021, IUCN launched the Green Status of Species, an optimistic new part of the Red List of Threatened Species that provides a tool for assessing species recovery and the impact of conservation. The Green Status of Species assesses three facets of recovery. A species is Fully Recovered (or Non-Depleted) if, in all parts of its indigenous range (areas that were occupied prior to major human impacts), it is (1) present, (2) viable (i.e. not threatened with extinction), and (3) ecologically functional.

These factors contribute towards a Green Score in the range 0–100%, which shows how far a species is from its Fully Recovered state. This score is converted into recovery categories that mirror those of the Red List (e.g. Critically Depleted, Slightly Depleted). This definition of recovery is ambitious by design. It is not expected, nor is it a goal, that all species will eventually fulfil this definition of full recovery; for many species, large areas within their range have been irrevocably modified. Rather, this definition serves to standardize the assessment approach between species, and to identify areas of recovery opportunity in the context of what has been lost.

The Green Status of Species reports not only a species’ current Green Score and corresponding recovery category, but also how conservation actions have affected the current status, what we might expect if conservation actions are halted, and how a species’ status could improve in the future with conservation action. The past or potential impact of conservation action is captured in a set of conservation impact metrics, based on Green Scores calculated for different times and scenarios (Grace et al., 2021, Conservation Biology,

The Green Status of Species was developed following an IUCN Resolution that called for development of Green Lists of Species, Ecosystems and Protected Areas. The Green Status of Species therefore began development under the name Green List of Species (Akcakaya et al., 2018, Conservation Biology, 32, 1128–1138). Consultations during development indicated the name should be changed to Green Status of Species, to avoid the misconception that a species assessed on a Green List is no longer in need of conservation and any potential confusion with the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas (Grace et al., 2021, Conservation and Society, in press).

For further information on the Green Status of Species, and to download a copy of the new Standard, see the IUCN Red List website ( Green Status of Species assessments will be published on the IUCN Red List website as they become available.