Conservation Assessment Tracking System (CATS)
RBG Kew performs around two thousand of conservation assessments every year – a key component of Kew's Breathing Planet Programme Strategy 2 (identifying highly threatened species and regions). A system is being developed to streamline the process of gathering and disseminating this data to get maximum impact for conservation.
Conservation assessments are statements on the level of threat associated with a particular species or habitat. The assessment is often carried out using a system (e.g. the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria) that indicates the probability that the species will become extinct in the near future. Disseminating Kew’s conservation assessments to as wide an audience as possible is essential in ensuring that conservation attention is given to the most threatened species and areas in the world. The CATS system has been developed in conjunction with a database to more accurately record, monitor and report Kew's conservation assessment output. In particular, this is in response to a key performance indicator for conservation assessments.
Species assessments are usually based on indicators of extinction e.g. population declines, fragmented populations, restricted ranges etc. Often assessments include associated data such as ecology, distribution and present conservation measures in place. Many systems exist, but the IUCN Red List is perhaps the most comprehensive in terms of geographical and taxonomic coverage as well as being scientifically defensible as all assessments are peer reviewed. RBG Kew is a member of the IUCN Red List Partnership.
Within RBG Kew conservation assessments are generated by staff throughout the organisation. In the Herbarium, where the majority of assessments are performed, staff members are encouraged to make a statement on the conservation status when writing species accounts (e.g. for monographs and floras). However, there is a high variability in detail for these assessments, ranging from a single sentence to a full IUCN Red List assessment, which could amount to several pages of text and associated data (e.g. maps). It is planned that all of this information will be captured in CATS.