GIS Unit - Red Listing
Kew's GIS Unit has been leading the way in the development of tools and techniques for Red Listing plants over recent years. However, plants are still poorly represented on the Red List with less than 5% assessed (see diagram below).
IUCN co-ordinate the Red List of Threatened Species. The Red List is perhaps the most comprehensive listing of conservation status for plant and animal species globally. Kew has long been involved in carrying out conservation assessments using the Red List criteria and has contributed to a large number of assessments for plants already on the list.
Applying the Red List criteria to plants has proven difficult because the kind of data required for Red List assessments e.g. population size and dynamics, is not often collected for plants. However, other aspects such as geographic range size, are more likely to be known for plants because this can be determined from the extensive record of collections that are housed in the herbaria of the world, including Kew's own collection.
The GIS Unit at Kew developed one of the first automated approaches to Red Listing with the Conservation Assessment Tools (CAT) project. Based on the ArcView GIS software, this extension allowed the calculation of several metrics relating to the geographic range of a species. These values called extent of occurrence (EOO) and area of occupancy (AOO) were then compared against the Red List criteria to determine whether they meet the thresholds for a threatened category.
As technologies developed and user needs changed we realised that an alternative approach was needed – a web based mapping tool. As a natural extension to the CAT project, GeoCAT represents the next stage in development of automated red list techniques.
Assessment levels- Wikipedia 2011
Significant achievements in recent years have been the widespread adoption of Red List assessing by Kew staff. Whenever a species is described by Kew staff we encourage them to attempt a Red List assessment for that species. In many cases only a preliminary assessment is possible, but increasingly staff are undertaking full Red List assessments e.g. recent work in Cameroon and Madagascar. In addition, Kew’s in-house scientific journal Kew Bulletin is one of the first botanical systematic journals to add conservation assessments as a requirement for all newly described taxa.
As well as producing more assessments and better quality assessments (e.g. Red List standard) we are getting better at managing our assessment data. The Conservation Assessment Tracking System (CATS) project is helping to streamline the process of managing assessment data.
We are still investigating different approaches to the Red Listing problem, trying to find new ways to create more thorough assessments more rapidly. Keep an eye on our experimental pages to see what we are up to.
We are actively engaged with training Kew staff, partners, students and volunteers on the Red Listing techniques described above. If you are interested in starting a Red List project with plants please get in touch to see if we can be of help or can collaborate. Email GISunit@kew.org
Links below to some of the other GIS related projects we are working on, within Kew’s Science directory:
- Conservation Checklist of the Trees of Uganda
- Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) Plants
- IUCN Red List Reassessment of Conifers
- Phylogenetic Diversity of the Malagasy Legumes: New Insights for the Conservation of the Malagasy Flora
- Red Data Book & Teachers' Guide, Cameroon
- Guinea (Conakry): Developing botanical capacity, a National Herbarium and Red Data book
- The Plants of Mefou Proposed National Park, Yaoundé, Cameroon: A Conservation Checklist
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