Coordinating the IUCN red list of North American tree species: a special session at the USFS gene conservation of tree species workshopThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Conservation status assessments are a valuable tool for the management and protection of rare and endangered species. Categorizing and defining rarity, threats, and population trends is often the first step toward understanding and documenting the health of the world’s plant diversity. Having up to date conservation status assessments for all of North America’s native tree species, based on a globally standardized system, would enable an objective and systematic prioritization of species for future conservation action and enable stakeholders from a wide range of sectors to engage in informed conservation efforts. For over 50 years, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has been the international standard for evaluating the extinction risk of plant and animal species on a global scale. Currently, the tree flora of North America is poorly represented in the IUCN Red List. However, there are other more regionally focused threat assessment platforms being used in North America, creating an opportunity to streamline assessment efforts, share information, and ensure that all of the tree species in the region are evaluated for their level of imperilment. This initiative will require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors and organizations to ensure that limited resources are maximized to cover all tree species and prevent any threatened taxa from slipping through the cracks. To initiate this collaborative effort, a special session was convened at the Gene Conservation of Tree Species workshop during which experts from each of the four complementary threat assessment platforms (IUCN Red List, NatureServe, United States Endangered Species Act, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service CAPTURE Program) presented their methods, applications, and progress for evaluating imperilment of North American tree species. A productive discussion session followed that sparked the development of a two phase collaborative project: 1) create a comprehensive, unified checklist of the tree species of North America that can be used to identify gaps and missing taxa from the various assessment platforms, and 2) fill those gaps by systematically and strategically evaluating species so that the threat level of all native trees of North America is known by 2020.