Red List of Ecosystems as a headline indicator in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework

Emily Nicholson

On December 19th, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework was adopted by parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity, setting the agenda for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Discussions were intense and at times fraught, but the framework that emerged will provide a blueprint for moving forwards.

The Framework comprises four goals for 2050 – conserving biodiversity, sustaining the benefits from nature, equitable sharing of benefits from nature, and providing sufficient resourcing and support for the implementation of the framework – along with 23 action targets designed to meet the goals. These include extensive restoration, expansion of protected areas (30% of the planet by 2030), management of threatened species, and sustainable, biodiversity-friendly production and urban landscapes.  

For the first time in the decadal planning cycle of the Convention, a monitoring framework was also adopted, providing a mechanism continual review of progress on the goals and targets. The monitoring framework lists indicators for each goal and target, with headline indicators that capture their overall scope and provide high-level indicators for global and national reporting, and component and complementary indicators that are optional for countries.

The Red List of Ecosystems is one of the headline indicators in the monitoring framework for the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, using the Red List Index for Ecosystems as the index for reporting (for more info see here and here). It is listed as a headline indicator for Goal A, along with the extent of natural ecosystems, supporting the ecosystem components (the integrity, connectivity and resilience of all ecosystems are maintained, enhanced, or restored, substantially increasing the area of natural ecosystems by 2050), and for Target 1 (Ensure that all areas are under participatory integrated biodiversity inclusive spatial planning and/or effective management processes addressing land and sea use change, to bring the loss of areas of high biodiversity importance, including ecosystems of high ecological integrity, close to zero by 2030, while respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities). It is also a component or complementary indicator for Targets 2, 3 and 7.

The Red list of Ecosystems has been a key focus of our research and work at the science-policy interface for the last decade or more, so we are absolutely delighted that our work has been recognized and adopted globally. Key works that lead to the inclusion of the Red List of Ecosystems as a headline indicator include:

  1. The science behind an ecosystem goal and indicators to measure its progress (Nicholson et al, 2021, Nature Ecology and Evolution)
  2. Global indicators from the Red List of Ecosystems (Rowland et al 2020, Conservation Letters; Rowland et al 2020, Ecological Indicators)
  3. The Global Ecosystem Typology, which provides a new framework for describing ecosystems around the world, which will provide the foundation for reporting on different ecosystem types for Goal A (Keith et al 2022, Nature): read the paper and visit the website
  4. The foundational paper that outlines the Red List of Ecosystems (Keith et al 2013, PLOS One).

While the Red List of Ecosystems has seen rapid uptake across the world over the last decade (with full assessments for 60 countries and over 4000 ecosystems assessed), this is just the start. This will mean an expanded and expedited implementation of the Red List of Ecosystems in each country and globally, to support the monitoring framework, planning and implementation world-wide. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get going – please join us in this exciting and important work.

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