Updating IUCN Red List conservation statuses

Sounds like that would be better handled through national conservation statuses (e.g. NOM-059 in Mexico or NatureServe in the US and Canada) and please do it in coordination with any relevant network node site admins (e.g. Naturalista.mx or iNaturalist.ca).

This thread is for global IUCN statuses where the goal is for geoprivacy deviations from the default positions to be sparing and well documented in flags.

No: these are IUCN CR, EN, VU and NT that are threatened by habitat transformation and alien invasive species, and thus have no need for obscuration, and therefore require flags. The stati will be the same in .za as the IUCN: but they will require flags.

Habitat loss, which includes the irreversible conversion of natural vegetation for infrastructure development, urban expansion, crop cultivation, timber plantations and mines is by far the most severe threat to South African plants, affecting more than 1600 taxa. Invasive alien plant species outcompeting indigenous plant species is another severe threat (1400 taxa) [http://redlist.sanbi.org/stats.php]

Or is the suggestion that we have 1000s of endemic species that are threatened and obscured globally using IUCN status, but then unobscured at the national level (using the same IUCN status)?

If a global IUCN conservation status is not in the default position - ie “secure but obscured” or “threatened but open” there needs to be a link to a flag in the description of the conservation status (with rational for deviating explained in the flag). Otherwise, we won’t be able to keep RedList statuses up to date on iNaturalist without squashing intentional deviations from the default position. This work needs to be done manually.

Its also possible to create non-obscuring national or state conservation statuses which will take precedence over upstream obscuring global statuses. These should reference the relevant authority. National and state statues are normally coordinated by iNat network site admins (plus Natureserve in the US). Thanks for keeping this thread focused on global IUCN statuses to avoid confusion


Over the weekend we updated/created 44,480 plant global conservation statuses with the IUCN Red List authority.

Taxonomic breakdown
We were able to match 42,718 directly through their taxon.name and 1,813 through a synonym (invalid taxon_name). That left 210,643 species/ssp/varieties on iNat unmatched and 13,432 plants on the Red List unmatched.
Matches: 42,718
One-to-ones: 1,813
Not external: 210,643
Not internal: 13,432

Updated statuses
If a status already existed, we updated the status (e.g. LC, VU etc.) and URLs (IUCN made a change a few years back that left all our links to species pages on the Red List broken). If a taxon had no observations we altered the geoprivacy to match the default position according to the status (e.g. LC=open, VU=obscured, etc.). If the taxon had any observations we did not alter the geoprivacy

New statuses
If no status existed, one was created with a status and URL matching the IUCN status. If the taxo had less than 100 observations, the geoprivacy was set to the default position (e.g LC=open, VU=obscured, etc.). If the taxon had 100 or more observations the geoprivacy on the new status was set to open. You can see all the 1954 new obscuring statuses that were created in the sheet with that name in this spreadsheet..

Default positions and deviations
98.5% of the IUCN statuses now have geoprivacy that is in the default position with the expectation (e.g. open and secure). And we have 653 deviations from the default positions (e.g. Obscured and secure)
Open and secure: 22,743
Obscured and threatened: 21,072
Obscured and secure: 219
Open and threatened: 434
In the spreadsheet there are sheets that show all the obscured_and_secure and open_and_threatened statuses.

Our ambition is to have all deviations for these IUCN global statuses documented with a flag and have that flag linked to the conservation status. You can help by opening flags on these taxa to help reach agreement on whether to keep or resolve these deviations. And if you are a curator and the consensus is to keep them, you can help by closing the flag and linking to the flag from the conservation status description.

Orphaned IUCN statuses
Global Conservation Statuses with the IUCN Red List Authority that no longer refer to taxa in the Red List were dealt with as follows. Statuses that were open or were on taxa with zero identifications were deleted. 58 remaining statuses (obscuring ones with observations) were edited to remove IUCN Red List as the authority but left in place they are listed in the vestigial_statuses sheet here.

Please inspect them and remove them if they can be safely removed (e.g. if another status such as a national status is already doing the obscuring work) or if the need to be kept please try to add an authority or otherwise flesh out the rationale.

Duplicate global conservation statuses
We’d like to only have one global conservation status and are planning a change to enforce this. Taxa with a IUCN global status as well as another global status with a different authority were addressed as follows. If the two statuses had the same geoprivacy then the duplicate non-IUCN status was deleted. The remaining 41 statuses (all situations where the IUCN status is open and the other status is obscuring) are listed in the duplicate_global_statuses sheet here.

Ideally, we’d like to remove these duplicate global statuses. If the other global status is justification that we should deviate with the IUCN geoprivacy (e.g. obscure a taxon despite a secure status) please put this information in a closed flag and link to to the flag from the IUCN status description.

Thanks for everyone’s patience with this. We’ll proceed with the other big parts of the Red List (arthropods and chordates) soon. This process was meant to have the following goals:

  1. come up with a repeatable process for updating IUCN Red List statuses
  2. minimize the number of deviations and come up with a process for documenting the deviations in flags
  3. minimize the number of changes to geoprivacy that were made

Goals 2 and 3 are in conflict, so we apologies for any taxa that have been obscured that you think should be open (e.g. taxa with <100 obs where new statuses were created) and thanks in advance for your help documenting deviations in geoprivacy in closed flags moving forward and linking to these flags from the status description. If we stick to this convention, it will make this update much much less painless moving forward.


What is the criterion for deciding on “consensus”?

First, to clarify instructions to curators:

For existing defacto deviations where we are deviating from the default position (e.g. obscured_and_secure) and there’s no documentation regarding why:

  1. if someone opens a flag on the taxon concerning global geoprivacy, you can help by adding a link to the flag to conservation IUCN global conservation status description.

  2. if there’s consensus that we want to keep any flagged defacto deviations and the flags are already linked to in the conservation status description, close the flag

  3. if there’s consensus that we want to remove the deviation, close the flag, remove the link from the conservation status description, and revert the geoprivacy to the default position

If someone opens a flag requesting a deviation from the default position when we are currently not deviating:

  1. if there’s consensus to continue with the default position, close the flag.

  2. if there’s consensus to deviate, close the flag, add a link to the flag from the conservation status in question, alter the conservation status geoprivacy

Second, to answer the question about “consensus” also see here https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#geoprivacy the rules are similar to taxonomic deviations, let the flag sit for at least a week or month in the hopes other voices will chime in. Feel free to encourage this by mentioning people. If a few weeks or months have passed and no one else has chimed in go with the lone voice. If there are multiple voices, try to reach consensus. If consensus can’t be reached, decisions are made by iNat staff. To reiterate, this entire thread is about global conservation statuses an doesn’t apply to national statuses that are usually coordinated in collaboration with network node partners (e.g. CONABIO for naturalista.mx)

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So for clarity:
iNaturalist would prefer conservation status to be managed at national level, even for endemic species where the Global conservation status is the same as the National status. Any deviations should rather be made at national level, where there is a network partner.

Its not that we have a preference. This thread is about a process we’ve laid out for keeping IUCN global statuses up to date without squashing deviations in geoprivacy.

As you mention there’s a separate process for network nodes “batch uploading” national statuses. We don’t have a preference if people engage with these global statuses through the process described here or, within countries that have a network node thats maintaining national conservation statues, with the site admins coordinating the network related national status process.

However, you should be aware that national conservation statuses take precedence over global conservation statuses. So if you’re only concerned with what happens in Canada and engage in this process to make an “open but threatened” deviation for a taxon’s global status, you should be aware that if the iNat Canada site admins add an obscuring status for that taxon in Canada, observations in Canada will be obscured (and vice versa). The network “batch uploading” process needs to be standardized and streamlined but thats for another thread.

Did you mean, “If a taxon had no observations we altered the geoprivacy…” ? Otherwise these two sentences conflict.

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Fixed thanks

True, this thread is about maintaining global status, but users should be aware that after updates, if there are hundreds of changes (as is the case this weekend just in southern African Proteaceae), then the global option requires flagging, getting consensus and waiting on curators on a species by species basis, versus going via Network nodes by submitting a single spreadsheet of all corrections at the national or regional level.
Curators should also be aware of this and guide users appropriately.
Going via the Networks will speed the process, reduce the number of deviations, flags and links, and cut down on curator’s workloads.

We updated the IUCN Red List Arthropods last night, same drill as with plants. The tables behind the following summary stats can be found here
294 new obscuring statuses
44 obscure and secure
107 open and threatened
19 vestigial obscuring statuses
40 duplicate global statuses

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FYI when I reviewed the plants yesterday, some of these apparent duplicates were actually national level statuses - like U.S. Endangered Species Act listings - that just hadn’t had their nation specified. All I did with those was add United States for the place, update any outdated URLs, and saved them, rather than delete them. (And BTW I only reviewed a very small number of plants that were familiar to me, so much more review still needed!)


We updated the IUCN Red List Chordata last night, again same drill. The tables behind the following summary stats can be found here
1173 new obscuring statuses
474 obscure and secure
704 open and threatened
123 vestigial obscuring statuses
87 duplicate global statuses

We also updated everything remaining on the IUCN Red List outside of Chordates, Arthropods, and Plants (ie Fungi, Chromista, Mollusca, Nemertina, Annelida, Echinodermata, Cnidaria, Onychophora, Platyhelminthes) The tables behind the following summary stats can be found here
34 new obscuring statuses
24 obscure and secure
63 open and threatened
0 vestigial obscuring statuses
12 duplicate global statuses

This update is now done - to recap, the IUCN Red List usually updates ~2 times a year - its currently on version 2021-2. We uploaded statuses through the backend back in 2011 and haven’t been automatically maintaining them. The main reasons are complications with taxonomy and geoprivacy vs. status issues

This process lays out the taxonomic choices the automatic update uses and sets out clear rules for when the update messes with geoprivacy (when new obscuring statuses are created with <100 obs, or updating when statuses with no observations), summarizes the findings of the update in spreadsheets like those linked above, and provides instructions for curators to help with our desire to have deviations in geoprivacy explained and documented in closed flags linked tot he status description.

I’m pretty confident when the next Red List version comes out (2022-1?) it will be pretty straightforward now to rerun this update process and that we can commit to automatically keeping iNat in sync with these biannual Red List releases. One thing to note, is that this update process is only changing geoprivacy on statuses for taxa with few or no observations. Doing it this way is leading to a lot of undocumented deviations from the default position which may be too much for curators to document in flags (towards our goal of having all these deviations documented in flags). We could tweak the process to be more heavy handed about changing geoprivacy (ie change it unless there’s a flag etc.) but I suspect it might be unpopular to have this script automatically changing geoprivacy more than it is. Curious to hear feedback on how this process could be improved.



I’ve written some code for viewing CS data in tabular form by genus rather than using the web interface one species at a time. Whilst testing it I found that the info is presented differently depending on the queried API endpoint. Is there a rationale behind the two different object fields used to return the CS information?
Depending on the end point used the v1 API returns either partial info ( /v1/taxa?..) or a single and an array of CS objects (v1/taxa/{id}?..).

Just curious :)

The taxa/id endpoint is for screens that show a specific taxon whereas the taxa endpoint is for searching for taxa and returning a set which is used in screens that need different data


The code I referred to previously has now been reviewed, and improved, by @pisum and can found in the standard Github repository here:

page: https://jumear.github.io/stirfry/iNat_taxa_conservation_status.html
code: https://github.com/jumear/stirfry/blob/master/iNat_taxa_conservation_status.html

Instructions for use are provided on the initial page. I hope you find it useful.


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Re: “we’d like to have only one global conservation status on iNaturalist per taxon and for the IUCN Red List to be the primary source for these global statuses.”

I think that’s great. Even with the caveat that IUCN is outdated/incomplete for many countries/groups, it’s arguably no worse than NatureServe overall (or is it?). Apologies if this is explained above (I couldn’t find it) but in cases where the iNaturalist status is way out of date (e.g., Cooper’s hawk + California, US → “Vulnerable”; see: https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/5112-Accipiter-cooperii) all of those references to NatureServe will go away, and Cooper’s hawk will be folded into a single IUCN status (Least Concern, 3.1)?

Yes, as mentioned, we’re planing to make a change enforcing only one global status per taxon. This thread is really just about global statuses. Things definitely get more complicated thinking regional statuses.

Any curator can make conservation statuses (global or otherwise), we we can’t really control what regional statuses are being made. Where we have network nodes there is a process for these networks to batch update/create/destroy all statuses within their nation annually. We’re working with nodes to figure out ways to make these plans clearly laid out to the community.

In the US we don’t have a network node, so - like IUCN global statuses - we the iNat staff have been in conversations with NatureServe about whether/how we should take on batch-maintaining NatureServe statuses in the US. We’ve been piloting that with Reptiles and Amphibians as you can read here:
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/natureserve-conservation-status-pilot-united-states-amphibians-and-reptiles/25901 your questions such whether it would be beneficial to have NS statuses loaded up in iNat or not, are definitely on the table for discussion and great to hear feedback from community members if you want to comment on that thread


There appear to be a number of taxa that have had IUCN statuses added to automatically, and had their coordinates obscured when they have been assessed as Near Threatened (NT).

An example of this (I have seen several) is Eucalyptus tenuiramis, the dominant canopy species in mudstone soils in southeastern Tasmania. Despite its Near Threatened IUCN status, this species is dominant through its range, well conserved in many reserves, and under no threat from poaching or collecting.

Threats listed include population reduction, habitat fragmentation, urbanisation, and so on.

Can we please NOT automatically obscure the coordinates of taxa that are not at least vulnerable or endangered, and that are not under threat specifically from poaching, collecting or trampling, for example? What purpose does it serve?