CWR In Situ Strategy Helpdesk

Data sources

Conservation data

Threat status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species provides taxonomic, conservation status and distribution information on taxa that have been globally evaluated using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria ( The system is designed to determine the relative risk of extinction and the main purpose of the IUCN Red List is to catalogue and highlight those taxa that are facing a higher risk of global extinction (i.e., those listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable). The IUCN Red List also includes information on taxa that are categorized as Extinct or Extinct in the Wild, on taxa that cannot be evaluated because of insufficient information (i.e., are Data Deficient), and on taxa that are either close to meeting the threatened thresholds or that would be threatened were it not for an ongoing taxon-specific conservation programme (i.e., are Near Threatened). Taxa that have been evaluated to have a low risk of extinction are classified as Least Concern.

Taxa not included on the IUCN Red List are those that went extinct before 1500 AD, Least Concern species that have not yet been databased, and species that have not yet been assessed (i.e., they are in the Not Evaluated category). The only taxonomic groups that have been comprehensively assessed are the amphibians, birds, mammals, conifers and cycads. The vast majority of plant taxa listed in the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants have not yet been evaluated against the revised Red List Criteria and are therefore not included here. It is therefore advisable to check whether taxa are listed in the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants if they are not included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Unfortunately, the searchable online database for the 1997 Red List of Threatened Plants is no longer available; therefore, if you do not have access to the printed version, you should contact species(at) to request access to the data of interest.

National/regional Red Lists

Since few CWR taxa have to date been evaluated using the 2001 IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria (except for conifers) and therefore do not feature in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it is necessary to refer to national or regional Red Lists to obtain information on the threat status of taxa for individual countries/regions of occurrence.

The majority of national and regional Red Lists are only available in printed form; therefore, it is usually necessary to consult a library to access these data. However, Red List data are becoming increasingly available online; therefore, it is worth carrying out internet searches to find out if Red Lists are available for the country(ies) or region(s) of relevance to your target taxon. 

A useful reference point for Red List publications (both online and printed) is the European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity's database of Red Books on Species and Habitats of European Concern ( Here, Red List publications are categorized as global, European, regional and national. Although this is a useful reference point, it is not comprehensive and other search facilities should also be used; such as online library databases or internet search engines (e.g., Google). For example, a Google search for Red Lists revealed that a Red List of flowering plants of Switzerland is available for download from, whereas this link was not provided by the European Topic Centre.

As of 2009, a European Red List of Vascular Plant Species is under preparation and this will include a selection of 500600 CWR species, as well as species listed on European policy instruments, such as the Habitats Directive and Bern Convention. For information about this Red List, visit:

Red List data for taxa distributed outside of Europe are also available; for example, an interim Red Data List of South African Plant Taxa is available for download from and the government of British Columbia has a searchable conservation database for taxa and ecological communities available at:

Legal protection: conventions

EU Habitats Directive

Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (the EU Habitats Directive) was adopted by the European Community in 1992. The provisions of the Directive require EU member states to introduce a range of measures, including the protection of species listed in the Annexes, to undertake surveillance of habitats and species and produce a report every 6 years on the implementation of the Directive. Annexes I and II list natural habitat types and plant (and animal) species of community interest, 'whose conservation requires the designation of special areas of conservation', Annex IV lists plant (and animal) species of community interest 'in need of strict protection' (most species listed in Annex II are also listed in Annex IV) and Annex V lists plant (and animal) species of community interest 'whose taking in the wild and exploitation may be subject to management measures'.

Species of community interest are those that are: (i) endangered, except those species whose natural range is marginal in that territory and which are not endangered or vulnerable in the western Palaearctic region; or (ii) vulnerable (i.e., believed likely to move into the endangered category in the near future if the causal factors continue operating); or (iii) rare (i.e. with small populations that are not at present endangered or vulnerable, but are at risk); the species are located within restricted geographical areas or are thinly scattered over a more extensive range; or (iv) endemic and requiring particular attention by reason of the specific nature of their habitat and/or the potential impact of their exploitation on their habitat and/or the potential impact of their exploitation on their conservation status.

Each member state is required to prepare and propose a national list of sites for evaluation in order to form a European network of sites of community importance (SCIs). Once adopted, these are designated by member states as special areas of conservation (SACs) and, along with special protection areas (SPAs) classified under the EC Birds Directive, form a network of protected areas known as Natura 2000.

The list of species included in the Annexes can be found by following the link above.

Bern Convention

The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) came into force in 1982. It aims to ensure the conservation of species of wild flora and fauna and their habitats, with special attention given to endangered and vulnerable species.

Strictly protected plant species are listed on Annex I of the Convention. The list of species can be found at:


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna abd Flora (CITES) is a global tool for regulating and monitoring trade in species of wild fauna and flora, which entered into force in 1975. Parties act by banning commercial international trade in an agreed list of endangered species, and by regulating and monitoring trade in others that could become endangered in the future.

Appendix I lists species that are threatened with extinction; Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily currently threatened with extinction, but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled; and Appendix III lists species included at the request of a Party that already regulates trade in the species and that needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation.

Plant taxa listed in the CITES appendices can be found at:

National legislative instruments

In addtion to international and regional conventions, plant taxa may be protected by national legislation. Listings on national legislative instruments can usually be found by consulting the website of the government department responsible for biodiversity protection; such as the department of environment or department of agriculture. For example, in England, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has a website dedicated to biodiversity issues, where legal instruments in place for the protection of species and habitats can be found.

One such example is Section 4 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which is a list of habitats and species important to biological diversity in England. The list identifies the habitats and species which Natural England (the government's statutory nature conservation advisers) consider are of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England, in accordance with the provisions of the CBD. Habitat and Species Action Plans under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan are already in place or under preparation for all the listed habitats and species.

Legal protection: protected areas

World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA)

The WDPA is compiled from multiple sources and is the most comprehensive global dataset on marine and terrestrial protected areas available. It is a joint venture of UNEP and IUCN, produced by UNEP-WCMC and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN-WCPA) working with governments and collaborating NGOs.

The WDPA stores key information about protected areas such as name, designation or convention, total area (including marine area), date of establishment, legal status and IUCN Protected Area Management Category. It also stores the spatial boundary and/or location (where available) for each protected area in a Geographical Information System (GIS). The online WDPA allows users to search by protected area name, country, and international programme or convention.

The WDPA data can be downloaded and used for non-commerical use (i.e., research and education). To view the data, a GIS programme capable of managing shape files is needed, such as ArcExplorer, ArcReader, ArcView or ArcGIS. You will be asked to complete a registration form before downloading the data.

European protected area data

European protected area data included in the European Common Database on Designated Areas (ECDDA) are available via the WDPA (see above) under an agreement between the European Environment Agency (EEA) and UNEP-WCMC. The ECDDA comprises information reported by countries which is made public by the EEA. It covers the complete geographical area of Europe, the full geographical area under the responsibility of European countries, as well as other States and Territories related to key initiatives of the European region.

The ECDDA includes information on location, area and boundaries of all designated sites under a) National and subnational legislation; b) European Community legislation; c) Council of Europe and International Conventions, Agreements and Programs. 

As with all data provided by different countries or organizations, there is a degree of disparity between the quality of the data provided by individual countries as a contribution to the ECDDA. The European Environment Information and Observation Network (EIONET) web pages provide information on the quality of protected area (and other) data provided by European Member States to the EEA. Visit to learn about the quality of data available on European protected areas provided by individual Member States.

The Natura 2000 Network data can be accessed from

National protected area data

The EU member states are obliged to provide data on national protected areas to the ECDDA (see 'European protected area data' above). The European inventory of nationally designated areas holds information about protected sites and about the national legislative instruments, which directly or indirectly create protected areas. The inventory began under the CORINE programme. It is now maintained for EEA by the European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity and is annually updated through EIONET. EEA provides the European inventory of nationally designated areas to the World Database of Protected Areas (WDPA) and to Eurostat.

Nationally designated areas (National CDDA) data are available for download directly from the EEA website at: The nationally designated areas data can also be queried online in the European Nature Information System (EUNIS). The inventory is the national module of the Common Database on Designated Areas (CDDA) which also includes information on areas designated under European Community legislation and areas designated under international conventions.

It may sometimes be necessary to obtain further details on protected areas at national level, especially when EIONET reports that the data provided by a particular country is incomplete or of poor quality. A visit to the website of the government department responsible for biodiversity protection will usually provide leads to information on national protected areas, which may be a government contact person who will be able to provide you with further information. Note that it may not be easy to access detailed protected area data at national level, depending on the organization responsible for its management, the quality of the data and their policy on data provision.

Data sources introduction > Taxonomic data > Distribution data > Conservation data > Environmental data

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