Get access

Use and misuse of the IUCN Red List Criteria in projecting climate change impacts on biodiversity


H. Resit Akçakaya, fax +1 631 751 3435, e-mail:


Recent attempts at projecting climate change impacts on biodiversity have used the IUCN Red List Criteria to obtain estimates of extinction rates based on projected range shifts. In these studies, the Criteria are often misapplied, potentially introducing substantial bias and uncertainty. These misapplications include arbitrary changes to temporal and spatial scales; confusion of the spatial variables; and assume a linear relationship between abundance and range area. Using the IUCN Red List Criteria to identify which species are threatened by climate change presents special problems and uncertainties, especially for shorter-lived species. Responses of most species to future climate change are not understood well enough to estimate extinction risks based solely on climate change scenarios and projections of shifts and/or reductions in range areas. One way to further such understanding would be to analyze the interactions among habitat shifts, landscape structure and demography for a number of species, using a combination of models. Evaluating the patterns in the results might allow the development of guidelines for assigning species to threat categories, based on a combination of life history parameters, characteristics of the landscapes in which they live, and projected range changes.