The mission of the Amphibian Red List Authority (ARLA) is to provide accurate and up-to-date information on the extinction risk of every amphibian species known to science – currently 7,479 and counting – for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This involves reassessing species as new information becomes available, but also assessing newly described species. In 2005, AmphibiaWeb calculated that a new species of amphibian is described or recognized roughly every other day – that’s an average of 183 species every year!
Our understanding of amphibians is improving every day, but the world is changing rapidly. Currently 30% of known species assessed for the Red List are threatened with extinction and many species are still too poorly understood to be assessed against The Red List categories and criteria (i.e. Data Deficient). Thus, continuous work is required to maintain the information on The IUCN Red List – crucial for guiding conservation action – with the goal of saving these precious species from extinction.
In 2001, IUCN spearheaded an initiative with Conservation International (CI) and NatureServe to undertake the first comprehensive assessment of the conservation status of all known amphibian species. This initiative, known as the Global Amphibian Assessment (GAA), was based within the IUCN-CI Biodiversity Unit (BAU) and was completed in 2004. The GAA found that 32.5% of amphibian species were threatened with extinction and called for the cause of devastating population declines to be better understood and reversed (Stuart et al. 2004; DOI: 10.1126/science.1103538).
The GAA data were made available on both an independent website provided by NatureServe (www.globalwww.amphibians.org) and The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but due to confusion over whether these were separate datasets, the GAA website was phased out. Following on from the discontinuation of the GAA website, the term “Global Amphibian Assessment” was also retired and the ongoing assessment of amphibians is now referred to as Amphibians on The IUCN Red List. Information on the 2004 data produced by the GAA, its analysis, and the 2006 and 2008 updates to amphibian data on The IUCN Red List can be found here.
Since 2004, changes in the central coordinating team of Amphibians on The Red List have also been made. Dr Simon Stuart is now the IUCN SSC Chair; Janice Chanson has retired from her position as Data Manager within the BAU; Mike Hoffmann is now the Senior Scientific Officer at the SSC Chair’s office; and Neil Cox is now Acting Manager of the BAU.
Because of these changes, given changing priorities and budgetary restraints stemming from the current economic climate, and because Red List assessments are only valid for 10 years after which time they need to be updated, a new approach has been devised: the Amphibian RLA now houses the central coordination team responsible for keeping the amphibian data updated. Established in 2009, the Amphibian RLA maintains and builds on the work of the GAA by assessing the newly described species and also updating existing assessments as new information becomes available.
Currently, updates are more reactive than proactive in nature (i.e. is based on material sent to us). Keeping the data up-to-date is an ongoing endeavour which relies heavily on the expertise of hundreds of herpetologists around the globe volunteering their time. Since 2004, updates to small batches of species have been made concentrating primarily on the addition of new species to The IUCN Red List and some small national or regional updates. However, we are also aiming to complete the reassessment of all 2004 assessments, while increasing the capacity of the RLA membership. See the Structure page for information on the structure of the Amphibian RLA and how it is helping us achieve our mission.