• Deakin University

IUCN Red List of Ecosystems: The Global Standard for Assessing Risks to Ecosystems

This course introduces the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems and its successful use and policy impact through real-world case studies.

7,241 enrolled on this course

Colorful Coral Reef on Red Sea nearby Marsa Alam

IUCN Red List of Ecosystems: The Global Standard for Assessing Risks to Ecosystems

7,241 enrolled on this course

  • 2 weeks

  • 5 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

Learn how the Red List of Ecosystems is helping to sustain global biodiversity

Nature is under threat around the world. Understanding where ecosystems are at greatest risk allows us to act to sustain species and ecosystems.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Ecosystems is a rigorous standardised assessment method that supports decision making while generating strategies for policy and management practice.

The Red List of Ecosystems is the global standard for ecosystem risk assessment, used by governments, NGOs, scientists and practitioners to sustain biodiversity worldwide.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 15 seconds People are changing the world. Ecosystems are under threat and we’re losing biodiversity at a rapid rate. How can you know which ecosystems are at greatest risk and why? And more importantly, what can you do about it? I’m Emily Nicholson, Associate Professor in Conservation Science at Deakin University. I’m one of the original designers of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems. For over a decade, I’ve worked as part of an international team of passionate scientists, developing the Red List into the Global Standard for Ecosystem Risk Assessment.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds Many countries now use the Red List because it puts ecosystems into risk categories that are meaningful and easy to understand. And it provides critical information for sustaining nature.

Skip to 1 minute and 7 seconds Join us in this short course, where you’ll discover how to use the Red List of ecosystems, explore the best methods using case studies from around the globe, meet the world’s top practitioners and researchers, and you’ll be encouraged to consider how the Red List of ecosystems might work for you in your situation. If you care about threatened ecosystems and biodiversity and you want to take action, join the cause now, and learn with the top scientists who are making a difference.


  • Week 1

    Introducing the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems

    • Introduction and overview

      Welcome to our introductory course on the Red List of Ecosystems.

    • The IUCN Red Lists

      Meet the IUCN, examine the reasoning behind creating the Red Lists and understand where they fit in the policy landscape.

    • Scientific foundations and purpose

      Understand the scientific foundations for Red Listing ecosystems. What is an ecosystem? How can we understand its risk of collapse? Uncover the scope and scale of the Red List of Ecosystem approach.

    • Overview of an ecosystem assessment

      Performing an ecosystem risk assessment requires careful planning and considered collection of resources

    • Wrapping up the week

      Reflect on what you’ve learned about the Red List of Ecosystems so far and what to look forward to next week.

  • Week 2

    Applying the Red List of Ecosystems

    • Welcome back

      Welcome to this second week, a more detailed look at criteria, process and outcomes.

    • Criteria and categories

      Investigate the process and elements of assessments: the five criteria and assigning a risk category.

    • Case study: the Victorian Mountain Ash Forest, Australia

      Learn about the Mountain Ash forest, analyse why it is critically endangered, and meet the experts who undertook the Red List assessment.

    • Case study: Tidal flats of the Yellow Sea, East Asia

      Tidal mudflats are critical to the well-being of people and wildlife, especially shorebirds; innovative use of data shows how they are threatened by reclamation and land-use change.

    • Data and tools

      There are a wide range of resources, tools and data sources to support the assessment process – we will introduce you to some key ones, and encourage you to seek out others.

    • Conclusions and where next

      Reflect on what you have learned, check your understanding and how to keep in touch.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe the purpose of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems
  • Assess the benefits of the Red List of Ecosystems approach to ecosystem conservation and management
  • Explore the process of completing ecosystem assessments
  • Identify the characteristics of ecosystems
  • Explore the challenges of defining ecosystems
  • Identify threats to ecosystems and how to measure them
  • Classify Red List of Ecosystems outcomes and categories of risk
  • Assess the Red List of Ecosystems in the landscape of conservation policies and tools

Who is the course for?

  • People interested in sustainability of the world’s ecosystems.
  • Practitioners who need to understand the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems approach, its purpose and its place relative to other conservation tools.
  • Decision makers who will value the scientific basis and global authority of Red List of Ecosystems assessments.
  • People interested in cutting-edge approaches to sustainable conservation.
  • People who seek to undertake their own ecosystem assessment using the Red List of Ecosystems method

The course was created for practitioners who need to understand the Red List of Ecosystems processes and decision-makers who will value the scientific basis and global authority of Red List of Ecosystems assessments.

The amount of time it takes you to complete this course will vary depending on your level of interest and experience of ecosystems.

Who will you learn with?

Prof Emily Nicholson is a conservation scientist at Deakin University. Her research focuses on ecosystem risk assessment and biodiversity policy. She co-leads the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems

Who developed the course?

Deakin University

Deakin University is one of Australia’s largest universities with more than 61,000 students and over 15,000 online.

  • Established

  • Location

    Melbourne, Australia
  • World ranking

    Top 280Source: QS World University Rankings 2021

Endorsers and supporters

endorsed by

IUCN logo, a blue c with the letters IUCN inside of it

endorsed by

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Develop skills to further your career

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  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$109/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 5 May 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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