The Missing Conservation Knowledge Product: measuring and mitigating threats and pressures on biodiversity

Data on threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services are available in multiple locations, on numerous systems, and in a plethora of formats and scales. This makes using the available data in a concerted effort to address multiple threats in one place or one threat in many places impossible for any scientist or practitioner. This project, a collaboration between UNEP-WCMC, IUCN, BirdLife International, the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology, Microsoft Research, ZSL, WWF UK, the Luc Hoffman Institute, and the University of Oxford, will mobilise existing but sparse and hardly accessible metadata on threats, and will allow conservation scientists and practitioners to analyse and digitize threat maps in a workshop setting. This will facilitate targeted research to close these knowledge gaps and strengthen efforts to mitigate or eradicate threats entirely. It will employ state-of-art mapping and data visualisation software, and also build upon recent significant investment to develop the user-friendly Microsoft Research/ IUCN Conservation Mapping tool. Threat data that has been mapped to the Conservation Evidence website will be linked, so that practitioners can find the relevant knowledge on how to solve a particular threat.

Project Aims

Knowledge products such as the IUCN Species and Habitat Red Lists, IUCN and UNEP Protected Planet initiative (based on the World Database on Protected Areas) and the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas provide fundamental datasets on the status and trends in biodiversity and ecosystems. Yet there is no comparable product with information on how threats and pressures are spatially distributed on land and in the sea, how they are changing, and how their impacts can be mitigated. We propose to fill this gap by collating metadata on contemporary threat data products as well as displaying threat data through existing conservation mapping tools. 

Key Activities

  • We will document descriptive metadata of globally applicable datasets on threats and pressures to biodiversity and make these searchable through a web-based platform used by UNEP-WCMC, IUCN and the external partners WWF UK and LHI
  • We will enhance the IUCN/Microsoft Research Conservation Mapping application to include threat data layers and allow the distributions of key threats to species to be trial-mapped at two IUCN Red List Assessment workshops
  • We will use the Cambridge University’s Zoology Department Conservation Evidence website to discover how to mitigate the threats we map in the context of previously documented interventions for a particular threat

Conservation Impact

We expect to have the following impacts:

  • The state-pressure-response framework unified by mobilising geospatial data and metadata on threats to biodiversity within and beyond the scientific community
  • Work of the IUCN Red List Unit is supported by ensuring consistency in the threat assessment approach both within and between different taxonomic groups
  • 'Best practice' enhanced in threat mitigation through access to the conservation evidence base whether looking at a particular species, a specific threat or a certain location
  • Increased awareness among international organisations/communities of what threats are driving biodiversity loss globally and how we can fill gaps and improve monitoring


  1. Improved IUCN / Microsoft Research conservation mapping tool with enhanced functionality
  2. Expert-interpreted distributions of local to regional threats to species (and  potentially ecosystems) captured by IUCN assessors in the tool
  3. Up to date and comprehensive metadata on global threat datasets searchable through  registered users on GeoNode
  4. Outward facing web links made to the evidence base held in the Zoology Department's Conservation Evidence website for key threats and pressures mapped in the IUCN tool and captured in the Geo Node metadata portal
  5. Communication of results through social media and a peer-reviewed journal article

CCI partners Involved

IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is the world's oldest and largest global environmental network. It helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment...
The UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) is the specialist biodiversity assessment arm of the United Nations Environment Programme, the world’s foremost intergovernmental...
BirdLife International is a strategic global partnership of conservation organisations in over 100 countries, working to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, and to promote...
The Department of Zoology carries out wide-ranging work in ecology and conservation including conservation science, aquatic ecology, pathogen evolution and evolutionary ecology. Research of the...

Project blog posts

31 Oct 2017
Data on threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services are available in multiple locations, on numerous systems, and in a plethora of formats and scales while not all are open and accessible to the...