What is the IUCN Species Survival Commission?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has many tasks in its work to improve and extend conservation efforts around the globe. One vitally important area, the IUCN Species Survival Commission, is charged with gathering information regarding the current status of animal and plant species throughout the world. Through a carefully maintained group of thousands of observers and researchers, the IUCN Species Survival Commission is able to obtain accurate data regarding the threat level and ecosystem impact on almost every species currently in existence.


The IUCN Species Survival Commission is divided into dozens of sub-groups, each concerned with a specific type of animal. These groups together comprise more than 7000 experts who volunteer their time to the commission, and work co-operatively to provide an accurate picture of the conservation situation for their assigned taxon. There are more than 100 task forces and groups of specialists in total, and together they form the bulk of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

Members of the IUCN Species Survival Commission work closely with local governments, occasionally acting in an advisory role. Their widespread bases of operation allow them to have government contacts in neighboring areas, so they may be able to broker joint solutions to conservation issues that cross borders. Many of the task forces whose species share the same habitat are able to combine their data and research, giving a better idea of the area as a whole, and helping to focus conservation efforts on the most pressing areas.

The species task forces are divided seven main groups, including birds, reptiles and amphibians, mammals, and fishes. In the bird group alone, there are 20 specialist groups dedicated to studying a specific type of bird, such as the goose, diver/loon, or pelican. Many of these groups operate as their own communities, frequently with separate newsletters and small publications meant for their own group.

In addition to the species observation group, the IUCN Species Survival Commission maintains a seventh area for disciplinary groups. These task forces study, among other things, the results of conservational breeding efforts, the effects of non-native or invasive species on an ecosystem, the success of re-introducing animal groups into the wild, and the sustainable use of natural resources. The disciplinary groups are a vital part of the Commission, as they can provide data about the effects on an environment after conservation efforts have been implemented; they are often the best way to know that a program is working in the wild.

The Commission has several goals in addition to its main work as identifying the threat level posed to species. It is also concerned with giving a full picture of the environment that the species lives in, as well as the possible environmental factors that are contributing to the state of the habitat they are observing. Task forces also study how the species fits into its ecosystem, what role it plays in maintaining the stability of the habitat and how its existence could be beneficial to humans. The work of the IUCN Species Survival Commission is extremely important to conservation efforts around the world, and many experts consider it to be the source of the best and most accurate data regarding the state of the natural world.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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