News Release

Esri International User Conference

22 August 2012
Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN and Jack Dangermond, ESRI (Photo: Ackbar Joolia)

IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Director-General Julia Marton-Lefèvre gave a keynote presentation at the Esri User Conference held in July 2012 in San Diego, California. Attended by 15,000 people from 130 countries, this conference showcased innovative applications and the power of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

In her keynote speech, Julia Marton-Lefèvre discussed the importance of geographic science in understanding the world’s threatened species. Cutting-edge GIS technology provided by Esri has already helped IUCN capture distribution information for about 40,000 species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. For example, we now know where to find all the known mammals, birds, amphibians, reef-building corals, sharks, tuna and a quarter of the world’s reptiles. GIS also helps us locate areas of high biodiversity importance and thereby guide decisions about conservation action and policy.

“Thanks to our collaboration with Esri, IUCN has built strong GIS capacity,” said IUCN Director-General Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “Eight thousand experts from the IUCN Species Survival Commission have access to GIS software and training, for The IUCN Red List and for their field work.”

The new IUCN Red List map browser was also showcased during the keynote speech. Built on ArcGIS 10.1, the map browser accesses data for 30,000 species - visualizing their location and habitat. These maps can be explored now at

The keynote speech was illustrated with breathtaking images prepared with the help of Esri. The speech can be viewed on Esri’s site:  Afternoon session, which starts with the IUCN video at 82:30 minutes.

Following the speech participants visited the IUCN booth, which was located at the centre of a large exhibit hall and which attracted a large number of people interested in conservation and in working with IUCN.

IUCN aims to integrate the spatial information in the IUCN Red List and the World Database on Protected Areas with two new knowledge products currently being worked on: Key Biodiversity Areas and the Red List of Ecosystems. This is but one area where IUCN can provide important inputs to government, corporate, and NGO use of GeoDesign and help them make decisions to avoid further species and habitat loss and its consequences for human wellbeing.

GIS also allows businesses to access and use biodiversity data for decision-making. For example, IUCN has been working with Holcim, the Swiss cement company, to develop and implement a Biodiversity Management System. This system uses IUCN Red List data and the World Database on Protected Areas to classify the biodiversity importance of Holcim sites.

IUCN and Esri are continuing to work together with the GIS community to maximize the value that GIS technology can bring to support conservation action and IUCN is grateful to Esri for the chance to present its work to a high level community of GIS experts and decision makers using the GIS technology.


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