The current Norwegian Red List for Species was released in November 2015, and replaces the 2010 Red List. It contains 4438 species, of which 2355 are classified as threatened.
In all, about 44 000 species have been recorded in Norway, and red list assessments for mainland Norway and Norwegian sea areas (excluding Svalbard) have been carried out for 20 915 of these. In other words, we still know too little about more than half of the species that are found in Norway to make red-list assessments.
Of the species that have been assessed, 4438 (21 %) have been placed on the Red List and 16 477 species (79 %) have been put in the category Least Concern. These are not classified as red-listed species.
The proportion of threatened species is highest in the species groups mammals, birds, vascular plants, lichens, butterflies and hymenoptera.
The numbers of threatened species are highest in southeastern parts of Norway, with the largest number in Oslo and Akershus combined (872 species), followed by Telemark (698), Vestfold (675), Østfold (660) and Buskerud (647). Troms and Finnmark have fewest threatened species (215 and 239 species respectively).
There are several explanations for these geographical variations. Many species that require a relatively warm climate are found in southeastern Norway, and there is also a wider variety of rare habitats than in other regions. However, this is also the part of the country where population density is highest, and where human pressure and impacts on the environment are greatest
More species are associated with forest than with any other main habitat in Norway, so it is not surprising that forests also account for the largest proportion of red-listed species. Almost half (48 %) of all threatened species are found in forest, either exclusively or both in forest and in other habitats. The largest numbers of threatened species in forest habitats are in the species groups fungi (353 species), beetles (230 species), Diptera (128 species) and lichens (124 species). Many of the threatened species in forest are specialists, for example found on dead wood, large deciduous broad-leaved trees or burnt areas left by forest fires. A large proportion of the red-listed species found in forests are associated with rich broad-leaved forest, even though this only makes up 1 % of Norway’s productive forest area.
About 24 % of the species listed as threatened are associated with semi-natural habitats, mainly traditional meadow and pasture. These have declined greatly in extent over the past hundred years, and now only make up a small proportion of the total area of Norway.
Only 2 % of the marine species assessed have been classified as threatened. Most of them are algae, fish and mammals. However, the low proportion of threatened species in the marine environment is partly explained by a lack of information. This is also reflected in the large number of species placed in the category Data Deficient (DD) – 71 % of the red-listed marine species.
In all, 114 species are considered to have become extinct in Norway since 1800, and are therefore in the category Regionally Extinct. Half of these are beetles. In all, 44 of the Regionally Extinct species were associated with semi-natural habitats (mainly traditional meadow and pasture), and 40 with habitats such as bare rock, scree and shallow soil, parks and gardens, and sand dunes. In addition, 28 forest species have been lost.
There may be a long interval between the last observation of a species and the time when it can be said with some certainty that it has actu ally become extinct. This can explain the relatively low number of species classified as Regionally Extinct, and the fact that very few species are considered to have become extinct in the past 50 years.
Of the 22 seabird species that have been assessed, 13 have been red-listed in 2015. The common eider is now red-listed for the first time, and several species – razorbill, fulmar, common tern and Brünnich’s guillemot – have been moved to a higher category of threat since 2010 because the risk of their extinction is considered to be more serious.
Factors that may explain the steep decline in seabird numbers are poorer food supplies as a result of fishing pressure from commercial fisheries and climate change, and the large and rising white-tailed eagle population.
There are no seabirds that are considered to be at lower risk of extinction than they were in 2010.
Some species are red-listed even though they have very large populations in Norway. There are 200 of them in the 2015 Red List. For instance, it is estimated that the Norwegian puffin population numbers 3 million mature individuals. Other examples of abundant red-listed species are the wych elm, sprat and yellowhammer. Species such as these are red-listed because their populations have declined by more than 15 % during the last three generations of the species.
Four game species, the mountain hare, ptarmigan, willow grouse and common eider, have all been transferred from the category Least Concern in 2010, and are red-listed in the category Near Threatened in 2015. This is because their populations have declined considerably over a number of years, and a similar trend has been observed across large parts of Fennoscandia.
The populations of most threatened species are declining, most frequently because land-use change as a result of human activity is causing habitat loss or degradation. However, other pressures including pollution, climate change, harvesting and alien species can also result in population reductions. In addition, threatened species often have a limited geographical range or small populations.
Land-use change is affecting 9 of 10 threatened species
Land-use change is considered to be a serious pressure on 90 % of the species classified as threatened in Norway. This includes overgrowing of open landscapes after traditional grazing and haymaking have been discontinued (listed for 29 % of threatened species) and pressure from current and earlier commercial forestry operations (41 %). Land-use change that is not related to agriculture or forestry is listed as a pressure for 56 % of the threatened species.
Pollution is considered to be an important pressure on 12 % of all threatened species, including both aquatic and terrestrial species. Climate change is listed as a pressure on 4 % (87 species) of threatened species, largely vascular plants and mosses. Half of these are mountain species.
Harvesting is only listed as a pressure on 1 % of all threatened species, but many of these are of commercial importance and some are key species in ecosystems. Alien species are considered to be a threat to a little over 2 % of threatened species in Norway.
There has been little change in the relative importance of the different pressures from the 2010 to the 2015 edition of the Red List. The only exceptions are an increase in the number of species under pressure as a result of climate change (from 61 to 87) and the presence of alien species (from 20 to 85).
The revised assessments have resulted in a slight decrease in the proportion of assessed species that are red-listed. From 2010 to 2015, the proportion of red-listed species dropped from 22 % to 20 % and the proportion of threatened species from 12 % to 11 %.
Many species at lower risk of extinction
In all, 723 species have been moved to a lower category of threat because they are considered to be at lower risk of extinction in Norway in 2015 than in 2010. The largest numbers of species have been moved to a lower category in the groups fungi (125 species), butterflies (92 species) and beetles (83 species).
On the other hand, 344 species have been moved to a higher category because they are considered to be at more serious risk of extinction. In the species groups birds, mammals, mosses and vascular plants, more species have been moved to a higher than to a lower category in 2015 (174 and 107 species respectively).
Mountain species declining
Mountain species show the most negative trend; 70 % of mountain species that have been moved to another category are now considered to be at higher risk of extinction. Climate change is probably the most important explanation for this. A relatively large proportion (65 %) of the wetland species whose classification has been adjusted have also been moved to a higher category.
Red List assessments for Svalbard have been made for 487 species, and 23 lichens, 59 vascular plants, 3 mammals and 18 birds have been placed on the Red List. These make up 21 % of the species that have been assessed. In addition, 36 subspecies of vascular plants have been assessed, and 10 of them have been red-listed.
Climate change is listed as a pressure on 12 of the 55 threatened species. The vascular plants that have been red-listed in Svalbard are either species that require relatively mild conditions and have small populations, or species that are considered to be very sensitive to current and future climate change. Other native species are listed as a pressure for 11 of the threatened species, for example because of an increase in grazing pressure by reindeer and geese. Most species that are listed as threatened in Svalbard have been assigned to one of the three categories simply because the population is very small. For these species, local human activity is considered to be of little significance or only to affect an insignificant proportion of their population.