6e.1. CMP Direct Threats Classification 2.0

This spreadsheet contains the latest version of the Conservation Measures Partnership’s (CMP) Conservation Direct Threats Classification, updated in 2016. This classification is designed to provide a simple, hiearchical, comprehensive, consistent, expandable, exclusive and scalable classification of all direct threats to biodiversity (see below for explanation of these criteria).

You can find the spreadsheet at this link.

What is the purpose of this taxonomy?

A key foundation of any science is a common nomenclature that practitioners can use to describe—in a mutually intelligible way—the problems they are facing and the solutions they are using. For example, if a conservation project team faces the threat of “cattle” and another “grazing” and yet another “beef production,” they may not realize that they are all dealing with the same issue. As a result, cross-project learning is difficult, and the ability to meaningfully roll-up information across projects is greatly hampered.

The taxonomies for threats and actions began with a collaborative effort between the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and CMP to create standard classifications of direct threats and of the conservation actions conservation actors can take to counter them. CMP updated the classifications in June 2016 to incorporate lessons learned and experiences from conservation teams applying Version 1.0 across hundreds of projects around the globe.

The classifications are intended to:

  • Help conservation teams describe what is happening at their site. A team can scan these classifications and see if they recognize any threats that they may be overlooking in their analysis of the conditions at their site or get ideas for actions that they might take.
  • Facilitate cross-project learning and the development of a science of conservation. A common classification of conservation direct threats enables practitioners to search a database of conservation projects and find projects facing similar threats or using similar actions and (hopefully) to learn from their experiences.
  • Create general summaries or “roll-ups” for broader organizational purposes and/or use by senior managers, fundraisers, and external affairs staff. Summaries can tally the frequency of threats or actions across projects at various organizational scales or be combined with other information for more detailed summaries.


This classification system is rooted in work done in the early 2000s. In 2007, the Conservation Measures Partnership in conjunction with IUCN released version 1.0 of this classification. This draft was then updated slightly in Version 1.1 which was published in Conservation Biology 22: 897-911.

Given that this classification is now an international standard that is used to code data, we cannot change it too frequently. On the other hand, we do need to update this to take into account new information and learning. As a result, over the past several years, CMP has been undertaking a systematic update of the earlier versions. We consulted with numerous practitioners around the world and went through an extensive comment and feedback process, resulting in this latest version. Although we feel that this classification has substantial improvements over Version 1.1 and should be used where possible, Version 1.1 is still a valid classification that can be used where relevant. We have also provided a “track changes” version showing the edits from Version 2.0 to 1.1.

What’s new in this version?

The Direct Threats classification has undergone relatively minor revision from Version 1.1. Key changes include:

  • New Level 2 Threats – We have added two new Level 2 threats that have been carved off of previous Level 2 types:
    • 7.4 Removing / Reducing Human Maintenance
    • 8.4 Pathogens & Microbes
  • Reworking of Climate Change Threats – We have substantially modified 11. Climate Change to reflect our changed understanding of the impacts of climate change and severe weather events on conservation.

Criteria for the Ideal Direct Threats Classification:

There is no one “right” classification system. Instead, we attempted to develop a system that optimizes the following criteria:

  • Simple – Uses clear language and examples / understandable by practitioners
  • Hiearchical – Creates a logical way of grouping items that are related to one another to facilitate use of the classification and meaningful analyses at different levels
  • Comprehensive – Contains all possible items, at least at higher levels of the hierarchy
  • Consistent – Ensures that entries at a given level of the classification are of the same type
  • Expandable – Enables new items to be added to the classification if they are discovered
  • Exclusive – Allows any given item to only be placed in one cell within the hierarchy
  • Scalable – Permits the same terms to be used at all geographic scales
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