Assessment of recovery potential for the American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus): An application of the IUCN green status process

Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
By: , and 



  1. According to an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assessment (RLA), the American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus), an iconic coastal species, is at risk of extirpation in some regions within its range where small and vulnerable populations occur. However, the RLA does not consider future status beyond viability and does not attempt to identify the conservation necessary to effectively mitigate threats and recover the species to full ecological functionality. To aid in conservation planning for vulnerable species, the IUCN developed the Green Status of Species assessment (GSA) process to complement the RLA.
  2. This paper describes the application of the GSA process to assess the recovery potential of the American horseshoe crab. First, specific Limulus populations within spatial units for conservation were delineated, and their statuses were defined based on viability and ecological functionality. Then conservation actions were identified that would promote recovery and affect their near- and long-term population status under different conservation scenarios.
  3. Horseshoe crab conservation has relied on, and will continue to depend on, effective harvest regulation. However, as currently conceived, conservation is not expected to mitigate habitat loss at the scale required to restore range-wide ecological functionality, primarily because habitat loss is widespread and affected by climate change. Thus, the GSA results, while indicating that there is potential for near-term recovery gains, reveal that long-term recovery is in doubt owing to expected loss of habitat.
  4. To conserve critical habitats for spawning and early life stages and achieve ecological functionality, it is imperative to identify and develop conservation plans at appropriate spatial scales. Unfortunately, such plans do not currently exist and need to be established. The GSA Green Score can then serve as a metric for monitoring recovery and gauging the effectiveness of conservation implementation.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Assessment of recovery potential for the American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus): An application of the IUCN green status process
Series title Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
DOI 10.1002/aqc.3990
Volume 33
Issue 11
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Leetown Science Center, Eastern Ecological Science Center
Description 25 p.
First page 1175
Last page 1199
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details