Gland, Switzerland: The International for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species released an online interactive map. It covers each of the 7,079 river and lake sub-catchments across mainland Africa that reveals information on the distribution, conservation and ecological needs of 4,989 freshwater species, of which 21 percent are already threatened. This tool and the accompanying report ‘The Diversity of Life in African Freshwaters: Underwater, Under Threat’ provide vital information to help plan development in ways that minimise or avoid impacts to freshwater species.
Several environmental management projects are using information from this study to monitor the impacts of a hydro-electric dam on the Gambia River; promote a trans-boundary wetland conservation area in the Rusizi Delta; monitor water quality in the Okavango Delta; and integrate freshwater species in management of the Moulouya River catchment in Morocco.
According to the report the number of threatened freshwater species in Africa will increase dramatically if development of water resources is not planned sustainably. Major threats include loss or degradation of habitat to agriculture, and impacts of new infrastructure such as dams for irrigation and hydropower.
“This is an enormously useful resource for anyone affected by negative impacts to freshwater species in Africa,” said Conservation International’s Dr. Ian Harrison, co-author and editor of the report. “It tells us where we need to focus our conservation efforts and it gives managers crucial information to make the right decisions to benefit regional livelihoods and economies as well as the ecosystems that people rely upon.”
This work is part of a larger collaborative initiative between IUCN’s Global Species Programme, Conservation International and NatureServe to assess the status of the World’s Freshwater Biodiversity.